Big City Philadelphia joins the fray over skinny jeans and homophobia.
Put another way, from rapper Termanology’s “Tight Pants Are 4 Girls:” “You have no business touchin’ a mic/ And with pants that tight you should wear just tights/ Since when is it cool to dress like a dude that fucks another dude/ Y’all To Wong Foo/ I pray for a monsoon/ To come this way and wash away every rapper just like you.”
It could also be that street-oriented artists like Big City fire shots at hipster rappers because hipster rappers don’t fire back. Under an avalanche of verbal bullets, they’ve gone Gandhi. What’s more, these hipster artists get press in magazines (see XXL’s “Freshmen” issue) and across the blogosphere, and by extension so do the artists offering up hipster-dis tracks. It’s the best of both worlds: maximum potential, minimum risk.
Crawford says not being painted by the broad “hipster” brush is a business move.
“The term ‘hipster’ and ‘hipster rap’ still has a negative connotation in hip-hop,” he says. “It insinuates that you’re something less than a rapper, more fashion than substance. Artists don’t want to see that label put on them, at least until ‘hipster rap’ becomes commercially viable. Cool Kids put an album out and it only sold like 4,000 copies, despite the fact that they’ve been mentioned on the Internets more times than 2 Girls 1 Cup.”
Despite several requests, Cool Kids declined comment for this story. Their publicist’s explanation: “They don’t want to be involved in any hipster rap-type story. They’ve been avoiding the same type of pieces for a while. Their stance on the issue is they don’t really consider themselves to be ‘hipster’ rappers.”
Spank Rock also declined an interview. Chicago’s Kid Sister, also namedropped in City’s “Hipster,” was “in the studio” and couldn’t be reached for comment. Philadelphia’s own Plastic Little, often lumped in with hipster rap, declined several interview requests.
Even before penning the anti-hipster anthem, Esposito had been on the cusp of breaking big. Years ago, Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment—hot on the heels of Eminem’s success—flew him out to Los Angeles and dreamt up his marketing scheme.
“I have a tattoo on my left arm—‘ITALIAN STALLION,’ it says. It’s a horse head. Will Smith’s manager Charlie Mac looked at that and he said, ‘IS, I.S.’ I said ‘What’s that? Is?’ He said, ‘I.S. Italian Stallion, the initials. We’ll call you IS. We’ll print up billboards and everything, Who IS he?’ I’ll have a hood on and ‘Who IS he?’ written above my head. And then they find out I’m white.”
The dream ended with Esposito’s attempted murder charge.
Later, Esposito would impress Beanie Sigel with an impromptu freestyle.
“Beans first heard about me in the streets. They were lookin’ for an Italian kid, some kind of twist like that, so my old manager called me up and was like, ‘Phil. Listen, man, Beans wants to meet you.’ They throw a Roc-A-Fella party, they bring me backstage,” says Big City, remembering the promise those days held. “There’s Freeway, all the Young Gunz, Memphis Bleek and Sigel. Sigel pulls me into a little bathroom with one of the guys who heard my CD and was like, ‘Yo, this is the guy.’ I hit him with a verse and he was like, ‘That’s that South Philly Sopranos shit. I’m gonna run that right with [Beanie’s label] State Property.’ Wound up bein’, still again, got locked up. I just still couldn’t get it right. You know when you’re out there thuggin’, you ain’t focusing on something that’s more established or real. All you know is quick money, hustlin’ in strip clubs and shit. You don’t know how to do it right and step back and slow down.”
Turns out, Sigel had his own problems slowing down, and the two were reunited at the federal correctional institution in Fairton, where they both did time and, according to Esposito, the two would rap on top of picnic tables in the courtyard. Esposito took all comers in rap battles that became the talk of the prison. From there, Sigel gave him his new rap name, Big City Phil, which turned to Big City Philadelphia.
Now out of prison, Big City has kept his nose clean, steering clear of the tumultuous world that gave him so much trouble, working as a rigger in Northeast Philly.
“I’ve messed up too many times. I’m not doing that anymore. I’ve got a wife. I’ve got a family. This is my shot.”