Biggie and Jay-Z came from the East Coast, NWA and Tupac from the West, and Outkast came out of ATL – is there any room in hip-hop for Arizona to represent? According to up-and-coming emcee James Ciphurphace, perhaps there is. Already a local success in ‘Zona, Ciphurphace’s battle-driven lyrics on his official debut LP, An Honest Day’s Work, may be enough to get hip-hop’s attention.
Ciphurphace comes out swinging from start to finish with an array of punch lines and metaphors: imagine Big Daddy Kane from the ‘burbs and on a liter of Red Bull. Ciphurphace sticks to what he does best – gritty, made-for-battle verses – and does it well enough to make An Honest Day’s Work worth an honest listen.
While Ciphurphace braggadocio agenda is virtually incessant throughout the album, its third track “Truthfully, Brutally” is easily An Honest Day’s Work’s key track. In the chorus, James spits: “I truthfully promise / to be brutally honest,” and fulfills his pledge by never holding back from his intended target – be it commercial emcees, the record industry or whoever the hell else he feels like offending.
Work’s Dilla-inspired beats, mostly done by IC You, are consistent but not quite at the level the late Jay Dee’s work. However, a number of quirky loops of hip-hop classics by the likes of Public Enemy, LL Cool J and even the legendary Roots crew, keep the album fresh and the overall production enjoyable.
While this album is by no means a masterpiece, An Honest Day’s Work seems to be a fitting name for Ciphurphace’s solid debut album. He is not at his idol BDK’s level quite yet, but it will be interesting to see what the future holds for this budding emcee. Nonetheless, James Ciphurphace is a solid first representative for Arizona’s up-and-coming hip-hop scene.