When I took on the endeavor of covering the Salem music scene, I promised that I would push myself outside my comfort zone to find the people who were actively making the scene work, regardless of genre. What I have found is Salem has a thriving and vigorous hip hop community. To be honest, I’ve never been into hip hop. Frankly, growing up in a strict religious family in Salem Oregon can be…culturally isolating, to put it delicately. I just wasn’t exposed to this artform. Personally, I am thankful that I kept my mind open, because my dealings with the folks in the hip hop scene have been refreshingly sincere and reciprocally gracious and appreciative.

Salem’s hip hop community is also very organized and they enthusiastically support one another. This generosity of spirit is how I met Gregg Simpson – formerly known as Yung Killa and who is now reinventing himself as Theory. We’ll get to that in a moment.

Gregg, along with his partner Desiree Lur, have come together to create a new project called 4D Media. When I met with them at La Margarita Express, I expected to hear about the project I already knew about, Salem Cypher and then other shows that they’ve got planned in the future. But I was in for so much more. In addition to Gregg’s musical endeavors, they’ve been hosting community outreach events since 2012. “Packing it in the Park” was held at Wallace Marine Park and they provided entertainment, food and cold weather supplies to homeless and low income citizens of Salem. More recently in 2015, they hosted what they’re hoping to be an annual event – 4D Festival at River Road Park doing much the same thing. I asked about their motivation. They said that they’ve both struggled, their family has struggled and it’s important that they do all they can to help others in the community who are struggling. I know this is a music column, but I was so affected by their service and generosity, I had to include it in this piece. So keeping this in mind, I’ll go on to Gregg’s more musical undertakings.

Salem Cypher is an emcee competition held partly online at Salem Cypher’s Facebook page and also at CCTV Community Television. How it works: rappers submit their videos “spitting 16 bars” to the FB page and a panel of judges pick five of what they deem the best. Then, these chosen performers pay $10 and perform for the cameras at CCTV. Gregg then puts the videos on Facebook for the community to vote. The winner gets $100 taken from the pot that the performers put in. This guy definitely has a knack for bringing folks together across multiple platforms. Grinchmobb won the first Cypher back in April, and since then, their Facebook group has grown to over 6,000 members from across the US. I can’t get over what a cool idea this is. They are currently vetting videos on the page and the next Cypher will be at CCTV on May 13th. It is totally free to go watch. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? 5pm – be there.

Now to introduce, Theory. Gregg’s first rap name, Yung Killa was given to him when he was young and heading down a road he described as negative. He soon realized that negative begets negative and decided that wasn’t the path for him. In honor of his transformation, he will be hosting a family oriented, sit down dinner party, “Birth of a Theory,” at Salem Heights Hall. Music will be provided by Rich McCloud and Jessica Peterson. $5 gets you a prime rib dinner prepared by Gregg’s own mother or $20 for a table of five. There will also be some celebratory champagne.

Do keep an eye on 4D Media. Gregg and Desiree have big plans for the future, with an emphasis on including more of the community through family oriented events and all ages music shows. With what they’ve already accomplished, I have no doubt these two will continue to make Salem more than it’s ever been.

Salem Cypher May 13th at CCTV – 5pm

Birth of a Theory

Rich McCloud & Jessica Peterson

7pm – Salem Heights Community Hall

$5 per person/$20 for Table of 5