Most DJs spend their entire life in the shadows. No matter how well they control the crowd or dazzle on the decks, they remain anonymous heroes lost in the darkness of the booth. Yet Cipha Sounds is not “most DJs.” Whether hosting the all-the-way live Cipha Sounds & Rosenberg on New York’s number one station HOT 97fm, producing the number one comedy show “Don’t Get Gassed Comedy Series”, or serving as the face of MTV’s hip-hop countdown Sucker Free, Cipha radiates personality, driving every project with his likeable swagger and confident tastes. Just as comfortable in front of the camera as he is behind the turntables, Cipha has carved out a voice in music over the past 15 years that is unmistakably his own.
Starting out as a cassette-obsessed Bronx teenager and budding bedroom producer, Cipha got his first break interning for Wildman Steve and DJ Riz of the Flip Squad. His tireless work ethic and perceptive DJ skills earned him opening slots at legendary NYC nightspots like the Tunnel and the Palladium, and before long all of hip-hop was taking notice of the upstart selector. Cipha soon found himself spinning for Lil Kim and Mos Def on national tours, rocking private parties and album release galas for superstars like Diddy, Eminem and Mariah Carey, and even serving as resident DJ for the cross-cultural phenomenon Chapelle’s Show. Most importantly, Cipha got the chance to spread his selections over the airwaves as part of Funkmaster Flex’s nightly radio show on Hot 97, where he learned how to break new records—helping turn once-unknowns like Sean Paul and 50 Cent into superstars—and maintain a healthy sense of humor on the mic.
Cipha’s ear for talent and club-honed musical instincts also make him a natural A&R executive, a position he has held with labels ranging from Rawkus and Tommy Boy to the Neptunes’ Star Trak imprint and Roc-A-Fella. In 2003, he took an even bigger leap into the music industry by co-founding the Jack Move production and management company, who brought Nina Sky to the forefront of the pop and R&B worlds with smashes like “Move Ya Body” and are now establishing Bronx rapper Daytona as a young MC to watch. “Having my own production company is perfect for me, because I keep coming up with new ideas for how artists can be creative,” says Cipha. “I can’t stop thinking like a DJ.”
Currently Cipha splits his days between guiding the careers of his Jack Move artists and developing new content and concepts for all three of his popular shows, and his desire to break new music is as strong as ever. He remains the first DJ to expose independent artists and regional sounds—from dancehall to crunk and beyond—to international audiences, frequently touring Europe, Canada, Japan and Jamaica. The industry continues to recognize his international appeal, and on any given day, you can tune in to hear Elephant Man calling Cipha’s name on a dubplate, or see TI giving him props on MTV. The respect is nice, but it doesn’t take a celebrity shout-out to know that Cipha Sounds has always been the man running the show.