Philly Hip Hop: The Short History of Philadelphia Hip Hop
In one of the country’s largest hip hop markets, the history of the Philly Hip Hop scene is without a doubt the most underrated and the least celebrated for all of the city’s accomplishments within the Hip Hop community dating back to the 1980s.
While during the 1980s, New York City dominated the rap scene, in the city of Philadelphia numerous of artists were slowly beginning to make a name for themselves.
The Beginning of Philly Hip Hop
In the beginning, most of the Philadelphia Hip Hop acts would mostly represent and hail from West Philly, with one group that stood out too many was the Hilltop Hustlers with the legends of Cool C and Steady B, as well Three Times Dope (Trio of MCs and DJs) and others.
The group did not last that long as an indication of internal disputes led to their split. Eventually and sadly, Cool C and Steady B careers would be cut short also due to incarceration with very long sentences.
During the beginning of Philadelphia Hip Hop it would be often to witness duos of a DJ and a MC (rap artist) to link up and perform together as a Hip Hop act, examples can be seen with the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff or DJ Jazz and Robbie B, who were some of the first Hip Hop acts in the city.
Some of the early pioneers of Philly’s music scene contain the legends of Jazz Fresh, MC Breeze, Tuff Crew, Parry P, MC Sport and numerous of others.
Another pioneer, who some can make the case for was the first of his kind, is Schoolly D. Peaking throughout the 1980s and early 1990s is one of the first true Hip Hop artists to venture into the genre of Gangsta Rap.
One iconic group who begun during the late 1980s but made their name during the 1990s is The Roots. Not your typical Hip Hop act as the group combines MCing, or rap lyrics by Black Thought, with a live band, led by Questlove on the drums.
While we mention the artists and MCs, Philadelphia hip hop would not have become what it is without the DJs. As stated, in the beginning it was very likely for every DJ to have an artist or a MC to be paired with.
Some of the more popular DJs of the early days include DJ Cash Money, DJ Ease, DJ Too Tuff, DJ Lightnin’ Rich, DJ Spinbad, Cosmic Kev, Sex Machine, or Grandmaster Nell. While many male artists and DJs are being mentioned, long before the likes of Eve or Charli Baltimore there was, and still is, Lady B one of the Philadelphia legends and pioneers of the city’s rap scene.
Philly Hip Hop of 2000s (Battle Rap to State Property)
A huge rap battle scene plays an important part into the history of Philadelphia Hip Hop as one can see the career of Cassidy or old clips of Meek Mill with the braids, before he became a platinum selling artists and highly respected in the mainstream.
Battle rappers that are probably unknown outside of the city and metropolitan area of Philadelphia can be included with Philly Swain, Tech 9, E. Ness, Kaboom, Rone and many more while the likes of Cyssero and Reed Dollaz were some of the earlier legends.
The rap battling scene of Philadelphia expanded with the help of local DVDs like 2 Raw for The Streets DVD or Headshots DVD. Before big YouTube channels and artists making a career off of battling, battle rap would be on your local Philadelphia corner.
Before the success of Meek Mill, the late 1990s and early 2000s the likes of Beanie Siegel and State Property, along with Ruff Ryders’ Eve had the city on lock as well Gillie Da Kid and Major Figgas.
The era of State Property and other artists would bring new light into the city with the selling of millions of records and solidifying a new generation of the Philadelphia Hip Hop scene as this era was the most successful due to the national attention the era received.
Today, Meek Mill is one of the biggest Hip Hop artists in the game, and probably the biggest ever to come out of Philly, while other rappers like PNB Rock and Lil Uzi Vert are helping to continue the success of the city.
From performing and holding events at local house parties to performing on tours and in front of sellout shows in arenas and stadiums, from selling records at Funk-O-Mart or Sound of Market to gaining millions of listeners worldwide, the Philadelphia hip hop scene has come a long ways.