King: Meek Mill
Crowning Achievement: Dominating the club scene with his uptempo party tracks on his come-up, culminating in Philly anthem "I'ma Boss."
Predecessor: Beanie Sigel
Royal Court: AR-Ab, Quilly Millz, Gillie Da Kid, Chill Moody
With a population of over 1.5 million people, Philadelphia has a long list of talented, hard-working rappers diligently hustling to be crowned the indisputable "King of Philly.” Earning the title requires an unmatched work ethic, an understanding of industry politics, raw talent, fearlessness, and—most importantly—support from the city itself. So who currently possesses these qualities?
Without question, Meek Mill is the King of Philadelphia hip-hop.
Meek is the King of Philly because he fed his core fanbase, adapted his style to radio, and build his way to mainstream success from the ground up. He came up in the famous Philly battle DVD scene. He emerged from the battles as a "Philly Spitta"—an MC from the scene who can really rap on a competitive level. Through the years, he tapped into the grassroots by rapping about what he’d really gone through—poverty, going to jail, and dealing with the challenges of urban life. His uptempo, radio-friendly songs filled the clubs and helped him reach a broad audience beyond gangster rap. And the local success of his single "In My Bag" not only made him a bigger name, but transformed the song’s title to a common phrase among Philadelphia residents.
While locked up, his Flamerz 2 mixtape was released and increased his buzz. Soon, he’d gotten the attention of Rick Ross and signed to MMG. Linking up with Ross only accelerated his move toward national stardom. The hits followed: “Ima Boss,” “House Party,” “Burn,” “Amen,” and “Dreams & Nightmares” all became huge national singles.
Although Meek’s Dreams & Nightmares may not have had the impact he expected, there are no candidates who could currently compete with Meek. As the city’s king, he has established relationships and a strong presence in the city. His cosign is still the most valuable commodity for an up-and-coming rapper.
Meek's crown may be safe for the moment, but that doesn't mean Philadelphia lacks talented rappers, many of whom are working hard to claim the “King of Philly” title. Their hard work and dedication has not gone unnoticed. AR-Ab, the self-proclaimed “Top Goon of Philly,” and his crew, the OBH (Original Block Hustlers), have the biggest street buzz. Quilly Millz, meanwhile, is known for being a “Philly spitta,” with a sick flow, bars, and catchy ad-libs. Based on mixtape sales, Quilly Millz is the winner, hands-down.
And we can’t list Philly rappers without mentioning Gillie Da Kid, the self-proclaimed King of Philly. Out of our contenders, Gillie Da Kid has the longest professional rap career, and is considered to be a mentor to many Philadelphia rappers. Chill Moody, meanwhile, is more of a backpack-style rapper. He’s booked more shows and performances than any unsigned hip-hop artist in Philadelphia. —Brandon Wyche