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Pushing the boundaries and ushering in the newest field of marching percussion has been the Cypher and Freestyle Culture. It is the youngest art-form within the marching percussion field, and has rapidly developed and taken on a integral stake in the community. While the concept of freestyle and cypher drumming isn’t new to percussion, it was brought to another level in the early-2000s by various artists that would take popularized music such as hip-hop, pop, funk, R&B as well as original produced tracks.


Leading the way as the innovators and being credited with bringing the culture to the forefront is the duo known as B.Y.O.S. (Ralph Nader and Harvey Thompson) who produce videos that mix high-energy visuals, expert rudimental drumming, and high-quality post production editing that put their productions in line with what you would typically see on professionally produced music videos.

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B.Y.O.S. Ralph Nader (Left) and Harvey Thompson (Right)


A key ingredient between each style of Cypher & Freestyle drumming is the concept of collaboration and sharing. Most times, performers in the genre will invite others to collaborate either in community projects, team cyphers, or mega-cyphers that include different styles, instruments, or artwork to create a unique experience for viewers. While competition is not a part of the culture, the element of constant innovation helps artist push the boundaries and try to raise the bar beyond what the last person did.

Through this philosophy and community bond, the art of Cypher & Freestyle has helped to motivate, inspire and foster the growth of younger performers who look up to the originators and influencers of the artform.

A gathering of musicians or/performers that freestyle in a collaboration or battle. Cyphers can be performed acapella (no instrumental) or along with a backing track, and are most commonly improvised.


Drumming cyphers can also be coordinated freestyles when they are played as duets or in full groups. Cyphers take their form from the concept of freestyle rapping that developed within the culture of hip-hop during the 80's.


Taking things to another level was the continued enhancement of the genre with near super-human tricks and drumming, and the inclusion of storylines and characterization. This new creative development was brought forth by sdjmalik who helped to push the limits of stick trick possibilities along with hyper drumming.


By taking the reigns of freestyling drumming and adding depth and creativity to the art of concept, sdjmalik created a new style that is allows drummers to express themselves artistically, emotionally, and musically through storytelling and intense drumming.

The youngest sub-genre introduced to the Cypher & Freestyle culture began in Washington D.C. with Malik "DOPE" Stewart, who began adding programmable choreography that is fused with rhythmic phrasing into what he coined as the WAEWORK style. By taking elements of the standards of Cypher playing and fusing them together with energetic dance moves from pop culture, African heritage, HBCU fraternity stepping, and a variety of other sources, Malik set a standard and brought in the new style of freestyle drumming.


The majority of the time you can find Malik using a unique snare system that has been modified for portability by using parts from a standard snare drum to create a “Backpack marching snare”.

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CYPHER culture