Philadelphia is home of the most ferocious spitters known to man, according to EVERYBODY. References, unnecessary. Rappers from the “City Of Brotherly Love” have been shutting down cyphers and battles around the country since the 80’s. Rocafella, Ruff Ryders, Death Row, Beat Club (Timbaland) and more all featured Philly gunners in the label’s prime and/or rolled with them in camp. From running the “DVD era“, to ruling the “YouTube” era, which would eventually snowball into what we know now as “battle rap”. The semi-slept-on East Coast city is synonymous with BARS. Let’s Go❗
TOP 9: Important Rap Verses In Philly History
1. Will Smith – Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air Theme Song
Will Smith had a run as a musician, churning out hits like “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and the classic, “Summertime” (which apparently, Rakim didn’t write). However, it was ‘Fresh Prince’ that would have ‘Big Willy’ (pause) become one of the most recognizable faces on Earth. To start this now-syndicated classic TV series with the words “In West Philadelphia…” put the city on in a way never seen before. Actually, never seen again.
2. Beanie Sigel on Jay Z’s “Do It Again”
The year was 1999. The climate of Hip-Hop was shifting from super-jiggy late 90s to the ultra-jiggy early 2000’s. Everybody was looking for one! Rap albums now contained more potential radio hits than ever. Then King, Jay Z ( written Jay-Z at the time) was arguably the hottest thing smoking, coming off the gargantuan success of ‘Vol. 2‘. He was no back for ‘Vol 3‘. Literally leading off on the lead single was The “Broad Street Bully” himself, Beanie Sigel. He did not disappoint. Going toe-to-toe with the games best lyricist, for the world to see. Sigel held his own and solidified himself as the ‘Philly Savior. [Sidebar: This was later said to be Sigel’s record, orginally]
3. Freeway – What We Do (with Beanie Sigel and Jay Z)
Philadelphia Freeway‘s proper set off “What We Do” can still be heard in clubs today, (pre-corona) with party goers rolling word-for-word with ‘Free’ on this classic. ‘Freezer’ kept the flag waving for the city, continuing the upward trajectory of Philly’s presence in the business through Rocafella.
4. Cassidy – Bigger Business
“I got a large house and dog house in my backyard/And even my dog house got a backyard“. The remix to the original “Big Business”, saw Cassidy at bat versus icons, Snoop Dogg, Baby (now Birdman), (P.) Diddy, Jadakiss and even Ron Isley for attention on the track. The Philadelphia native came out on top, proving that the town had more to offer outside of Jay and Dame Dash‘s camp.
5. Schoolly D – PSK
If you are a 30-something who wasn’t hip back then, you may have thought The Notorious B.I.G made this song from scratch. “P.S.K.“, or ParkSide Killas, representing for the Philly neighborhood of the same name. Ice T, who is often credited as the inventor of “Gangsta Rap” actually cites Schoolly D as the FIRST gangster rapper. P.S.K’s B-Side “Gucci Time” was also lifted by Gucci Mane and Swizz Beats. ‘Schoolly’ put on for the P.H.I, specifically West Philly’s ‘ParkSide’.
6. Meek Mill – Imma Boss (with Rick Ross)
By 2011, Philly’s reprentation in the music industry had dwindled to a low lit flame. ENTER Meek Mill. After running the local scene for years, bouncing around a bit & affiliating with T.I. for one release, Meek found a home at MMG. The impact of “Imma Boss” featuring Rick Ross, it’s visuals highlighting the city’s “Bike Life“, and Rozay crowning Mill franchise player put a stamp on the “game” from the new generation of Illadel. All rejoiced, from “South Philly back to Uptown”.
7. Spade-O – Yeah That’s Us (with Gillie Da Kid & Ab Liva, Bianca & Bump Jay)
“Yeah That’s Us” entered the Billboard Rap Singles charts at #2 and earned ASCAP‘s “Song Of The Year” award for 2001. Spade-O bombs first “Yo listen here playboy, we gon’ get dat doe...”. A verse previously released as part of a freestyle with some words flipped: “When Tone died it left my mind a twist/ He let me know I’m worth more than some diamonds and Crist'” was now “…Yeah that’s us at the bar wit’ the Dom and the Crist’“. The independent powerhouses had now put on for the home of the Sixer’s, nationwide.
8. Eve – What Y’all Want
In the mid 90s with the introduction of Lil Kim and Foxy Brown, the city that houses the liberty bell had Bahamadia, buzzing with her classic single “Uknohowwedu”. Eve, who got her start around that time and her break towards the turn of the century, would be Philly’s next gen female representation. Track 3, Ruff Ryders Vol. 1, “What Ya Want“. A solo cut from Eve to set the tone for her debut album, “Let The Be Eve…“. On this Swizz Beats produced track and its accompanying music video, she SHINED. Going directly on to be one of, if not, Philadelphia’s brightest star of the times. “Philly streets stay raising her right“.
9. Reed Dollaz – Touch It Freestyle (DVD)
Before “SoundCloud rappers“, there were “YouTube rappers”, an offshoot of the “DVD era“. Philly wasn’t the only city recording local artists rapping on city blocks, but it was the most influential and argueably the first. Reed Dollaz diss to Joey Jihad and D. Jones is a highlight, along with Jones’ own “Big Dawg Yard” verse, Chic Raw in the alleyway and Magic’s “On Eem“, amongst others. The reason Reed was chosen and not those verses: there is a direct correlation between Dollaz energy on that track (along with Cassidy vs Freeway) and the Smack DVD battles that would turn into the URL Battle Rap League. Reed put on for the underground.
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