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Wreck Shop Movement makes Downtown Crossing its home

Once a week, hip-hop artists from around the state meet up for “ciphers” at Downtown Crossing.

Wreck Shop insiders, supporters and onlookers converge on Downtown Crossing station eNicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

“Wreck Shop!” “Movement!”

“Wreck Shop!” “Movement!”

Stop by Downtown Crossing station on Sunday afternoons and you’ll find them: standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a circle around a small speaker, taking turns rapping verses or reading poetry, shooting videos on selfie sticks, chanting the Wreck Shop name in unison.

Wreck Shop stands for “When Raw Elements Combine Kinetically, Start Helping Other People.” And for its growing legion of followers, it certainly feels like a movement – a callback to hip-hop’s roots that’s catching on in Boston with a helpful boost from social media.

“Hip-hop is about unity, peace, love and harmony,” said “Big Brotha Sadi,” an emcee from Lynn. “Basically what we’re doing right now is we’re trying to provide that in the circle: trying to connect Boston. Any artist from any place can come out here and have a platform.”

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Wreck Shop itself got its start more than a decade ago at a community center in Lynn, said Angelo Silva, 34, also of Lynn, who goes by “ Relentless the Tangible.”

It’s grown since then into a group that puts on shows and open mics for some of the state’s most ambitious underground rappers, musicians, amateur poets and other artists, he said.

“Hip-hop started like this,” Silva said. He was standing next to the circle, or “cipher,”where emcees took turns rapping about taxes, Wu-Tang Clan and Donald Trump. “This is just people coming out and promoting themselves.”

Over the years, they’ve had meet-ups in many spots around the city: Park Street and State stations, the Kulturez store in Cambridge or the Democracy Center, Silva said.


But this past fall, they moved to Downtown Crossing. As long as they don’t block foot traffic, they’ve found a receptive audience, performers said, and transit police haven’t given them a hard time. The plan is to be there, from 3-6 p.m. every Sunday, for as long as they can.

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On this afternoon, the cipher on the Forest Hills side of the Orange Line platform got attention from lots of curious commuters. One family with a few young children stuck around for a few verses before moving along – there’s an unwritten rule to keep things clean when kids are listening.

“Gotta respect everybody that’s in the space,” said “Big Brotha Sadi.”

Jack Tarricone, a 22-year-old Northeastern student, came by carrying his saxophone in a case. He’s plays in a hip-hop group calledThe Brain Collectiveand heard about the cipher through a friend, he said. He hoped he could drop in to play a couple licks. Of course he could, “Sadi” told him.

“This is a cool scene,” Tarricone said.

Videos of the day’s performances would eventually find their way online – they’ve become popular on Facebook, with the best ones getting hundreds, or eventhousands of views.While many just happen to walk by the ciphers as they happen, others who came on Sunday, like Tarricone, heard the buzz and had to see the phenomenon for themselves.

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Meanwhile, Dashawn Cain, a 30-year-old from Roxbury who goes by “Ar-Nist,” had just finished rapping a few bars. It was his first time working up the nerve to step into a Wreck Shop cipher, and he was so excited he had to work to calm himself down.

“People don’t talk. We don’t converse with each other. So this is where it’s at, bro. This is what we’re supposed to be doing,” Cain said, grinning. “You see different types of races and creeds right here, man, and nobody’s discriminating. Everybody’s going in.”

He took a breath.

“That was beautiful,” he said. “That’s where it’s at.”​

 

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