by Mike Scarfo
When discussing the Massachusetts music scene, historically the conversation draws towards Boston and its surrounding communities, and rightfully so, producing major stars such as Michael Christmas, Cousin Stizz, Bia, and Vintage Lee to name a few. Brockton is home to high profile collective Van Buren Records and rising solo artist Benjy Ali. The North Shore and New Hampshire border also have their fair share of notable acts with the likes of Token, Justin Clancy, and AzizTheShake. Joyner Lucas is the lone nationally known artist out of Worcester, but the further western areas of the state often get little to no recognition. If you haven’t been paying attention, Western, MA is on the rise with a budding hip-hop scene primed to rewrite the narrative regarding local Massachusetts music. To put it bluntly, they’ve felt left out, and they’re here to change that.
The lack of publicity towards Western, MA has in fact fueled an innovative, modern hip-hop sound infused with vivacious creativity. Papercity Studios in Holyoke, MA, has become a popular stomping grounds for Western, MA native artists to collaborate with each other. In late March of this year, a particular Papercity session resulted in one of the most riveting musical statements from any Massachusetts entity in 2021 thus far.
The “Federal Cypher” is an emphatically entertaining array of high-energy flows and clever lyricism, featuring artists Freaky Vuitton, Kudo, Ish Akanour, Joenis, and Phoenix Rios. On the production boards, the multi-talented DK teams up with fellow producer Alexander Maserati to create this menacing trap banger. The instrumental captures wavy violin samples, blended with thunderous drums and vibrant hi-hats that make for an infectious aesthetic.
While the production is memorably ear-grabbing, each artist brings a proprietary element to the track, in turn proving there’s strength in numbers. Most importantly, these guys genuinely seem like they enjoy working together, as “Federal Cypher” oozes with raw authenticity. Freaky Vuitton kicks off the posse cut with a tough, gritty verse, as his dark
cadence blends perfectly with the song’s haunting vibe.
Kudo follows up with fast-paced flow patterns and impressive vocal delivery, raising the energy to even greater heights. Ish Akanour provides the smoothest, most technical verse of the bunch, sounding effortless with his charismatic rhyme schemes.
The song then enters into a frenzy, with a catchy hook that’s incredibly animated. Joenis, head recording engineer at Papercity, showcases his versatility as he comes in with the cypher’s fourth verse. Joenis’ contributions are tough and hard-hitting, as he furthers the epic progression of the track.
But ultimately it’s Phoenix Rios who steals the show with the cypher’s final verse, as his stylistic approach to the track is easily the most captivating of his young career thus far. His cadence is dynamically charming, and results in the perfect balance between vivid and edgy. Phoenix’s performance is irresistibly compelling, and becomes the climactic end to a phenomenal showcase of talent that the indie hip-hop scene in Western, MA has to offer.
Papercity Studios’ “Federal Cypher” has officially put the rest of Massachusetts on notice, proving that the western region of the state deserves our praise and attention just as much as any other area. All of these artists, and many others from Western, MA, have an impressive discography of singles and projects that are up to par with much of what the local hip-hop scene in Massachusetts entails. Make sure you follow each of them on their socials below, and check out their latest solo efforts!