There’s a beat pulsing just off the main drag of the Thursday Night Market in downtown Chico. Starting around 6 p.m., in a driveway off Third Street, next to Powell’s Sweet Shoppe, a group of rappers and other spoken-word artists shows up for a weekly cypher (a freestyle-rap circle)—with the loosely organized Butte Area Cypher Crew. Local MC Cory Hunt (aka Himp C), 32, spearheads the event where a simple backing beat attracts onlookers and inspires wordsmiths to take turns sharing their stuff. At 16, Hunt moved from South Central Los Angeles to Chico, which he says was a seismic culture shift: “The environment here was so different—like paradise!” He’s made a name for himself in Chico as both a solo artist and as an MC in longstanding local hip-hop crew The Resonators, and has become a regular at open mics and poetry slams.
How’d you pick this driveway for the cyphers?
We needed more exposure, so I decided to bring it out. We’d go to the parking structure downtown, and then it just clicked—we thought, let’s take it to the market.
What’s the value for you in these gatherings?
It’s for fellowship, to talk about the [previous] week. It’s like going to church for the week. Having that avenue of expression, to be able to see certain things and pass them along in a way other than just passing it through a Facebook message or something. It’s an honor to be a part of. I can be an overly aggressive teacher. It’s helped me work on that. It allows us all to work on things we have to work on.
What’s it like to rap on the street?
It’s fun! There’s always this one moment, like, a kid will come up, and it’s his first time experiencing hip-hop, and the parents don’t know if they want to let their kid get involved, but then they see it’s positive … there’s this energy!
How did you get your start?
This guy who was a schoolmate of mine, he was into it. I used to sing other people’s songs, but I wasn’t really into it. He said, “Let’s write some songs,” and I was like, “Huh?” But I just tried to do it. After that, I really started writing. My first performance was at Chico High Ethnicity Day. It was really spiritual.
What are your goals with hip-hop?
I just want to be a vessel of positive energy. And I find myself in that position often. Just help people out and feel the energy and love.