Schoolly D is many things: hip-hop icon, the nation’s first gangsta rapper, West Philly Ambassador. His hits “P.S.K.”, “Am I Black Enough For You” and “Parkside 5-2” still occupy a special place in hip-hop lore. He is an idol, a mentor, a trailblazer. These things are well-documented and accepted.
He also happens to be dead-ass funny, which is apparent exactly 15 seconds into a phone call I had with him and producer Joe Logic last week.
The duo have teamed up for a benefit album, We Run Philly, which Joe Logic produced in total and, on top of Schoolly, features Philly rappers galore—Chill Moody, Tone Trump, Hezekiah, J. Ivy and many more. The proceeds raised by the album benefit Students Run Philly Style, the only program in Philadelphia that offers marathon training to young people, along the way helping them make smart choices, see through and attain goals.
Logic, a Temple grad in communications, has been working at Milkboy Communications and Studios in Ardmore in virtually every capacity since ’05. He’s always had an interest in music, and played saxophone growing up. “My parents were big Springsteen fans. They wanted me to be the next Clearance Clemons,” he says. “Unfortunately, I’m not a 240-pound black man.”
When Logic found himself with no projects on his plate about a year-and-a-half ago, he looked into doing a benefit album. Students Run Philly Style was a natural selection.
“I ran track in high school and have some friends who are teachers in the district who volunteer at Students Run Philly,” he says. “It’s a great program that helps build confidence and promotes health.”
He hit up program director Heather McDanel, pitched his idea—a benefit album featuring a plethora of Philly rap artists—and she was sold. Now, Schoolly D on board, We Run Philly is major , and is quite a good listen. The album is available on werunphilly.com or studentsrunphilly.org, or via hand-to-hand sales from Logic himself, who can often be found selling the 10-track disc at the races the students participate in. It’ll cost you $5. Every penny taken in goes to benefit the organization.
So let’s talk about We Run Philly. Schoolly, how’d you come to be involved in this project?
Schoolly : I was in North Philly buying an eight ball and Joe showed up and I said “Yo, man.” [Laughs] Actually, I don’t remember. Joe?
Joe : Milkboy Communications was repping Schoolly, and I’d been working some ideas I had for the record. I asked Schoolly if he would be interested, and pitched him the track. I already had an idea for doing a song about Philly, about a neighborhood, and I came up with a beat. I already had two artists—Chilly Moody and Tone Trump—on the track and then I just pitched it to Schoolly, and he came in on the end and did his thing.
Schoolly : He told me he had a track, and asked if I’d listen to it. I did, thinking it might be whack, some phoney-ass, fake-ass [Everyone laughs] ... but anyway, when he played me that shit I just started writing to it right away in my head. I just got in there and did my thing, did my thing with Chill. And then I found out it was for a benefit and I was like WHAT THE FUCK, YO?? Really? I need to get paiiiid . [Everyone laughs] Ha. Thank God these motherfuckers like me to be me.
The track you’re on, Schoolly, “West Philly,” which closes the album out, is very you, if that makes sense. It’s got Schoolly D references in it, it samples “P.S.K.” Joe, would those things have remained if Schoolly hadn’t agreed to do the track?
Joe : We were trying to figure out what to do for the hook and we just thought, “Why don’t we just have someone scratch over it?”—like old school, traditional hip-hop. We started thinking about songs from Philly artists about Philly, and you know, I mean, if you start thinking about Philly artists rapping about Philly, how do you not end up on “P.S.K.”? So we added that once we knew Schoolly was going to be on the track.
Speaking of “P.S.K.” Black Thought just had a guest verse on a Ghostface Killah track where he references that song and you, Schoolly. Did you have any idea back in the ‘80s that people would still be influenced by and talking about your music in 2011?
Schoolly : You know what? I’m a lifer. I tell everybody, I’m a fuckin’ lifer. And I’m going to do this shit until I die. You know what, we were in the studio the other day and I was cracking these young cats up. I’m back to having fun. It’s just pure energy. I’m just me. This is how I am during the daytime. It’s back to just being fun ... even though now I have a big-ass mortgage.
But, I asked Joe the other day in the car I said, “Why do you do this?” I mean, when we did it we made that shit up. We needed a job and a lifestyle. We started hip-hop so we could stop shooting and killing each other in gangs, so that was a life decision to start hip-hop. But I don’t understand why these new cats—new producers, new rappers—do this. Is it because it’s there and they’re lazy? Or do they really enjoy what we put forth for them?
That’s a really interesting perspective. Joe, what was your answer?
Joe : Well, I said it damn sure wasn’t for the money, because that hasn’t come through yet [laughs]. But yeah, you do it for the love. The reason I got into making music—there are two songs that I always reference that made me want to do this. “T.R.O.Y.” [“They Reminisce Over You”] by Pete Rock and CL Smooth and “Midnight in a Perfect World” by DJ Shadow. I remember when I heard both of those songs. One of them I was mopping my mom’s kitchen and I had Power 99 on, the old school mix. I remember I was about 10 or 11 years old and I heard it and it made me feel a certain way. And I wondered, “Aw man, do others feel this way when they hear this?” And now when I make music, my goal is to make others feel the way I felt when I first heard those two songs.
Schoolly : What, you mean none of my songs inspired you? You fuckin’ ... [Laughs] He’s sitting here in front of me talkin’ “T.R.O.Y.”!