Philadelphia is a city renowned for its African-American culture and musical heritage. From jazz to soul, the City of Brotherly Love has been home to some of the most influential musicians in history. But it's also been a hotbed for hip-hop, with some of the most talented and influential rappers in the game hailing from Philly. From battle-hardened street rappers like Cassidy and Meek Mill to old school pioneers like Schoolly D and lyrical wizards like Black Thought, here are the 10 greatest Philadelphia rappers of all time. Reef the Lost Cauze is one of the true pioneers of the Philadelphia rap scene.
He was known for his charisma and intelligent lyrics, often dealing with life on the street. He managed to capture the attention of major rap stations and became one of the best-known rappers from Philadelphia since The Fresh Prince. In early 2000, he released his Roc-A-Fella debut, The Truth, which peaked at number 5 on the Billboard charts. The Roots are another legendary group from Philadelphia. They released two albums in the 1990s, which are often considered to be their best work.
Illadelph Halflife is perhaps The Roots' greatest effort, as the two MCs demonstrate absolute prowess on the microphone from start to finish. The album includes special appearances by Raphael Saadiq, Common, Bahamadia and future member Dice Raw. The album showed a slight deviation from the sound of the live music that was so prominent on their first two albums, and had a distinctly more “behind the tables” sound. The production was handled by The Grand Negaz, Questlove and Kelo and, despite reducing the sound of live music, the production was highly acclaimed. Schoolly D is credited by many to have been the first hip hop artist to venture into gangster rap, while it peaked during the 1980s and early 1990s. He was a rare emcee who could capture the attention of the rap world from outside New York City.
His 1985 street anthem “P, S, K” What does it mean? is still remembered today. Lady B was another pioneer representing the ladies. She was actually the first female rapper from Philadelphia. DJs also played an important role in Philadelphia hip hop. Some of the best DJs were DJ Cash Money, DJ Ease, DJ Too Tuff, DJ Lightnin' Rich, DJ Spinbad, Cosmic Kev and Sex Machine or Grandmaster Nell. Cassidy has reigned as one of the best freestylers on the rap scene for nearly twenty years and has been a respected name on the streets of Philadelphia since the early 2000s.
He is one of those rare rappers who can capture attention with his charisma and lyrical prowess. Lil Uzi Vert has been at the forefront of modern hip-hop for nearly a decade. He is one of the founding fathers of emo-trap genre and a pioneer of SoundCloud rap movement. Early in his rapper career, Freeway teamed up with fellow Philadelphia rapper Beanie Sigel while rapping on stage at a nightclub. Both as a solo artist and a founding member of State Property, Freeway established himself as a leading voice in New York hip hop in mid-2000s. Meek Mill is another Philly rapper who has made it big in recent years.
There's a famous YouTube clip of him rapping straight to camera that shows his hunger, bravado and lyrical talent. Kurupt is another legendary MC who is best known for being affiliated with Death Row Records and being a founding member of Tha Dogg Pound. Although he was born in Philadelphia and lived there until he was 16 years old. Young Gotti combines his East Coast rhyming sensibility with L. A.'s attitude and arrogance as one of the best rappers of all time. Lil Uzi Vert (whose real name is Symere Bysil Woods) is not only one of Philly's best rappers but also its youngest. Robert Rihmeek Williams adopted Meek Mill as his stage name while in South Philadelphia.
He was signed by TI to his first record deal and never looked back. Finally, Eve was one of most influential female rappers of late 1990s and early 2000s as a member of Ruff Ryders group. South Philadelphia rapper Dwight Grant adopted Beanie Sigel as his stage name when he was an independent artist.