The nature of the cypher is totally unpredictable. Some rawer, younger MCs falter early, while fixtures like Henny Mack, Osyrus Antham, and Mike Mezzl often dominate. Getting the floor can be tough -- at times, there are any number of rappers trying to start their next verse. Interruptions are common, sometimes to the detriment of some rhymes, sometimes to rescue them from petering out. More experienced MCs know when the time is right to jump in, while some of the younger ones seemed too timid or off their rhyming balance to effectively take over.
There’s also plenty of battling and head-cutting, most of it feeling like friendly competition but at times it gets testy. One freestyler, a tall white guy in a Yankee cap, is told repeatedly to step back out of the circle when going face-to-face with a foe. A teen mentee of Hustle’s gets too harsh after back-and-forth interruptions with Blake, who easily cuts him down to the laughter of the crowd. Making sure the kid’s confidence isn’t shot, Hustle schools him, telling him that “you gotta show love” even when things get heated. Blake, who became a cypher regular four months ago after going through a rough break-up, doesn’t sweat it. “I'll sit there and I'll battle you and I'll say some shit and if you get mad, I'm going to be laughing in the end,” she says.