Every Friday night at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Manhattan, New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, MTV2 “Sucker Free” host and Hot 97 DJ/radio personality Cipha Sounds hosts “TAKE IT PERSONAL: The Hip Hop Improv Show.” A student of improv himself, Ciph credits the show to his desire to introduce the underground form of comedy to a new audience.
“I knew that if I could get Hip Hop artists to come through, people who didn’t know about improv would come see the show just to see their favorite artists,” Cipha says during an exclusive interview with HipHopDX. “Once they see the show, they’re like, ‘Oh shit, this is crazy’…Improv is competitive like Hip Hop with battling, boasting, and showmanship.”
The Armando style of improv featured in the show is performed by A Tribe Called Yes, a team of Ciph’s favorite improv teachers. The group acts out live situations based on the true, personal stories of surprise Hip Hop guests. Cipha Sounds says he hopes to take the show to television, creating the same type of phenomenon Russell Simmons did when he showcased comedians such as Martin Lawrence and Dave Chappelle with “Def Comedy Jam.” Some of Ciph’s featured guests have included 2 Chainz, Jadakiss, Swizz Beatz and Trinidad James.
After noticing his on-air delivery was stiff, Cipha entered the world of improv with the goal of loosening up his demeanor, both as a radio personality and a comedian. Through his work with A Tribe Called Yes, Cipha Sounds encountered an unintended consequence of his forays into improvisational acting.
“Improv is a very funny form of comedy that only white people know about, and they want to get others to know about it, but have no idea how to get the diverse audience,” Cipha Sounds says. “I was like, ‘I can get Hip Hop artists to come through, and that will make people who don’t know about improv come through just to see their favorite artists. And once they see the show they’re like, ‘Oh shit, that show was crazy.’”
In addition to his work with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and Hot 97, Cipha Sounds hosts the “Cipha Sounds Effect” on Sirius Satellite Radio’s Shade45. His previous work includes serving as the resident DJ for “Chappelle’s Show” and as an A&R Rawkus, Tommy Boy and Star Trak.