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Artist Of The Week - Chronikill
Monday, March 07, 2011

The Chronikill trio of Charlie Cypher, Zerox One, aka Rox, and Keyno Speedz have been a staple on New York City’s underground hip-hop scene for quite a while now. Whether it’s been their own performances, or the Doin’ Alright series of shows they throw at the Bowery Poetry Club, they know how to pack a place, and they know how the keep their wall to wall crowds happy. I caught up with all three members of Chronikill this week to find out a little bit about their history, what goes into throwing a successful event, and what some of the wilder Chronikill and Doin’ Alright moments have been. Spoiler alert - stage diving and crackheads are BOTH involved.

Adam Benard: Why don’t you start me off with a little Chronikill history? Where are you all from and when and how did you all come together to form Chronikill? 
Charlie Cypher: We're all from here in the city and went to high school together. We spent a lot of time doing those quintessential kid things - forties on stoops, trips to the spot, freestyling, and trying to get up.
Zerox One: We mean it when we say “NYC born and raised.”
Charlie Cypher: When we decided we wanted to do shows, in 1999, we started using the name Chronicle, which eventually become Chronikill in a fit of marketing genius.
Zerox One: Rapping, basically, was a more viable option to impress the ladies than continuing to get arrested for writing graffiti.
Charlie Cypher: There was another kid with us back in the day who has since gone on to a career in politics. Speedy forced his way into the group in a coup of sorts back in '06 and that's been the lineup ever since.
Keyno Speedz: They needed some hype – I bring the hype.

Adam Bernard: Do you all have similar musical backgrounds, or do you vary greatly?
Charlie Cypher: I've played music my whole life. When I was a 12-13 years old I played the sax in the Brooklyn borough-wide band. We played at Carnegie Hall on two separate occasions. I played bass in some bands back in high school, as well. I listen to all kinds of shit but my iPod is straight mid to late 90s hip-hop; the Loud and Rawkus years.
Zerox One: I can play both “Brother John” and “Frere Jacques” on the piano and the keyboard. I’ve been writing lyrics since as long as I can remember, but musically I don’t contribute much beyond the occasional suggestion for arrangements and saying “can we make the beat sound like DJ Premier made it,” which I’ve heard is not constructive.
Keyno Speedz: I played the recorder in first grade.

Adam Bernard: You released an album titled Drinking on a Tuesday, which, coincidentally, is a pastime of mine, as well. Other than the obvious, what inspired drinking on a Tuesday, both the title and the album?
Charlie Cypher: “The balance is right, smoking and drinking on a Tuesday night.”
Zerox One: Yeah, the title is an interpolation from “Shadrach” off (the Beastie Boys’ album) Paul’s Boutique. Paul’s Boutique is a great album. The song “Car Thief” shaped my childhood. Anyway, we wanted to reflect the content of our live shows and the extracurricular antics of the day and the best way to do that was to make an album that was equal parts ignorant and eloquent, so we recorded the tracks and pulled together all those fun pictures in the CD, which summarize the mood of the album. Everyone should buy the CD for the amazing artwork and photos. Shouts to nedphoto.com and Zach Cooper, who helped us out with that. Credit to Cypher for a lot of the hard work and focus it took to make it happen. I’m pretty hard to work with and can be drunk and disorderly, so this was no small task.
Keyno Speedz: And he’s gotten better. You should’ve seen him before he had a girlfriend.
Charlie Cypher: Also, Drinking On A Wednesday is harder to rhyme with.
Zerox One: MUCH harder.

Adam Bernard: As artists, what are you looking to contribute to hip-hop, and music in general?
Charlie Cypher We want to make music that is first and foremost some get up and get down type shit; some head nodding, fast paced, onslaught to get you up for a big night out. Yeah, we drop some serious songs in there, too, and they are honest, as well, but that’s not the main aspect of what we're about. I think we just want to be known as good lyricists who kill it live, and while we respect and love hip-hop, we don't try to be all high and mighty about it. No pun intended.
Zerox One: I think we’ve always focused on making songs we thought sounded good, and on making each song better than the last. I think we’ve done that. We try to have catchy hooks that will get stuck in people’s heads and also dense enough rhymes that each listen gives you something you didn’t catch before. My favorite hip-hop music makes you rewind it a few times to catch everything. I think sometimes, because we have this rah-rah lighthearted lunacy in the way we go about things, people may not know that we care a great deal about our rhymes. My rhymes are like my children in that sense. Also, I want to contribute bad analogies. Hip-hop needs more of those.

Adam Bernard: Hilarious! You also have a monthly event, Doin’ Alright, at the Bowery Poetry Club. When did you start this event and what has kept it going for so long?
Charlie Cypher: We've been rocking Bowery since June 2008 when we got put on a bill by El Gant. We've done a total of 16 shows there, including 13 of the 14 Doin’ Alright's. We had to throw one at Don Hill’s, which is the worst.
Zerox One: To be clear, Don Hill’s is the worst. Those promoters put their children through college on the backs of our hard work and we never even got a “thank you.”
Charlie Cypher: We started Doin’ Alright formally in March ‘09 as a way to play with the acts we wanted to rock with. It's hard, trying to play only showcases and events put on by two-bit promoters who don't give a shit. Don't get me wrong, showcases can be dope, but we wanted to have our own thing.
Zerox One: A lot of it has to do with choosing between the lesser of two evils – working with promoters who care only about the bottom line, or standing around for hours waiting to spit a verse at an open mic in front of an audience consisting of a dozen other people who are waiting to shine. We thought there was a void in the scene and we tried to help fill it by throwing shows where the artists and the audience could both have a great night.
Charlie Cypher: So we spoke with Eliel at the Bowery Poetry Club, who is the man and has been very supportive since day one, and the rest is history. We've had an incredible list of artists come through, which we will release with the documentary, early next year. Our YouTube page contains links to almost every video from past performers.

Adam Bernard: Since you’ve been throwing shows for a while now, could you share a few of your keys to throwing a successful event?
Charlie Cypher: Only work with serious artists who promote hard and rock a great live set. Be careful with the lineups, who is rocking and when. Be generous with the acts, but not to a fault. And don't get too wasted.
Zerox One: Have a clear sense of what you are trying to accomplish. We throw the shows because we wanted control over the scene we are inviting our audience into. From that standpoint they have been very successful. Be respectful to the people who are good to work with. Don’t become one of those asshole promoters you hated working with. Having a good DJ holding the night together is also important. Shout to M-Tri and Iron Lyon, who have both held down Doin’ Alright events.

Adam Bernard: Finally, what has been your wildest Doin’ Alright, or Chronikill, moment so far? 
Charlie Cypher: A middle-aged crackhead lady rushed the stage in New Orleans, at Dixie Tavern, to grab the mic. We didn't have the heart to boot her so she kinda mumbled her own little raps while we did the rest of the show. Same basic thing happened with Speedy except he's still in the group. Kidding, kidding.
Zerox One:Another crazy lady snatched the ski goggles off my head at the Five Spot in BK right in the middle of our set. I had to jump off stage to chase her down while Cyphe finished my verse. Another high point was when we played a show at Medusa in Philly. Our friends throwing the show never confirmed that there was a working PA, so we ended up doing our set standing on chairs and screaming our lyrics at the top of our lungs. The club was packed tight but not a single person heard us. It was like our career in a microcosm.
Charlie Cypher: We once played a show in a pizza parlor in Baton Rouge and were attacked by a three legged dog.
Zerox One: I believe that show was to benefit a hemp activist organization and they did not take kindly to our blazing an el on stage.
Charlie Cypher: Homeboy Sandman doing “Lightning Bolt. Lightning Rod” with Louis Logic singing the hook at Doin’ Alright 2 was pretty sick.
Zerox One: And there was the infamous piano jump performed by Warren Britt at Doin’ Alright 8, which was craaaazy. Thank God no one was killed... or sued.

Related Links

Website: chronikill.com


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:22 AM  
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