Denver MC Matthew Jones, aka BROTH3R, hosts Hush, a freestyle rap night held at Mutiny Information Cafe the third Friday of each month — one of the few regular underground hip-hop events in the Mile High City.
The evening, which began in spring of 2017, is a cypher, or "a rapper's jam," as Jones calls it. "It’s named cypher after cipher or the number zero, representing the circle pattern we stand in or the wholeness of our energy."
Westword caught up with Jones to talk about why he started Hush and what need this event fills in the city's music scene.
Westword: Tell me about your background in music.
Matthew Jones: I started in Niagara Falls, hosting little parties and doing performances of different sorts and concerts. I opened up for Pouya and $uicide Boys when they were on tour out there. I opened up for Montana 300 a couple of times. Then I realized that that system that you get booked through is really kind of flawed. I wasn’t personally getting charged, but a lot of my friends and colleagues were getting charged for their slots. So I wanted to be the person who could create the opportunity for other people. Hush is the come-up of that. I’ve done #FreakShow at Larimer Lounge. I plan on doing another in the future, hopefully this summer or next.
What is #FreakShow?
It’s a show that celebrates individuality in music, and it has a bunch of different kinds of music. ... It’s a very warm, euphoric experience celebrating friends and friends of friends. I just did that one for my friends. A lot of my friends are talented, so I got them all together on a show. But Hush is more about putting people through the test and seeing how they perform in front of different crowds of people.
How does the booking work? Was it not worth it?
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So I would get booked for my music but still get a stack of tickets and have an expectation of “Sell this much.” I liked selling tickets. I just didn’t like the expectations and such. I started to see that the people behind the booking were really just in it to create bigger profits. It wasn’t about sustainability. It wasn’t about getting people exposed. You know, sometimes it’s about this and sometimes it’s about that, but it was never really about breaking artists. I felt like I was going nowhere. I’m performing in front of my friends at this point, so why not bring that home?
At that point, I was in a collective called the Loot Boys. It was a four-piece rap group. We kind of ran it like a boy band a little bit, which was interesting — really good performances, really strong. Everyone had a really strong personality and sound, kind of like a Wu-Tang type of thing. You know, just really youthful.
What does Hush look like? What is the intention behind it?
The intention is to expose more people to local hip-hop. The intention is to surprise people with the show. It’s not at a typical venue — there is no stage. There is no fanfare. It’s just speakers and us. So you come into the store and you hear this rumble of a concert. Then you wander your way into the back, and there is this full-fledged hip-hop experience. … It’s a donation system. I try to collect donations to help pay the artists.
A cypher is kind of like a competition, yes?
We’re looking to introduce rap battles as well, but yes, I think the best hip-hop is competitive. It’s definitely a skill-based art form. I don’t see why it can’t be competitive. It’s pressure-based; a lot of that becomes like an adrenaline that you can channel.
You were saying it can test people?
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I see people who want to rap or haven’t rapped and they feel compelled to do so. That’s another one of our intentions — compel people to try something new and get more people involved in the culture who might not necessarily know much about it. It’s a stepping-stone show.
What need does this event fill?
I think it fills artists' need to be exposed and to perform. Not every performance is about money. Not every performance is about how many people are there. Some of your best performances, some of the most memorable, some that mean the most are about no one being there or people coming and going. A lot of hip-hop shows nowadays are more showcases. I guess Hush could fall into that category, too, but it’s more of a cypher, because it’s more of a club of returning members, returning and feature MCs.