Cypher City CEO and founder Veniece Newton bounced onto the stage at the 2019 Cypher City Spotlight, waving and smiling at the crowd ahead of a fireside chat with Kenny Gamble, one of the architects of the Philly soul sound and a local activist, and nine-time Grammy-winning producer Bryan-Michael Cox.
“We’re not just here to network and have fun, we’re here to make a difference,” said Newton, a longtime entrepreneur who also founded local youth-focused nonprofit Community Angel Foundation, at Tuesday’s Philly Tech Week event. “We are getting bigger, we are getting better, we are reaching more people, and that is our purpose.”
Cypher City Spotlight is an annual celebration where music creators can meet and collaborate IRL. Its soon-to-launch free app will be an extension of the Cypher City digital community: In keeping with hip hop’s founding principle of friendly competition, Cypher City users upload or livestream music videos and the public votes through likes, comments and engagement to build a following. Newton described the app as a home for “new artists aspiring for the next level or established artists that want to connect.”
“As a true entrepreneur, I always knew I wanted to mesh together passion for music, technology and the community,” she said. “My goal always has been to give back to the community in some way with all of the projects I’m working on.”
Gamble, one half of the legendary songwriting duo Gamble & Huff, and Cox shared their thoughts on the evolution of music and technology.
Cox, whose production credits include Usher’s classic “U Got It Bad,” made it clear that he keeps up with the times: “Technology and music are joined at the hip. I don’t know what changes first, the music or the tech.”
“Technology will change,” added Gamble, “the world will change, and you must be prepared for change. Be a conscious person and leave something for the next generation. Because that’s what it’s all about.”
Gamble also praised apps like Cypher City that act as an accessible outlet for users to make and share their music.
“You can do everything yourself now,” he said. “You can record, you can write, you can produce your own video. But you have to challenge yourself. You have push yourself every time.”
Both Cox and Gamble discussed the importance of coming together to support up-and-coming artists at events like Cypher City Spotlight.
“[The music community] is an exchange of ideas,” Cox said. “You can’t block the young people out. It’s gonna be their game anyway, so we should embrace and educate them.”
Known throughout his career for being outspoken and concerned with lifting African American neighborhoods out of poverty, Gamble added, “All that you have is your community. And you should give to it as much as you can while you can.” (Appropriately, 11-year-old DJ Sophia kept the party moving until the panels began.)
While quoting his own song lyrics, Gamble best summed up the theme of the evening: “Get your information from this means of communication.”-30-
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