News from the Front (SAVE Cyphers Report)



News from the Front (SAVE Cyphers)

I couldn’t help but recall the image of a battleground, watching the sweat hit the floor in the reflections of the mirror-wall at Cyphers Center for Urban Art.

The canal rippled with the shockwaves of the 200+ locals gathered to celebrate the 2 year anniversary of the studio. I stood by, amazed, watching what could only be described as bottled fury being released from AZ Krump, Cypher Squad, Drop Beat Kids, and others taking center floor. It was something close to a riot, (but all in the name of passionate art). I could feel an extra ounce of energy behind every movement. The idea that this place is closing soon did nothing but hyper-charge the performances. Each dancer existed only in those split moments between the beat, giving it everything they had in them, with the addition of their very spirit that is normally beyond the use of ordinary athletes.

I got a lucky chance to talk with House Magana, owner of Cyphers, (with Skooby Morales, of course) hip-hop veteran and black belt in breaking, about the story behind the studio, some golden moments from the past 2 years, and plans for the future:

House (who has been dancing for longer than I’ve been alive) is originally from Mexico City, moved to Chicago, and finally settled down in the Valley in the 2000’s. Not surprisingly, there were no hip hop studios in his area (near MetroCenter), and his soul was itching for movement. Along with partner Skooby Morales, they jumped on the opportunity to rent out the space for what would soon be Cyphers. The room was originally an MMA gym (quite fitting), and then a record shop, so it makes sense in sort of a heavenly-logic sort of way that a hip hop studio would come next.


Cyphers opened its doors in 2011, with what was initially a good response from the community. Kids curious about the pounding bass emanating from the building would wander inside and be captivated by what they had previously only seen in movies. The first few months were no doubt an exciting time for House, Scooby, and the neighborhood.

The original goal was to operate as a non-profit, for Cyphers to exist purely for the good of the locals. Of course, this is quite a difficult thing to achieve at such a location in these times. It took several months before the center could decide on monthly rates, but with the help of volunteers and the constant influx of newcomers, Cyphers was able to offer free programs for schools, in public spaces, and put on special events fairly often. What started as a dream for House & Skooby soon grew to be a cherished corner of Phoenix, by all who had seen what their hard work was amounting to. Their reputation began to grow as a serious studio where kids of all walks of life could enrich their lives with the passion & culture of Hip Hop.

One such local was Graffiti artist (now intern and assistant Graff instructor at Cyphers), Trublz. I spoke briefly with Trublz about his introduction to graffiti and how he came to be involved with Cyphers. Trublz said he fell in love with the colors of graffin’ as a freshman in high school. He said he was attracted to Cyphers because of the graffiti letters on the front entrance, marking Cyphers as a stronghold of youth culture against the burning Phoenix sun. He took the opportunity available to him & soon became steeped in Hip Hop. House & Skooby digged his artwork (which he had been practicing for years at this point) and let him intern as assistant instructor for a Graff Class offered by the center.

Trublz said the chance to practice regularly (& legally) with spray paint at Cyphers helped him grow immensely as an artist. The Center had allowed him to perfect his lines and also spread his passion to other local kids who wanted to try their hands on the cans.


Graff workshop !

Graff workshop !

Part of the beauty of Cyphers is that it plants the seeds of Hip Hop in our valley’s youth. Trublz said he plans to be a full time teacher in the future and will continue to do Graffiti art as long as life will allow. House spoke to this concept as part of the reason of why he loves what he does so much. Kids come to Cyphers to learn Hip Hop, ingrain it into their identity, and then take it as their own and spread it in their own way to the world. This growth of culture & art is essential to the health of our community and kids. Shout out to Trublz. (do your thang man)

Within the 2 years of its foundation, I asked House about some special times, favorite memories, and “golden” moments of learning. What he told me spoke volumes of the power of Hip Hop:

Cyphers was the first place one student went to after learning that his mother had passed away of cancer. The peace & comfort he gained from his connection to Cyphers goes light years beyond love. I could sense that this is exactly what House meant when he told me that Cyphers is a home to outsiders, where anyone is accepted, and a real community is formed.

House’s favorite memories of Cyphers include watching his younger students grow and develop as artists, find passion, and experience life in a brand new way. He loved watching his students gain self-confidence and learn to believe in themselves regardless of the outside world. There is no substitute for such a place in our community, this is absolutely essential.

Halfway through our conversation, I realized it was wrong of me to talk like this was the end of Cyphers. Something that meant so much to everyone involved would surely be immortal in the hearts of its students. They would remember this place for the rest of their lives as something that saved them from the Arizona Dust.

the first dance class of today, before the event began.

the first dance class of today, before the event began.

Asking about the future of Cyphers, today was indeed not the end at all. House & Skooby have already secured a new location at the Phoenix Center of the Arts, as the 7th program added to their roster. The duo has formed a good relationship with the center and there is talk of Cyphers as finally being able to operate as a full nonprofit.

I was inspired by how House & his Cyphers army had flipped the tragedy of ridiculous rent into a positive situation. Their new location downtown is more accessible to those without a car & will be a more suiting space to accommodate all forms of Hip Hop. Come March, the light rail will be packed with Bboys & girls, Graffers, DJ’s and MC’s, as well as anyone curious about what all the racket is about in the Center of the Arts.

Throughout our talk, I could sense that House is not the type to worry. He has learned to roll with the punches, deal with the stress, and flip anything to his advantage, for all of our benefit. What started as a dream shared by two, has formed a solid foundation in the heart of the Valley’s Youth, and become a dream shared by hundreds (& counting). I told House that there is no way he can fail now. He has himself an army of kids who love what they have learned at Cyphers and will follow him no matter where they relocate. Much Love to House, Skooby, & all the instructors and volunteers who bleed, sweat, and no doubt shed plenty of tears to make a dream come to life. Coming from a local kid, you guys are making this city a much better place to live and grow up in for everyone involved. You have given chances to those who otherwise would have none, made leaders of those who would be following a rough path in our desert. Stay up Cyphers.

This place was packed later that night. There are no words for the energy that was in the air.

This place was packed later that night. There are no words for the energy that was in the air.

Niko Popovich

Saguaro Thorns & Microphones



            Well Hello, & welcome to Urban Arts AZ. This week I have braved frustrated coffee shop owners (they can’t accept that this isn’t the 90’s anymore), broken glass, (and ignored more than a few “trespassing” signs) to present the world with more vibrancy from the heart of Phoenix.

This article will give you lucky art lovers a glimpse of the cultural mosaic of Arizona, as well as news about several new mixtapes being pushed by local hip hop artists. But more of that is to come. First and foremost, I must echo a local tragedy taking place in March:

That is, the closing of Cyphers, our town’s center for all forms of urban art. A dance studio, DJ school, and graffiti haven all rolled into one, this is a tremendous blow to creative culture in Phoenix. The studio has been cherished by younger members as a safe haven from the heat, as well as the trouble to be found among the alleyways and avenues of Phoenix.

Cyphers will forever live on in the hearts of teens who found passion, friendship, and for some, a reason to breathe amongst the mirrors and colorful walls of the studio. The owner of the property has decided to level the building to make room for (ironic drumroll please) another !@#$ing stripmall. Like that is really what our community of at-risk teenagers, artists, and students needs. Good job man. I’ll be sure to throw cartons and cartons of eggs at the pawnshop/taco bell/karate studio/Walgreens franchise pattern that you let move in. (Just kidding. Maybe. Don’t sue me.)

Barbed Wire & Sunflowers (draw your own conclusions)

Barbed Wire & Sunflowers
(draw your own conclusions)

Cyphers is renowned and cherished in the neighborhood for enriching the lives of locals by giving them a passion to pursue, teaching them the culture and art of Hip Hop, and providing a safe, productive way to burn off steam and pent-up energy.

Cuz I don't see any!

Cuz I don’t see any!


To commemorate their 2nd anniversary at this location, Cyphers is holding an all-day donation at the center for those who would like to help. There will be hip hop oozing out onto the sidewalk this Saturday (1/25) so be sure to come and shed tears with us as we party together and raise middle fingers to the man. Please show your love and much-appreciated support; feel free to make a donation while you’re at it (:

It’ll be getting wild at 9201 North 29th Avenue, STE #36. The shindig begins at Noon and will be raging until 9 p.m. Show some love! (You’ll probably hear us echoing all throughout the valley, so you might as well show up.)

I was fortunate enough to have a chat with partial owner and dance master House about some of his favorite memories of being a saint to local teens, the story behind Cyphers, hip hop in Arizona, and the future of art in our community; enlighten yourself:

Despite all my ranting at the landlord above, the real blame is on us as the Phoenix community for not supporting this lovely and much-needed community niche. We can all do our part to support beautiful, meaningful business in our town by loving art more. Make that drive downtown. Enroll your kid in that hip hop dance class (it’s so much more engaging, unique, and fun than karate or soccer, and who knows, you could even make a little $$$ yourself if the kiddo gets the moves right.)


Yeah Baby!

Yeah Baby!


  • ·         Underground god Talib Kweli (if you don’t know who that is, you’re depriving yourself) will be making a guest appearance in the Memorial Union on ASU’s Tempe Campus, on February 4th, in honor of Black History Month. Knowledge will be dropped. Minds will be rocked. You really don’t want to miss the chance to hear this guy speak. BE THERE.

That’s the MU, (@ASU Tempe), 2/4, 6 p.m.

We’ve also got some brand-spanking-new hip hop to let you know about WAY before your hipster friends hear about it (you’re welcome):

  • ·         Local poet & MC Myrlin has dropped The Funky Autopsy. 17 tracks of Niagara Falls flow, intelligent lyrics, and beautiful cover art, you can download that (and name your own price) via his Bandcamp page. This dude is also ½ of Phoenix-based Phonetic Spit, responsible for spreading the love and value of poetry to our youth who have no other outlets. Definitely show this dude some love.
  • ·         Master rapper and current local crown-holder Eddie Wellz  (responsible for The Speed of Thought) has decided to bless us all with more of that… I don’t even have any witty lines or metaphors to describe this guy’s music (take my word for it. He freestyled for me at school and I nearly pee’d myself). Anyways, Mr. Wellz has prepared his second feast of lyricism in Keep Your Head Up, due for release early next month. There will be a link for its download ASAP. Stay up on it.

That’s all for now my fellow desert rats. Enjoy some more pretty pictures: (I literally bled to snap some of these photos)

Beautiful new Gila mural at the Mark apartments, Tempe

Beautiful new Gila mural at the Mark apartments, Tempe

MLK love

MLK love

Pick your favorite color (:

Pick your favorite color (:

Hello World, PHX Here!


Hello World, PHOENIX Here!

Amongst the miles and miles of anonymous cinder block walls, sprawling suburbs broken only by abandoned lots and failed construction projects, and cookie cutter homes that could make even an angel feel like a mass produced robot, you might be asking what “urban”? What art? How could anything lively grow out of this Arizona dust?

Well, my friend, don’t fall into despair just yet. Welcome to UrbanArtsAZ, giving you a full dosage of color, inspiration, and reality through the blossoming music, mural, and movement taking place in our oasis. Here we will provide a spotlight on the brave souls, young and old, who dare to splash life onto Haboob-blasted brick walls, the dancers who capture the rhythm of our heat waves, and the poets and musicians who have translated the Southwest into an epic that must be shared.

All you have to do is sit back, get something cold to sip, and enjoy your fellow Phoenicians as they sweat to breathe life into our City.

So, What’s Going Down?

Need to break the boundaries of “normal”?  Hit the freeway to the Phoenix Central Library for Phonetic Spit, this Saturday, (1/18) for a poetry workshop, as well as an open mic where the brave can showcase their pen’s perspective. You don’t want to miss this chance to support poetry in the community. Check out Phonetic Spit here, as they are central players in bringing spoken word and poetry to a bloom here in cactus land. These guys routinely show local kids the freedom of poetry, so definitely show them some love in return!

Taken by Claire Lawton, of the Phoenix New Times. (Don't sue me!)

Taken by Claire Lawton, of the Phoenix New Times. (Don’t sue me!)

If you’re lucky enough to live downtown, then you are accustomed to the beauty that is springing onto walls all around Roosevelt Row. On UrbanArtsAZ, we will regularly post pictures of the dopest murals and street art in the valley. Seriously, some of these kids use colors like an Arizona sunset. For starters, here’s a collaboration between Francisco Garcia, Francisco Guerrero and Edgar Fernandez. Take a good look and soak it in!


& to wrap things up this week, the Tempe Center for the Arts has started Walk-In Wednesdays. The center has opened its doors to local musicians, poets, really anybody not afraid of an audience with something sick to share, to come and make noise! Right along Tempe Town Lake, on Rio Salado Parkway and Mill Ave, come chill with ASU students as they show the world what it’s like to be HERE. Kids start lining up at the door at 5 p.m., so if you would like to perform, get there early! The place is well known for the friendly, welcoming atmosphere and good vibes. Don’t be afraid to do your thing!
A little inspiration: