As the weeks on UNC's campus are filled with long nights of studying and long days of classes, some students look forward to gathering in the Pit at 9:25 p.m. every Wednesday to celebrate both family and freestyling.
For UNC Cypher, a collective of musical artists, the midweek meeting time is known as its “9-to-5.”
Each meeting begins with a person yelling “Cypher, Cypher!” — a phrase repeated by the rest of the crowd. After the calling response, the members begin to rap.
First-year student Justin Jenkins said the group gives people of all skill levels an opportunity to express themselves while relaxing and hanging out.
“Getting out there and freestyling is very tough," Jenkins said. "It's kind of daunting at first because you don't know what's going to come to your head. Sometimes you might fumble or mess up, but it’s just being able to be comfortable making mistakes, putting yourself out there and seeing what happens.”
At UNC Cypher, Jenkins said there are people from all sides of the “spectrum of rap.” He believes that good music can bring a lot of different styles together.
The group is working on releasing their latest album by the end of the school year. The album composition process began with sessions called “office hours,” which were opportunities for producers and rappers to brainstorm ideas for songs. Afterward, approximately 30 Cypher members rented a house in Cary for four days last month and converted its rooms into studios.
Co-president of UNC Cypher Nori “Shaggy” West said each room was designed to have a different “vibe," based on the style of the creative process behind “Revenge of the Dreamers III” by Dreamville Records.
West said holding meetings in the Pit is a powerful way to celebrate rap's role in Black culture, especially in the context of a historical lack of equal treatment for Black students on campus and the recent memorial dedication for James Lewis Cates Jr.