D-CYPHERED | Photos of Detroit hip-hop musical artists, producers, DJs and influencers focus of “D-Cyphered: Portraits by Jenny Risher” at Detroit Institute of Arts.

Hip-hop is the star of the exhibition “D-Cyphered: Portraits by Jenny Risher” at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) Aug. 4, 2017–Feb. 18 2018. Photographer and Detroit native Jenny Risher collaborated with musical artists, producers and DJs to create portraits that tell the history, influences and legacy of Detroit’s hip-hop musical scene. The title “D-Cyphered” is a play on the mainstream meaning “to decipher/to decode” and “cypher,” the hip-hop term used to describe a cycle of competitive freestyle rap.

The exhibition is organized by the DIA and is free with museum admission, which is free for Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county residents. Generous support has been provided by Founders Junior Council (FJC) of the DIA and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.

Risher uncovers the remarkable history of the music and the artists through photographs taken on Detroit’s street corners, in its recording studios, music halls and other legendary sites throughout the city. In addition to more than 80 color photographs, an audio mix produced by Nick Speed will play continuously in the gallery.

“Jenny Risher’s poetic images bring hip-hop culture, which is so connected to Detroit, and the visual arts closer together,” said Salvador Salort-Pons, DIA director. “The exhibition illustrates the hard work, talent and dedication of Detroit hip-hop artists and their influential musical legacy, locally, nationally and internationally. The photographs are relevant to so many in our community who have memories of concerts, dance performances or listening to music of their favorite hip-hop artists.”

“D-Cyphered” includes more than 230 hip-hop artists, producers, emcees, DJs and promoters who were pioneers, innovators and superstars respected throughout Detroit and globally, as well as those who were involved in hip hop’s creation and who sustained it through the years. Veterans Juan Atkins, George Clinton, Amp Fiddler and Don Was inspired musical styles, samples, production and techniques.

Among the pioneers and trailblazers featured are Awesome Dre and the Hardcore Committee, Prince Vince and the producers, artists and management from World One Records photographed in Detroit’s historic Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, the site where some of the earliest cars were made and an appropriate place to pay tribute to Detroit’s first hip-hop label.


One section shows many of the artists in their neighborhoods and at the sites of the homes, schools and places where they grew up, wrote lyrics, sampled, cyphered, battled and formed solidarity and rivalries with others who were part of the scene. Many of Detroit’s most well-known emcees, rappers and hype men are also included, among them Mr. Porter, Eminem, Royce da 5’ 9”, Black Milk, Big Sean and Danny Brown.

Risher and the DIA worked with a team of experts to shape the story of “D-Cyphered” and give voice to the portraits. Writer and Metro Times contributor Kahn Santori Davidson wrote and advised on the exhibition texts. Chanel Domonique, DJ Los, Denaun Porter, DJ Skeeze, K-Deezy, Nick Speed, Seven the General, Supa Emcee, Trick Trick and Ironside Hex provided direction on the exhibition’s content. 

Risher has dedicated the exhibition to the late Proof (DeShaun Holton) who was known as “The Mayor of Detroit hip-hop.” Risher commented, “Proof was beloved by all those who knew him. His presence was felt throughout the entire project.”


Museum Hours and Admission

9 a.m.–4 p.m. Tuesdays–Thursdays, 9 a.m.–10 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturdays and 

Sundays. General admission (excludes ticketed exhibitions) is free for Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county residents and DIA members. For all others, $12.50 for adults, $8 for seniors ages 62+, $6 for ages 6–17.  Admission for ages 6–17 will not increase. For membership information, call 313.833.1971.