The Black Book Cypher: An Invitation/To Talk Back/To the Screen

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Event Dates
Berklee Performance Center
136 Massachusetts Avenue
United States
The Black Book Cypher: An Invitation/To Talk Back/To the Screen was conceived after reading Toni Morrison’s The Black Book which is a collage of photos, newspaper clippings, and accounts that combine to tell the history of Black folks in the United States. In the book’s preface, Morrison wrote, “I am not complete here; there is much more…” and as an MC, Queen D. Scott recognized those words as an invitation to cypher…so she grabbed the mic. But, 50 years later in the year 2024, the cypher has changed.  

Technological advances have not only changed the way hip-hop artists cypher but has enabled an unplanned societal cypher putting primarily Black content creators and artists in digital conversation with their social media audiences “for better and worse” (Lauren Michele Jackson) with the “worse” being the phenomenon of digital Blackface and the algorithmic bias that rewards it.

Taking these changes into account, Scott uses multimedia to build a speculative gaming technology called iDARCKEN (interactive Decyphering of Aesthetics, Rhetoric, and Cultural Knowledge for Entertainment in Noir) as a vehicle for her three-movement composition. Facilitated by the fictitious AI guide, QUEEN (Quantum User Experience & Emulation Network), who has been coded to identify as a Black woman, the audience is invited to play the game by talking back to the screen to determine the order in which the composition is performed. Together, this interactivity and the three movements, "Ghetto Wonderland Tours,” “Invisible Score,” and “America/John 15:19” interrogate what it means to perpetuate the digital commodification of Blackness by following the awakening of an AI guide who believes itself to be Black and ultimately desires freedom.
The performance will feature artist and scholar Kamari Carter and the cypher will be continued with a guest performance by MC and hip-hop archivist Akua Naru.