by Coastal Ninja
“So basically, you’ve served all your idols?”
Long, awkward, pause: Mantis, Sojourn, Ch@ng3, and Orko Elohiem of Masters Of The Universe, had been previously stated as Sighphur One’s local-battle-rap idols that he looked up to in his community. As his recollections of battles over the years humbly unfold, one after another a victory upon them all is reluctantly revealed.
“I like to think I’ve been in a hundred battles at least, actual form functioning battles that you go to at a show or something. I’ve lost less than 10,” says Sighphur.
He has been more then careful with his words, and although he resonates with confidence as he leans back in his chair wearing a casual-grey T-shirt and flip-flops, he does not slip an essence of boasting or arrogance through the wavelengths of his long-curly locks and thick mane of facial hair.
When he was growing up Sighphur’s friends would say he was the first one to jump in or start a cypher, (a circle of people exchanging energy such as words, dance, etc.,) giving him the name Sighphur One, but like a self-fulfilling prophesy, as he battled with his words over and over throughout the years, Sighphur won.
As a native from the coastal community Ocean Beach, also known as O.B., Sighphur has paved history for the small town in hip-hop.
“I think the history of O.B. is huge,” says Sighphur.
“It’s a town that’s at the end of the freeway. My mom found O.B. in the 60s because she left Woodstock and just drove until the freeway ended, and it ended here, at the beach. She looked around and decided to stay.”
Ocean Beach, covering a 1.2 square-mile radius with a population of fewer than 10,000 people, according to city-data.com, is one of the few areas in San Diego that is still dominated by independent and family businesses. The locals have fought off various-major corporations to preserve their community. Establishments like the novelty shop, The Black, and the famous burger joint, Hodad’s, have been there since about 1969. And it has maintained its hippie atmosphere, largely shaped and allowed to flourish due to its historical isolation from the rest of the city and state. Until the Interstate-8 highway was extended to Ocean Beach in the late 1960s, Ocean Beach was separated from the rest of the city, surrounded by the Mission Bay, Pacific Ocean, and Point Loma. This allowed the community to build their own identity and roots amongst themselves over time without as much interference from tourism and political agendas that the rest of the city experienced. The village was once the home of the first amusement park in San Diego, called Wonderland, which did not benefit from the isolation that made it hard to reach and closed down after three years of operation in 1916.
“It’s not a Santa Cruz or a Huntington Beach, it’s not even that big geographically,” says Sighphur. “It’s a lot more laid back then a lot of other beach towns. I feel like 80% of my town is a stoner. It’s an old hippie town. But it’s so much more than that.”
Sighphur One, 32, was born in Ocean Beach, as Crispan Joseph Ford. He lived in a house a few blocks from the ocean, eventually moving all around San Diego County, as well as to Temecula, Murrieta, Mexico, and eventually Atlanta when he was 21.
He is the youngest of eight children: he has two half brothers, one who is doing life in prison, one who he is loosely in contact with; four-half sisters he sees occasionally; and his closest sibling that he grew up with, his sister Binah, who is 11-months older then him.
“[Binah] made me who I am,” he says.
He describes life growing up as stressful.
“Lots of foster homes,” he says, “lots of drugs around, lots of love though at the same time.”
He has been placed in a total of 11-different-foster homes, beginning when one of his parents got arrested for selling drugs when he was five, going back-and-forth between various homes and his parents until he was 18.
“Foster is temporary,” Sighphur says, “So it’s not like adoption. It’s a slippery slope.”
Binah says that even though they went through so much when they were little, their mom loved them unconditionally. “We always knew there was no question that she loved us,” she says.
Both of his parents are now deceased. His father overdosed when Sighphur was 10, and his mother passed away from breast cancer when he was 17. He doesn’t keep in contact with anyone from that period of his life, other then his sister. Binah says that growing up, they always had each other.
“When my mom got sick I just took on the role of taking care of him. I had to be there for him,” she says.
“Which is funny, because later on when we were 19 it switched and he was the one that got me through. In our whole world, and whole lives, we both know that we can count on each other the most.”
She says that when Sighphur was little he was really funny, chubby, short and goofy, and that “they didn’t have a choice of the life they were subjected to, but going through everything they did really made Sighphur want to be a better.
“He’s really conscious of the person he wants to be,” she says.
Sighphur took to lots of writing and poetry as a young child. When he was 13-years old he began rhyming with a local crew called Shorty Busters. He says he grew up with all sorts of friends from jocks to geeks, and that when he began rhyming he just wanted to stick out a little more. “I wanted to be really dope at what I did.
“Serve people; that was always an aspiration of mine. Battling came really young.”
He won his first battle due to better inflection and delivery against Fares Nashishibi in the ninth-grade-lunch room; a pattern that followed him into his adulthood.
The most common punch lines he has been hit with in emcee battles are Eminem, Vanilla Ice, and inbred jokes. “Mostly just comparisons to other white rappers,” he says.
“It kind of shows the level of competition. A battle a lot of times is won when you’re not rapping. How you listen, like, this guy is beating himself by saying lines like that in general. It’s just beneath good competition.”
He attributes the top-battle rappers in San Diego of all time to be Orko, Mantis, Johas, Sojourn; OG’s that he says he is lucky enough to rub shoulders with now.
When he was 16-years old he got to battle Orko at The Scene, a venue that was in Clairemont, San Diego.
“[Orko] is a G,” he says. “That was trippy because all of a sudden I’m on stage with somebody that was doing what I wanted to do. I would look up to him, literally and figuratively, so being in the front row of a lot of his shows, battles, or just even freestyles was always dope to me.
“All it took was to sign up. That’s all it takes to enter a battle usually, just put your name on a piece of paper. That was a dope battle.”
According to Orko, when Sighphur was coming up he was just “a rapping beast.”
“I really enjoyed seeing him grow up inside the game,” says Orko.
“The first time I met Sighphur One, DJ Artistic was throwing these battles and me and him got to the last round. I could have sworn that was an easy win. I thought it was an easy hundred dollars. But no! That motherfucker had bars! He did a Buster Douglas to my Mike Tyson! The crowd gave it to him. He actually took the battle!
“From then on I kind of took to him. I felt like he was a real-hip-hop kid. He really loves the art. I knew he was going to be dope, and we've had some memorable cyphers over the years.”
Orko Eloheim has been in the San Diego hip-hop scene since for over 25 years. Orko is a leading member of Masters Of The Universe, (a predominantly-emcee crew known for pioneering hip hop with highly-intelligent-lyrical content, extraordinary styles, and savageness on the streets of San Diego.) He is the most active-veteran member responsible for keeping the crew’s legacy alive through the younger generations, (along with the youngest member known as Infinity Gauntlet, a.k.a. Scvtterbrvin, who is responsible for the entire-audio production and project management of the strongest releases from various artists in San Diego.) Orko has paved the standard of an extra-exceptional emcee. He put in decades of groundwork through freestyles, emcee battles, high-speed-rhyme schemes with awakening knowledge, captivating performances, grimy-drum beats, and building hands-on with the generations that came both before and after him. While he is internationally recognized, underground-hip-hop kids in San Diego look up to Orko as an artist, a leader, a confidant, and a standard of what it means to be an all-a-round “true emcee.”
“In Masters of the Universe, we have this thing called marathon battles where we would battle for 8 hours, 10 hours, till you didn't have nothing to say or your shit was just wack,” says Orko.
“I would see [Sighphur One] in the cypher, and him not coming from my generation, seeing a younger kid that just wants to rhyme all the time, that made me smile from the inside out.
“I remember a lot of times where everybody would still be in the cypher but it would just be me and him still rapping. He was a kid that loved hip-hop. There are certain people that do the music but don't respect the culture. He's an artist that does the music but he embodies hip-hop and loves the culture. He definitely knows what comes before his time, and that’s going to allow him to give props to what comes after him. Whether there was a record industry or not, Sighphur One would be rhyming. He makes me proud of the young-up-and-coming generation of emcees in San Diego.”
According to Sighphur other members of the San Diego hip-hop scene such as Ch@ng3 and Mantis have served him up, but he also says that he has in turn served everybody that’s served him.
“And I can’t talk about Mantis without Sojourn,” says Sighphur.
“Those are my arch nemesis’ in battles when I was young, the dudes I would always run into. We battled each other numerous times, won and lost, and we’re like fam.“
He says his favorite opponent is Sojourn because he styles his rounds.
“And he’s not an emcee that’s gonna say, ‘fuck your mom,’ ‘you’re a bitch,’ that’s not how his brain works. Those lines serve their purpose, but they’re just too watered down, people say them all the time. Sojourn will just style you out. I always really admired that.”
“One thing about san Diego, a lot of people [from San Diego] don’t get out of here,” says Sighphur.
“With the fame of all the acapella written battles, the Grind Time leagues, King Of The Dot, out of town exposure for SD heads, the homie Scvtterbrvin probably is the one I’ve seen on the radar the most. And those things are tricky, because you go to them, and it’s defiantly about the battle, but how many YouTube views is how you judge the popularity. It should more-so-be judged on the content of what’s in the video. For that it’s by far Scvtterbrvin for sure.
Sighphur describes his own battle style as punch-line driven. He prefers to participate in freestyle battles, to the beat of the DJ’s choice.
In 2005 he took the $5,000 prize in the radio station Z90.3 FM’s emcee battle. Winning the Z90 battle was major, not just for Sighphur, but more so for the hip hop scene of San Diego.
San Diego provides a strange-political dynamic for the hip-hop scene, and it is rare that the most excellent and experienced locals get mainstream recognition within it, as well as outside of the city due to such high rates of traffic and agendas that are ulterior to community development.
“People come to San Diego for all kinds of different reasons. Also, a lot of people come thru San Diego.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau San Diego has a resident population of approximately 3.2-million people. San Diego hosts over 30-million tourists a year, according to sandiego.org and other sources. The county lies directly south of Orange County and on the northern border of Tijuana, Mexico. It is home to various-military divisions such as the Marines, Air Fleets, Coast Guard, National Guard, Space and Naval Warfare Systems, and the largest naval fleet in the world.
There is a lot of community divide within the county, which is segmented into over 130-different neighborhoods, each with different characteristics. On top of the constant turn over of people from tourists, military, transplants and community divide, there is a long list of art collectives, social circles, street gangs, a tag-banging culture, and disagreements based on personal issues like any community that keep people separated into micro pockets. Majority of the hip-hop shows and battles that highlight headliners have taken on a pay-to-play format or repetitive favoritism by affiliation, completely pulverizing quality control and fair opportunity. It seems that the few companies and people within the community that do find a place of success, tend not to highlight a variety of deserving natives in the hip-hop community, perhaps because of, or to avoid some of these factors, perhaps due to distraction, or perhaps simply from a lack of know. Without a unified structure of quality-control advancement, all of these factors constantly surrounding the locals make it very difficult for any local-native artist to make steady progress towards mainstream success. So when Sighphur, a young local, a frequent member of the scene who has proved his skill and devotion time and time again, and an underdog without financial or corporate backing won a major FM radio station’s contest, it was a win for all those like him, before him, and after him that never get that recognition on a fair-playing field.
“I think there’s politics anywhere, but SD, I think our politics hold us down a lot more than other places,” says Sighphur.
“Rappers don’t like rappers, this person wants to work with this person and [they’re] busy, these guys are putting out lists of who’s dope and these guys are saying that’s bullshit.
“I’ve been able to keep a pretty even keel. I think it’s easier to do when you are a solo artist then when you’re crewed up with people. You can’t really control what somebody in your crew is going to do. I know so many people that can’t work with other people, or don’t, because this dudes homie is this dudes homie; I think that might even be deeper then music. It’s such a localized place where people have known each other forever so beefs that get caught when you’re young don’t die down. It just seems like there’s a lot of bad blood between people. A lot of emcees I know have been rapping 10 to 15 years plus. It’s hard not to know what somebody’s been up to. And then half the time the people you got beef with, you got layers of it, but somewhere you like them. Because you only care about people so much if at one point you liked them, in my experience. So go with that man.”
After 19 years in the hip-hop scene navigating the waters as a solo artist without docking, Sighphur says the Yoga for Your Ears camp seemed like the right place to park his ship for a little while. “We got Locness, who’s an O.B. local just like me, born and raised here. We got rappers like Squalid The Troll, just bananas, cats people haven’t even heard of yet; the homie Stone. We got D.B., (Destructo Bunny,) who can make a beat for me and then turn around and make a beat for Loc, and then turn around and make a beat for Squa without them all sounding the same. And maybe the biggest thing is D.B. is down to work yo. He’s down to do tracks, record, be here. If I put in the time he’ll put in the time, and you don’t get that a lot.”
When he was twenty-one-years old he dropped an album called Self Blend, which is now hard to find even for him, but this is his first professionally packaged album.
“I’ve done so many tracks and so many songs with random people, features; and I’ve freestyled so much and battle a lot. I have so many songs written [that] it’s always been a matter for me of getting them in a linear type of space,” he says.
“I have so much sporadic shit going on that it never feels like a cognitive thought, which I always want an album to be. My favorite albums I can think of are all kinds of moods, but like a ship on the ocean as opposed to a car in traffic. It’s got a flow to it as opposed to let’s go this way, then let’s go this way. It’s like, we’ll go all those places, but we can get them on a nice even type of keel.”
His new album, “Eating Lunch Alone: The Ballads of Steven Glansberg,” is now available for digital download on yogaforyourears.com. Named after a character from the comedy movie “Super Bad,” it is entirely produced, recorded, and mixed by Destructo Bunny, also known as James Deans from Merced County, a now O.B. local who throws quality-hip-hop shows at a Winston’s, a venue on Bacon Street, among other places.
The project is a unique combination of political, insightful, spiritual, comical, upbeat, and yet nostalgic at the same time. And through the sounds, the vibes, the lyrical content, and perhaps just the dead air, it actually captures the essence of O.B., where Sighphur once again lives a few blocks from the ocean.
“It was written and recorded in Ocean Beach,” says Sighphur, “dropped in Ocean Beach.” He laughs;
“I’m trying to memorize it in Ocean Beach.”
View the official interview footage below!
Check out the video and catch a bunch of SD heavy hitters way back including Edgar Isreal, Trust One, Ch@ng3, Bizerkowitz, Golden Gages, Kendall Carter and Coastal Ninja herself, hosted by Serg of House of Rep, with DJ Pound on the turntables and more!! (Event by Trust One, of "For The Love of Hip Hop" event series, at Kava Lounge monthly! Check out our calendar monthly for more info...)