Birds chirp with a calm blue sky panning down in the background. Jay R Beatbox, sleeping atop an Airstream trailer in Downtown Las Vegas, abruptly wakes up as the most annoying iPhone alarm blares through the speakers. He immediately breaks into beatboxing and makes his way downstairs. One at a time, local emcees share the spotlight, relaying the metaphorical mic as the camera moves from one artist to the next—all while the mouth musician accompanies them with his wild beatboxing.
This is the “Downtown Cypher,” a project led by Jay R Beatbox to motivate listeners by telling a story of triumph and struggle of the American people. As the camera pans from Mike Xavier to Tray Charles to Interstate Fatz to Rasar, each shares a story, be it about the state of rap music, oppression or white privilege. This isn’t Drake. This isn’t Lil Uzi Vert. This is some wake-the-fuck-up rap—a shout out to the masses about what we really need to be worried about.
The mix of styles throughout the video makes for an interesting twist. Mike Xavier has a smoother delivery and a softer, more relatable message. Tray Charles is more abstract and heavy. Battle rap veteran Interstate Fatz and The Lique frontman Rasar are more dense lyrically, forcing the listener to stop and rewind. It’s a fun game pausing and unpausing after every other line of theirs.
The cinematography is also worth a nod. It’s reminiscent of a Wes Anderson movie with pops of colors—metallic greys, bright baby blue skies and washed-out maroon. One take shooting and limited camera angles also add to the Anderson aesthetic. It makes the dynamic feel comfortable but intriguing. The camera quality isn’t great, but the quality of the lyrics make up for it, especially when Rasar starts rapping about the state of news media: “They spit the opposite/ The land of alternative facts.” Maybe that’s just because of the journalist in me.