Big City Philadelphia joins the fray over skinny jeans and homophobia.
In a VIP room of a gentleman’s club in Southwest Philly called Oasis on Essington, Phillip Esposito, aka Big City Philadelphia, is all smiles, and it has nothing to do with the unobstructed view of voluptuous vixens.
He’s a would-be rap star whose latest YouTube clip has ignited an Internet firestorm. In “How to Rob an Industry Hipster,” Big City has taken a page straight from 50 Cent’s playbook. Years ago, a then-unknown 50, hungry for success, named a heady group of rappers who’d made it to the big time, and fantasized about robbing them in a brutal (and hilarious) track, “How to Rob An Industry Nigga.” “I’ll snatch Kim, tell Puff ‘You wanna see her again? Get your ass on down to the nearest ATM.’”
Big City’s m.o. is the same in “Hipster”: namedropping a gaggle of established artists and taking them down a peg to create buzz for himself. Only he dreams of sticking up entertainers from a genre that didn’t exist when 50 dropped his original attack: so-called “hipster rap” or “hipster hop.”
“The bottom line is I’m a felon without a deal/ And if I never get signed I’m going back to jail/ You better recognize, hipsters, that I’m fresh out the joint/ So when I see them skinny jeans, yo, you get the point,” raps Big City in the song’s first line before rattling off a list of a hipster who’s who.
Big City’s timing couldn’t be more perfect, firing a shot for hip-hop purists against this newly ubiquitous breed of Internet-savvy artists who wear tight shirts, tighter jeans and puffy sneakers—recreating a look and sound reminiscent of hip-hop in the ’80s. There’s mounting opposition to the way they act and dress and the music they make, and with “Hipster,” Big City has penned the hipster-hater anthem.
Spank Rock, Cool Kids, the Knux, Santigold, M.I.A., Kid Sister, Jay Electronica, Charles Hamilton, Kid Cudi, Lupe Fiasco, Mickey Factz: These are the artists in the crosshairs of Big City’s scope. The fact that you’ve never heard of most of them isn’t the point. Those invested in hip-hop culture have, and City’s “Hipster” video was an unexpected and effective show aimed right at them.
Within days of “Hipster” being uploaded to YouTube it was picked up and shot around cyberspace by hip-hop’s most-read blogs—Nah Right, Byron Crawford and Pro Hip-hop. Village Voice’s Sound of the City blog posted it, as did PW’s music blog Make Major Moves.
Of course, to parlay this into something bigger the way 50 did, Big City will have to offer more. With 50 it was his much ballyhooed bio. A confirmed drug dealer, 50 was notoriously shot nine times. One of the bullets blew out a back portion of his jaw, which affected his delivery and forever etched the lazy, marble-mouthed flow fans have come to know and love.
Big City has a colorful bio of his own.
Just eight years ago, only blocks away from Oasis, Phillip Esposito was arrested for attempted murder outside his home.
“I stabbed a guy in his neck,” he says.
Esposito’s manager, Jack Kellerman, stops chewing his steak and shoots him a glance.
“I mean … I didn’t do it, but … ” he corrects. He served six months for the charge before it was dropped.
Esposito, a young Italian-American with closely cropped hair, is the son of notorious South Philly mobster Richie Esposito, who was gunned down when Phil was just 3-and-a-half years old. His stepfather, Michael Antonelli, also had mob ties. He died in prison while serving time for conspiracy to distribute narcotics and possession of illegal firearms.
As a boy Esposito attended the Milton Hershey School in Hershey, Pa. Established in 1909 by Milton and his wife Catherine, the school’s mission was to help assist orphaned boys.
“You had to have a deceased parent to get in, and I did,” says Esposito. “They made us milk cows and shit—reform-school shit.”
The Esposito family’s penchant for crime lived on with Phillip, who’s served time in six prisons in five different states. He’s even flown cross-country con-air.