There’s trouble brewing in the NEPA hip-hop scene — and, like any good hip-hop beef, it’s coming down to bars.
It started in April when Hazleton-based emcee Nate Williams announced he’d be preparing the second entry in a NEPA Cypher series, after the first premiered in 2015. But now, the guys in Animal Planet have something to say about it.
Williams said the cypher, a collection of rappers all freestyling over the same beat, is meant to be a showcase of up-and-coming rappers in the area.
“I’m building a platform for other emcees,” Williams said, noting that he won’t be rapping on the cypher. He’s only making the beat and hosting it alongside Allentown producer Big City Beatz.
Williams, one half of the group Die-Polar, said that group’s other rapper, Blade, acted as a mentor to him, and now he wants to do the same.
“I’m doing it from the bottom of my heart,” he said.
Williams said the cypher would be featuring numerous rappers from the area, spotlighting multiple emcees from Shenandoah to Stroudsburg and the spaces in between.
According to Williams, these emcees feature a variety of sounds across the spectrum of what’s happening in hip-hop right now.
For example, one rapper in the cypher, KVY, employs what Williams calls a “current” trap sound. Pittston rapper Doc Nuece employs a “gravelly, deliberate flow” that blends punk rock and hip-hop. And Scranton emcee Suff3r? strays toward horrorcore sounds.
“He has the scariest voice I’ve ever heard, and his rap voice is his normal voice,” Williams said of Suff3r?.
Williams said that the previous NEPA Cypher has nearly 1,000 views on YouTube, something that he says is impressive for the local hip-hop scene. And now, he said he’s hoping to channel the same sort of energy into a another cypher spotlighting these newer names.
But some people think that Williams’ cypher is missing some of the best talent in the area, so they’re taking it upon themselves to start their own.
Shawn Jackson, of the Hazleton-based group Animal Planit, said he was using the cypher as an opportunity to stoke the flames of a playful rap beef.
“We noticed that a lot of the premier artists felt some kind of way, felt like Nate was thumbing his nose at the people who have actually been out here, have been putting in work,” said Jackson, who performs under the name King Kong Kancun.
So Jackson began throwing together another cypher, one with artists he says have put in the work, like Maine da Medicine and Brooklyn emcee Chris Fields.
And so began some back and forth between the two sides — and whether those jabs were taken in good fun is between the two sides.
According to Williams, some of the shots were a bit personal, with photos of him being edited to turn him into a cartoonish figure called “Nate the Snake,” and even with the beat to his cypher being leaked by Animal Planit with spoofed vocals being layered over it.
Williams said this sort of behavior comes from artists who think they’re bigger than they are.
“We think we’re superstars, but we’re not,” he said. “A lot of them are in the same lane … I just wanna make music and be left alone.”
But for Jackson, this sort of back and forth is just part of what makes rap beefs fun for the audience.
“It’s all about who’s better. It’s no difference from if I came into the office and we set up a chess board,” he told a reporter, freely admitting to leaking the beat. “Any emcee that doesn’t look at it like that probably doesn’t know his history or isn’t being honest with himself.
“All’s fair in love in war,” he laughed.
As for when the two cyphers come out, that’s largely up to Williams’ camp.
According to him, all the rappers have submitted their verses, and soon we’ll be seeing a video of those rappers spitting, he said.
And as soon as that cypher comes out, we’ll be getting the other one as well, Jackson said.
“Ours is dropping when theirs drops; soon as I see that they drop, I’m pressing go and it’s gonna release,” he said.
Jackson said, from there, it’s up to the listeners to decide who’s best.
“Let the fans truly decide,” he said. “You be the judge.”