Detroit CYDI Interview

September 10, 2009

RESIZEDetroitCYDI-4What started in high school with simple rhymes on lunchroom table beats has turned into much more for rap trio Detroit CYDI. Comprised of Rufio Jones, Sean Uppercut and Illingsworth, these 20-somethings have been together for several years now and released their EP The Rhyming Dictionary on Christmas in 2008. Influenced by the 90’s hip-hop era, they bring a classic approach to modern times. The group opened up to MichiganHipHop about how they started, what they are all about and what they believe is missing in today’s rap/hip-hop music.

How did you all meet?
Illingsworth: Rufio and I met at the six-mile bus stop; and Rufio and Sean were in the same Renaissance class together. It wasn’t until we were going to lunch and doing lunchroom cyphers when things really popped off.

Rufio Jones: Well, we were The Illiance in high school, back in 1999/2000. Then that like split off and paired down into Detroit CYDI; we still work with everyone but we’ve been together for about 3 or 4 years.

How did you go from such a large group to Detroit CYDI?
Illingsworth: For whatever reason, when the three of us would do a song together we kind of clicked. Everybody in The Illiance was noticing at one point that our group, our music was different. We don’t think about what we’re writing or what we’re doing on stage it just kind of works out.

What does the name Detroit CYDI stand for?
Rufio Jones: The CYDI is in all caps because it is an acronym, and it stands for “Can You Dig It?” I wish there was a better story, but the name hit me in the face one day. It’s “Detroit, Can You Dig It.” So you can look at it in terms of, “Detroit, can you dig us?” In that type of situation it’s a double-edged sword. We are Detroit, we’re representing as hard and as well as we possibly can. We are trying to get a hold of Detroiters and everybody that’s not from Detroit.

How do you all describe your sound?
Sean Uppercut: It’s just dope music. It’s not that tough, we try to make good hooks and we also try to back it up with dope lyrics, dope song ideas and dope content. It’s really that easy, that’s what we go for every time.

The album is entitled The Rhyming Dictionary. How did you all come up with that name?
Rufio Jones: We were about 80% complete with the album and I ended up going to Jacksonville, Fla. with my girlfriend. We went to a bookstore and they had the New Comprehensive American Rhyming Dictionary and it was like two dollars. On the way back driving through Florida, I put on some beats and started picking words out of the book. The Rhyming Dictionary just sounded real cool and with the music we had on the CD, it was a way of showing people how to do this, rap, in a different way. It’s almost like a manual in a sense, hence The Rhyming Dictionary.

How long did it take to record it?
Rufio Jones: Two or three months, maybe four; we started recording it in like September, and we came out with it unofficially on Christmas. It was supposed to be a 2009 album, but we just went ahead and gave everybody a gift.

On The Rhyming Dictionary, “Based on a True Story” and “Roll” remind me of early hip-hop story-telling songs. Was that done intentionally?
Rufio Jones: With “Based on a True Story,” we had Sean’s ideas and Illingworth’s beats and we didn’t know what we were going to do with it. There was a point when Sean just said, “Let’s write some kind of story.” I started jotting down lyrics and I just kept writing until I came to some kind of end. I really think that that song turned out a whole lot better than we thought it would. “Roll” was one of those songs where as soon as we heard it, it was like blackout time. We weren’t like let’s write it this way, but that was where pen and paper just happened.

Sean Uppercut: Everybody went into the studio and wrote the lyrics in the studio that day or that night. Really that’s how it was with most of the songs, too. We would pick the beat and do all the writing and recording the day of; it was a very direct and intense process to making these songs.

Rufio Jones: The thing is, I think storytelling is a very important part of hip hop. It shows creativity on a person’s part, it shows a level of skill that’s becoming lost nowadays. You don’t hear any really good storytelling songs, ever. I think that really cues you in to the artist’s personality, it cues you in to really what’s their thought process and how creative they are with their music. It kind of brings the listener into their world and it paints a picture for them.

What’s your favorite track on the album and why?
Sean Uppercut: All of them; they’re like kids you don’t want to say who your favorite kid is–you love them all for different reasons. But it varies every time I listen to it. Recently it’s been “Too Cool,” it’s a nice summertime song.

Illingsworth: I have three, they’re the ones that I enjoy performing the most: “Too Cool,” “NASCAR,” and “Front Back.” It just something about performing those, I have always enjoyed the crowd response.

Rufio Jones: “Too Cool” is one of my favorite songs, ever. If I weren’t on it, I’d still think that was like the sweetest song in the world.

What do you think is missing in rap/hip-hop music?
Rufio Jones: Honesty, that’s the best way to put it. People are not being honest to the audience or to themselves about their lives or the message they really want. If you go and talk to a lot of the people that make music that is negative, they don’t’ go and say I want to make music that makes people go out and do negative things, they want positivity around them just like anyone else does. At the same time they make the conscious decision to not embrace topics that promote positivity Not even positivity where I’m beating you over the head with sunshine and Skittles, but positivity I’m not talking about slapping you in the face because you’re different from me. But people not being true to themselves or being true to the audience, they need to stop that.

Illingsworth: The rappers either try too hard or don’t try hard enough. Trying too hard, in the sense of they think they have to make the exact song necessary in order to make the customers happy. Or they think they have to make this song that they don’t really believe in, to make the customers happy. That’s an unfortunate part of the music business.

Sean Uppercut: I think we’re going under a replaceable rapper syndrome. You have a song and it’s just a song, and you can say I’m going to send this song to Drake or Kid Cudi and whoever sings it the best gets the song; there is no differentiation or unique talent. When you hear the first three seconds of a song it should grab you. I don’t understand how people right now can sit and listen to the radio. It doesn’t do anything for me emotionally, you only have so much time to be listening to music so why not be listening to the best music you can listen to? Why listen to Plies and Hurricane Chris when you can be listening to something more fulfilling. I mean when you are on the way to the club, Plies might be hype; but if you’re just sitting there listening to your iPod that shit will eat your brain. At least the music I listen to and that I try to make, it has a nutritional value, it’s like a home-cooked meal. All that other shit that’s coming out is like Twinkies; that’s not fun to me. You have to invest time in your ears and time in good music to listen to.

For more on Detroit CYDI, download “The Rhyming Dictionary” (click here), Doctor Illingsworth’s “Twitterverse Traveler” Instrumental CD (click here), or visit them at


  1. DjSoko-TheLeft says:

    Good shit! That’s fam right there….dope interview

    September 10th, 2009 at 3:47 am

  2. The Spec-ILLest says:

    Cool interview, I Can Dig It!

    September 10th, 2009 at 3:12 pm

  3. DJ Elite says:

    These guys are winners.

    September 10th, 2009 at 6:33 pm

  4. DaynaC says:

    You guys are out here WINNING! And I’m very proud to say that I know you. Keep bringing hip-hop back to its truth and I’ll be here listening. 🙂

    September 10th, 2009 at 6:57 pm

  5. Mic Wrizzle says:

    Good interview. I did NOT know thats what CYDI stood 4 lol. Lets get it!

    September 10th, 2009 at 7:00 pm

  6. My Year In Detroit » Blog Archive » Back to School (this post is long lol) says:

    […] was a day for relaxation. I spent the entire day in the comfort of the Garden Court. The Detroit CYDI crew and Stryfe came over for dinner. We listened to some Doc Illingsworth beats and laughed at […]

    January 9th, 2011 at 10:25 pm

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