Culture Cypher Radio Presents 5 Rap Songs For Philly
Among other things, lyrical pioneer and god MC Rakim is known for giving life to the now-famous axiom “It ain’t where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.” That line, delivered at the tail end of Ra’s opening verse on Eric B. & Rakim’s 1990 single “The Ghetto”, is meant to be an affirmation, reassuring people born in poor neighborhoods that they mattered. Despite this, locality does matter, especially in hip-hop. Since the culture’s inception, people have used their skills to show pride and represent their blocks, neighborhoods, boroughs, and cities. It would be hard to tell the story of hip-hop as a global culture without rap anthems like KRS One’s “South Bronx,” Nas’ “N.Y. State Of Mind,” or Jermaine Dupri and Ludacris’ “Welcome To Atlanta.”
An important stronghold for Hip Hop culture since the beginning, Philadelphia is no different. For decades, Philly’s hip-hop artists have used their music to take a critical look at the conditions of life and the city and celebrate the joys of living in the 215. Here are five rap songs for the city of Philadelphia.
Tuff Crew – “My Part Of Town”
With its two-bar guitar loop, a drum break taken from Lyn Collins’ 1972 Funk classic “Think (About It),” and an impossibly heavy 808 kick drum, Tuff Crew’s “My Party Of Town” is a decidedly minimal composition, but it’s been wrecking dancefloors since it was first released over 3 decades ago. With the Tuff Crew’s hardcore, braggadocious rhymes, and DJ Too Tuff’s lightning-fast cutting, “My Part Of Town” is an enduring Hip Hop classic and one of Philly’s true anthems.
The Roots — “Do You Want More?!!!??!”
On the title track of their 1994 major label debut Do You Want More?!!!??!, the legendary Roots crew recruited none other than North Philly-born bagpipist Rufus Harley. Widely acknowledged as the first musician to adapt the bagpipes to jazz, Harley is a significant figure in the history of American music. Harley’s furious playing elevates “Do You Want More?!!!??!” to ecstatic heights as Black Thought leads the group in an epic roll call of the city’s neighborhoods. Eventually, the long list of Philly-centric shoutouts to North Philly, South Philly, Germantown, Oak Lane, and beyond give way to name-checks for Brooklyn, Manhattan, London, and Tokyo, hinting at the band’s global reach and appeal.
Major Figgas feat. Beanie Sigel — “P.H.I.L.L.Y.”
In the late 90s, Erie Ave. mic-wrecking crew Major Figgas were making a name for themselves with show-stealing appearances on street mixtapes by Cosmic Kev, DJ Clue, and more. One of Figgas’ early collaborators was a rising South Philly MC named Beanie Sigel. Taking its cue from Boogie Down Productions’ campy classic “Jimmy,” Beans and the Figgas blend perfectly on this streetwise take on life in the city of Philadelphia.
Jakk Frost — “Philly Love“
On top of a soulful sample beat, veteran MC Jakk Frost’s “Philly Love” paints a perfect picture of what it was like growing up Black in Philly in the 80s and 90s. With references to the Junior Black Mafia, the After Midnight club, Cash Money mixtapes, and buying clothes at City Blue, Jakk Frost’s “Philly Love” is a vivid and poignant tribute to Philly hip-hop and street culture.
Bahamadia — “Uknowhowwedu”
With every line containing either overt or coded references to a distinct figure or event, Bahamadia’s 1995 single “Uknowhowwedo” is something of a rosetta stone for understanding Philly hip-hop culture. 3X Dope, Master Vic, Lady B, The Roots, Steady B, Divine Beings, Jazz Fresh, and many more receive reverent shout outs over a buttery smooth instrumental. If there’s ever been a song that perfectly captures the vibe of hip-hop in the city of Philadelphia, Bahahamdia’s “Uknowhowwedu” is definitely it.