Photo:  Konflik , courtesy of   Brett North Photography  . Happy Birthday, Brett!

Photo: Konflik, courtesy of Brett North Photography. Happy Birthday, Brett!

The cypher circle has always been one of the foundations of emcee culture, but in the past decade, it’s also become a powerful promotional tool. Thanks largely to the global success of the Grind Mode brand, what was once a private ritual is now a very public template for reaching a bigger audience. Unleash The Underground is a cypher series run by CT rapper/hustler Jason “JYNX” Wrigley, and he’s put in an astonishing amount of work for the New England scene. For his Vermont expeditions, he’s been partnering with Hustle & Loyalty Records for groundwork and promo — another team that’s all about elbow grease and making moves.

In fact, when this whole crew convened at Babes Bar in Bethel at the end of July, it was actually for the second time this year — round one was back in March. That’s a testament to the explosion of the 802 scene in recent years: there’s just a shit-ton of talent these days. The latest cypher tracks feature a fair few familiar faces, but they also introduce a lot of that new blood. Let’s dig in.

First up is Vol. 18, which features Jibba “The Gent” rocking the feature verse over a wavy THEN WHAt banger. SirchoBangz kicks things off with a venomously on-point manifesto celebrating his long, busy year, and passes the mic off seamlessly to Just Cauz, who delivers the goods in style. These two have chemistry, and it’s because they’ve done work before — check out “Like Me” and “Whatchu Need,” both Vego Harris videos.

Up next is Kasidon, a recent Street Religion recruit, whose verse is all fire and grit. He hit the ground running this year: after dropping The Genesis Tape, he’s already wrapping up another mixtape, From Underneath — and working on a sequel to Genesis. Dude is hungry and he’s got a killer flow, so expect to hear his name a lot for the rest of 2019.

Certified pizza monster and tireless hustler Ciurleo crashes the party with a comedic 16 — dude is after your snacks, your girl and your grandma, so watch out, bud. Fresh off tour, he’s putting the finishing touches on his next project, Hunting Season, which is entirely produced by THEN WHAt, and there will be singles aplenty before then. The man truly never stops moving.

J Solo represents Green Mountain Boys Productions, an upstart crew outta Rutland who have been working (and networking) hard in 2019. He, too, has ambitions on your bloodline: “I’m just old enough to fuck your sister and your momma,” he raps, continuing the unofficial theme of this cypher. Boasts aside, he’s got bars for days and a great, original style. Much like the Savvy Row team up in BTV, this crew is a threat we have yet to see the full extent of.

Rycoon is making a return appearance here, and he left the elf ears at home this time. He’s continuing to hone his flow and his bars, and he’s still bringing that high energy style. Then Worpaint, a ginger wookie with an imposing mane, comes in with an off-kilter flow that leans heavy on pauses, which is a great damn way to grab the viewer’s attention when you’re rapping at the end of a long lineup. He’s an experienced vet and a recent transplant to the Green Mountains, who is, clearly, finding a home here.

Jibba “The Gent” bats last, in his full rap dad glory. Currently cranking on a new Causin’ Effect album with longtime friend & collaborator Vazy, “The Gent” is poised to be completely unavoidable for the rest of the year, and he serves notice here.

Speaking of Vazy, he’s the producer behind Vol. 19, which stars BTV legend — and one of Vermont’s best rappers of all time — Konflik. This second cypher is another mix of scene legends and new names, starting with Highh Def, who grabbed my attention with a killer single/video recently (check out “Floetic” if you missed it). Yung spitter Biozone makes his second UTU appearance (he was going by ‘Syncro’ way back then). Dude is a flow pattern technician and his verse here is all multisyllable schemes. Also, that ‘Thupreme’ shirt is dope and hilarious.

When Question The MC takes the stage, you know you’re dealing with a pro. His gravity is effortless, as ever, and he’s been quietly busy prepping a new round of material, including a solo LP and a project with rapper/farmer and freestyle legend Humble. G Da Louisville Slugger is another experienced pro with natural charisma: he’s been putting in work longer than most and he always entertains.

After two verses of grown man rap, things take a turn for the weird with the arrival of Humble Among, who beats the shit out of himself on camera and gets off some creepy, funny punchlines along the way. His style may be an acquired taste, but he’s also one of the most original voices in the 802, and he’s got a ton of new art on tap, including his Halloween Tape 2,which promises to be a minor masterpiece of horrorcore insanity.

Seeing Humble off the mountain is always a shock, but yet: there he is. His verse is an urgent third eye broadcast — “awareness is the antidote and care is the cure” — and that jacket is dope, too. It’s a perfect setup for Konflik’s closing verse, and, no surprises here, the man absolutely kills it. No said date, but Konflik has been working in the studio with Nastee for awhile now, so there is definitely something big on the way.

All in all, this was a dope potluck dinner and a great mix of voices and styles. Props to the creators & props to the hustlers.

Justin Boland