For more than three decades, the Philadelphia hip-hop scene has been all over the place. Rapper and radio personality Lady B set things off in 1979 with her show on WHAT FM and her groundbreaking single "To The Beat Y'all." Schooly D put the world on to gangsta rap in the mid-80’s, while the Fresh Prince brought rap’s first Grammy back to Philly with DJ Jazzy Jeff long before “Will Smith” became a household name.
Since 1987 The Roots have evolved from critically-acclaimed underground kings to the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Beanie Sigel, Freeway and the rest of State Property rocketed to fame when Roc-A-Fella ruled Philly during the late ’90s and early-aughts. And Cassidy made some big moves before being sidelined by a murder case and a serious car crash.
Many artists have come and gone since, yet none of them have truly been able make a lasting mark on the game. However, a new Rocky emerged last year when Meek Mill broke out, becoming one of hip-hop’s biggest rising stars. On the heels of Meek’s success, rap is hungry for more talent from the “new Iraq.”
After a stop in Chicago, Complex decided to take a trip down 95 South and the New Jersey Turnpike to find 10 New Philadelphia Rappers to Watch Out For this year. Listed in alphabetical order, you’ll find a few dudes who embody the typical Philly sound, and others that win by deviating from it. So here we go, all the way live from the 215....
Words by Julian Kimble (@JRK316)
Reppin’ West Philly, Chill Moody’s name speaks to his laid-back style. He has a good ear for beats, and he murked his Come Up Show freestyle last year on an aggressive tip, proving that son can really rhyme. He’s definitely talented, so if he turns it up more often, he has the potential to break out. We also have to applaud him for tweeting from a “drunk” account when he gets bent; it’s a hell of a way to create a rapport with followers.
As part of Lupe’s All-City Chess Club (is that still in effect?), Dosage got the opportunity to tour with Fiasco and B.o.B on 2010’s Steppin’ Lasers affair and appeared on the remix to Lupe’s forgotten gem “I’m Beamin’.” You have to respect his hunger, and if you throw that in the bag with his connection to Lupe, a promising future could be on the horizon for this guy.
Gilbere Forte, a Philadelphia adopted son, gets credit for daring to be different musically. He’s gotten love from 2dopeboyz, and his video for “Black Chukkas” was played on MTV Jams. His Some Dreams Never Sleep EP sports the track “Hot (In This B*tch) with Pusha T and Jim Jones, as well as features from Big K.R.I.T, Tyga, Casey Veggies, Bun B and Asher Roth. With that many stamps, he has all the right ingredients to break out.
Pros: Escapes the typical “Philly sound” and it works wonders for him.
Cons: Not enough material released yet.
Essential Listening: Official project 800 on the way, but “E&J” goes extra hard. Check out his SoundCloud page in the interim.
The young GrandeMarshall is an artist who’s winning by diverting from the usual sound of Philadelphia. His trunk-rattling, 808-heavy music is energetic and reckless, which probably explains why he opened for A$AP Rocky last month. With his first major release, 800, on the way, this kid is eager to make a name for himself.
The gate is wide open.
Pros: Been in the game for a minute and spent time around veterans; now has new lease on his life and career.
Cons: Can he separate himself from Chris? Has he missed his shot?
Essential Listening: Forever Do Me 4.
With over a decade in the rap game, Neef Buck is hardly a rookie, but he’s finally forging out on his own. As one half of the Young Gunz and a member of State Property, Neef was around for the era when Roc-A-Fella ran Philly, but never really managed to seize the moment and own it. He’s back with a new focus, and with his Forever Do Me 4, he’s poised to show the world who he is and what he can do.
OCD (Moosh & Twist)
OCD (Moosh & Twist)
These kids are clearly having mad fun in their videos; it’s like they have no troubles whatsoever. Theirs is a Mac Miller-type of aesthetic, and it’s very refreshing. Flows and production are tight, but can they graduate to more a “adult” sound over time? We’ll see—but in the meantime we’ll give them the nod for that “City Kids” video you see up top, pushing a million YouTube views.
Pros: Hungry; high-energy, technically sound music.
Cons: Not enough backing.
Essential Listening: Take Off in T-Minus 2.
West Philly rhymer Pate is like a rap James Harden: He’s a fundamentally sound sparkplug, and you can hear how much he wants it in each bar. Laced with his signature sound, his video for "Fun & Music" made its way to 2dopeboyz in January, and his project Take Off in T-Minus 2 was featured on Pigeons and Planes. His voice is Philadelphia, and his style is a nod to the Philly rappers of old, but he needs more industry support.
This dude definitely has talent; he’s reminiscent of a young Joe Budden, but his music might be just a tad too dark. He’s introspective with solid story-telling skills, but would benefit from switching his format up sometimes. With that said, just like Joey, he does tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth about relationships.
Gotta respect that.
With a voice reminiscent of a young Canibus, Santos’ in-your-face battle-ready style is captivating. You can hear the struggle and hunger in every single verse, and at just 20 years old, he has time to develop. He spits that grimy, ugly, vintage Philly shit with the greatest of ease. He also annihilated his Come Up Show freestyle (see above), so if you’re into a hybrid of Can-I-Bus and Sticky Fingaz, the self-proclaimed “Human Torch” is your guy.
With dope lyrics and co-signs from The Legendary Roots Crew and 2dopeboyz, STS definitely has what it takes to make it. There’s virtually no perceptible Philly influence in his music, and that works for him. You can hear the ATL in his work, which helps to diversify him as an artist. He’s definitely one to watch.