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Varcity Cipher - Lyrical Genius on a Higher Level
Interview w/ Drastic, DaCrane, Diamond Claw & Diano
By Alexandra Castillo
(more articles from this author)
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[Alexandra Castillo] Hello guys please introduce yourselves.

[Drastic] Well first of all, I would like to thank you all at Black Hole for taking time out to interview us. I would like to thank you, Alexandra, also babyBREE. I would also like to thank DJ "Flash"Gordon for his thoughts on our CD, (nough respect!!!). I am known as Drastic (Drastic Coligny, meaning excellency in vocabulary). My style speaks for itself, I am the emotional leader of the group.

[DaCrane] They call me DaCrane, "The Mad Journalist." By the way, mad props to Black hole.

[Diamond Claw] On the streets and in my cipher, I'm known as Diamond Claw. Me and Diano are cousins. They call me Diamond Claw because my lyrics are sharp as the claws of a predator. Every weekend I go downtown to the harbor in Baltimore where all the battle rappers meet up and hold it down for our cipher. By the way, I want to thank Black Hole for showing love. Ever since we met babyBREE at the Philadelphia Music Conference, she has been looking out..

[Diano] I'm known as Diano, "the last dragon." They call me Diano "the last dragon" on the streets 'cause I spit the fire. Everything in my rhymes is the truth. A lot of cats talk nonsense in their raps but can't back it up, but everything I spit is real.

[Alexandra] Why did you use the name Varcity Cipher?

[Drastic] We go by the name Varcity Cipher because our cipher is on the highest level of Hip Hop. The word "Varsity" originated from Britain, it means "University" or "highest level." Today you will find some dictionaries defining the word "Varsity" as a squad representing a sport or an activity on the highest level. In our case, we are representing a way of life, a culture (Hip Hop), on the highest level, that is why we call our selves Varcity Cipher. We just spell "Varsity" a little differently.

[DaCrane] Perfect response.

[Alexandra] How did you get started?

[Drastic] Well, the history of our group is rather long. We have been rapping since 1991. How we started is rather hard to explain, only God knows. I know one thing though, it was a miracle from God the way we all finally linked together, because at one point in time we were all involved in different things ranging from going to college out of state to hustling and robbing crews. Finally, we all got together and have been moving on. Its not by chance that our group hooked up together, I believe we were brought together by God.

[DaCrane] Even before 1990 me and my brother Drastic Coligny were rapping and battling mc's on the streets. It seemed logical after we met Diamond and later Diano, that together we could create a rap group that would stand out from any other, hence the creation of Varcity Cipher.

[Diamond Claw] It started back in 1990, I was always cool with DeCrane and Drastic, but I never knew that they could flow until one day when me and my other cousin (Troy) battled DaCrane and Drastic. At the end of the battle, I knew that we all had to hook up. To cut a long story short, we eventually hooked up together under the name "Kausen Konphusion." It wasn't until 5 years ago that we started going by the name Varcity Cipher.

[Diano] I was the last one to join the group. Basically, the group was already in existence when I joined. I had to get myself together and overcome a lot of the negative aspects of my life which I wish not to discuss. I know that its more than just coincidence that we are together, the Lord brought us together.

[Alexandra] As individuals how long have you been rapping?

[Drastic] I have been rapping since 1991. I began rapping after hearing DaCrane astonish the crowd at a couple of parties and open mics.

[DaCrane] I've been rapping ever since 1986 when I was nine years old. Back then I wasn't as dangerous or coherent as I am today.

[Diamond Claw] For 10 years, I just started rapping went I met DaCrane and Drastic.

[Diano] I'm sorta what you would call a late beginner. I started writing down my lyrics back in 1995, before then, I just used to freestyle and watch my fam lyrically eat emcees alive.

[Alexandra] And as a group?

[Drastic] As a group, since 1991, but we really started making moves in 1996.

[Diano] I officially joined the group like 6 years ago.

[Alexandra] What is each individual role in the group?

[Drastic] Well, lets see, I'm the producer of our CD The Graveyard Chant.' I make 95 percent of our tracks and mix down and edit all of our songs. I do all the radio edits for our songs. Its my role to gather everyone up for the group meetings. I'm the spokesperson for the group when it comes to calling up and talking to A&Rs, lawyers and music executives. I plan and organize most of the shows we do and the music conferences we perform at. Its my role to send out CDs to A&Rs and magazines and to get our music into the Industry. Oh! by the way, I also rap.

[DaCrane] I'm the lyrical leader of Varcity Cipher (thought its becoming harder and harder to keep this title with Drastic's lyrical progress). I'm also the guru of Varcity Cipher. I designed our website, built our digital studio, design the concepts for our album covers, and I'm responsible for many other technical aspects of our rap game.

[Diamond Claw] All I do is rap and a little street marketing.

[Diano] All I do is rap and spread our name on the streets, I leave the other stuff to DeCrane and Drastic.

[Alexandra] How involved are you in the business aspect of the game?

[Drastic] Well, we are very much aware about the business aspect of the game. I can speak intelligently about the business aspect of the game, but as far as being involved, as of recent, we are not quite as involved as we would like to be. You see, in order to be involved in the business aspect of the game, one of the most important factors is having the working capital. You have to have working capital to make any kind of power moves in the music industry without the help of a label. We are nearly at the point where we would have the working capital to help us get involved in the business aspect of the game, and help us in getting a barcode on our CD so we can start our own full blown street promotion and mass selling of our CD. One way in which we are involved in business aspect of the game is the fact that we aren't just a Hip Hop group, we are a little business in its self. Meaning, we are at the point were we don't have to rely on any outsourcing. We make our own beats, we produce ourselves, we author and update our own web page, we create all the graphics on our CD cover, etc. The only help we could use at this time is the support of a record label by means of a record deal or a distribution deal and even if that doesn't happen, because of our contingency planning, we will still get our music heard.

[DaCrane] Nuff said.

[Alexandra] Your album 'The Graveyard Chant' got great reviews here in Black Hole. Is that your first album?

[Drastic] It's the first album that we released to the public, but its not our only album. We have three unreleased albums. We have so many songs that we have done and so many that we can recite from the top of our head, yet we haven't recorded yet. We have completed so many songs that sometimes I lose track of how many songs we have.

[DaCrane] Its the first album we've released and the first of four in our possession.

[Diamond Claw] Its like the first out of four, I think.

[Diano] No, its not really our first. We have so many unreleased songs that I can't say how many albums we could possibly have.

[Alexandra] How would you describe the sound of the group?

[Drastic] We have a very superior sound that is above the normal garbage that clogs our radio stations today. Many music executives that have heard our music say that we have a very unique sound, which is very true. Our tracks are so melodic and unique yet embracing perfection. Lyrically, we can go up against any group of emcees that would dare challenge us. We are raw and our lyrics are strong, yet we still appeal to the females and R&B crowd. We have songs that relate to everyone. We have songs for those that like to hear battle raps, we have songs for those that are thugged out, we have songs for the females, and we have songs for those that appreciate intellectual stimulation.

[DaCrane] Nuff said on that question.

[Diamond Claw] We sound sorta commercial yet underground. We get love from the streets and we also appeal to the females.

[Diano] We have a raw style that everyone in the projects feel. We just come with it, and the streets love us for that.

[Alexandra] Would you say you're a hardcore group? If not describe

[Drastic] I guess you can say we are hardcore, even though, I would like to think of us more as a lyrical group that specializes in battle rap rather than just hardcore rappers. Don't get me wrong, we can get down right nasty if need be, but we place more emphasis on battle/clever lyrics rather than hardcore.

[DaCrane] We tend to fall under the "Hardcore" category by default, but the truth is we are versatile beyond any label or classification.

[Diamond Claw] Yeah!!! hardcore battle. If an emcee wants to battle us lyrically, we can handle that. But if someone wants to take it past lyrics, we can handle that also. Yes, we are a hardcore group.

[Diano] Hell Yeah!! We are hardcore and thugged out. Even though we battle a lot, we ain't just about lyrics. A lot of crews found that out the hard way. If you catch one of our shows or see us ciphering on the streets you would understand more about what I'm talking about.

[Alexandra] What elements separate Varcity Cipher from other groups?

[Drastic] There are a lot of elements that separate us from other groups. One element is that we are one of the only groups that you would ever meet that can hold intelligent conversations with some of the most seasoned music executives, yet when you see us on stage performing or ciphering in the streets, you would thing that we were unruly street savages just looking to start war. Our intelligence level is extremely high for the average "MC," yet our nonsense tolerance level is very low. Also, we are very goal oriented and determined. Our work ethic is unbelievable and our productivity level is very high. Even with a high productivity level, we still manage to produce very potent music for the industry. Let me end my answer on this note: How many groups do you know that has a member that attends college full-time, works part time, and still has the time to produce a whole album in just three months?

[DaCrane] My rap style sets me apart from any rapper you'll ever meet. I'm distinguishable from about 5 miles away. I would like to think that our creativity sets us apart from all other groups.

[Diamond Claw] We are more focused and goal oriented, plus we are all family. DaCrane and Drastic are brothers and me and Diano are cousins.

[Diano] We are real and thorough, plus we have the best of both worlds. I mean, we get mad respect in the projects cause we are real, and at the same time, we have members in our cipher that are very intelligent and book smart (college thugs).

[Alexandra] Other than yourselves, which artists do you think are hot?

[Drastic] On the real, I have been disappointed with a lot of "so called" Hip Hop artist lately for their misrepresentation of the true meaning of Hip Hop. But to answer your question, I have always been a big fan of Nas. Lyrically, I like what Canibus is doing, he is ill. Canibus reminds me of one of our group members, DaCrane. I also like The Lox, Common and there are a few others, very few others, that I like.

[DaCrane] I'm very selective in using the term "hot." Sure there are a lot of quality mc's doing their thing, but I'm inclined to go with Nas and Canibus (although Canibus is not nearly as versatile as Nas).

[Diamond Claw] There are a couple of hot artist out there, like Jadakis from The Lox, Big Pun, Canibus, there are a couple more.

[Diano] I have always liked KRS One. I can relate to Pac, and I like DMX and Jay Z. Lyrically, I like KRS One, Nas, and Canibus.

[Alexandra] Who do you look up to?

[Drastic] I look up to God, cause he's the source of my strength. I look up to my mother because she's a very hard worker and a survivor, she taught me how to remain strong, sharp and patient in the mist of people that don't respect our talent and pray for our failure. I also look up to those that are still making it happen when every one around them gave them a thousand and one reasons why they couldn't make it.

[DaCrane] Without God nothing is possible therefore I look to him and only him.

[Diamond Claw] I look up to my family and my crew.

[Diano] I look up to my grandmother cause she has always been there for me through the thick and the thin.

[Alexandra] Are there any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

[Drastic] Most definitely, you see, when a lot of music executives and A&Rs heard 'The Graveyard Chant,' they were thinking in their mind, "these guys can never come as raw as they did on this album," and people are practically daring us to come up with another CD as hot as 'The Graveyard Chant.' I have very bad news for them, we are going to do it again. This time around, we are going surprise everyone though. Only very few people will hear this new CD right away because we haven't even really begun to market 'The Graveyard Chant' like that. I know one thing though, when we do finish the new CD in August, you all (Black Hole) will be one of the first people to hear it.

[DaCrane] The next CD that we will release is very hot!

[Alexandra] Is there anything else you would like to say to everyone?

[Drastic] This comment is directed towards the A&Rs that heard our CD and think that by not saying anything or by not giving us our due respect for a well done CD that they can kill our dream. I'm sorry, but the streets feel us, the consumers love us, and were are going to come out real soon and there is nothing you can do to stop that. We are getting ready to shine like the sun, and you can't stop the sun from shining. If God is for us, who can be against us? For the A&Rs that act like they don't know whats going on, you know how the saying goes, "If you don't know, then you're slow so you better ask somebody." For the A&Rs and music executives that have not heard of us, you can check us out at our website at or call us at (410) 828-1004 to request a CD. To all our loyal fans out there, thank you!! Keep supporting us, our album 'The Graveyard Chant' will be in stores nationwide soon. My advice to those unsigned artist out there with real talent is to just keep doing your thing. Don't allow anyone to make you doubt your talent and kill your dream. Some people are naturally player haters, it doesn't matter how good you are. One thing I have learned is that some people will player hate you no matter what you do, you just have to ignore them and keep doing what got you where you are at. Once again, I would like to thank you all at Black Hole for your love and support. Its nice to know that there are still people out there that are not biased and just call things the way they see it, thank you all very much.

[DaCrane] Much love to the Black Hole for your unbiased evaluation of our CD.

[Diamond Claw] Support us when our CD 'The Graveyard Chant' officially comes out. We are hungry and dangerous, also, its not advisable for any MC to sleep on us. Once again, thank you Alexandra for interviewing us.

[Diano] We rap for the streets, we rep East Chase street in Baltimore, Maryland, straight like that!! To all the haters, you can either support us now, or ride the jock later when we are on every radio station, MTV and Rap City [BET]. Once again, thank you Black Hole, we appreciate the love and support.

[Alexandra] Kick freestyle.

[Drastic] We got the illest flows, we got raps for days.
Some emcees is homos, them niggas rap for gays.
We got many ways to make the crowd pumped,
many ways to make the crowd jump,
many ways to make a loud thump.
Many ways to make your album sales slump,
who wants to dare us, your crew fears us,
A&Rs don't want to hear us cause we'll shit on their artist,
and use their emcees for targets.
Enter the rap market like a thief, then I'm gone,
y'all clowns are dead wrong for even trying to sleep on the song.
Y'all niggas probably wear thongs like an amateur stripper,
damage your liver,
we're predators, we'll have you for dinner.
Who's the winner?, the street niggas love Varcity,
and clown ass emcees, they don't really want no parts of me.
obviously we talking it up with Black Hole,
now we're chalking emcees and leave crews in black clothes,
like them black tuxedos, or the funeral gear
end your rap career, another funeral near.
So who do you fear? Drastic, emcee slash warrior,
for Black Hole we rapping B-more to Astoria.

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