Paying homage to Aaliyah’s “Rock The Boat” in honor of its 20th anniversary, a group of R&B legends and relative newcomers took the stage to celebrate the hit record with a Soul Cypher. Musiq Soulchild, Tone Stith, Koryn Hawthorne, Jac Ross, and Elle Varner all lent their voices to the cypher while DJ D-Nice manned the turntables.
With his signature falsetto, Tone swooned the crowd while coyly delivering lyrics about pleasuring his lady. Koryn Hawthorne’s freestyle was similar to her Grammy-nominated song, “Won’t He Do It,” as she rocked a fiery red blunt cut and all-black ensemble. Darkchild Records signee Jac Ross steered fans toward a soulful climax with a cool demeanor that vaguely resembled that of fellow cypher participant, Musiq Soulchild. “GPS on your body/just let me guide you/I rock the boat just like a typhoon,” he sang.
Elle Varner, who has been out of the spotlight for some time, surprised fans with her appearance. The Brooklyn-raised songstress revealed on Twitter she wrote her freestyle on a plane with three hours to spare. As she sang, “riding me baby/work the middle/driving me crazy/just a little,” all fans could wonder is when Varner might bless them with some new tunes.
Musiq rounded out the cypher by reciting a line from the song of summer: “We don’t need no other body,” from Wizkid and Tems’ hit, “Essence.” Later, all the participants harmonized a capella, serving as proof that all mics were indeed on.
Watch the full Soul Cypher from the 2021 Soul Train Awards above.