A DOWN-AND-DIRTY GUIDE TO THE ARTISTS WHO DO OUR STREETS PROUD.
DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
Names: Jeff Townes and Will Smith
Known for: Constant reinvention. This fresh-scrubbed duo embodies the modern Philly sound--from the birth of the scratch to silly commercialism to A Touch of Jazz's classy and Grammy-nominated nu-soul vibe. That, and all Will Smith's many, many public Philly shoutouts.
Why they're so Philly: The Gamble and Huff comparisons are legit. Plus, Philadelphia's modern golden age of music has its epicenter in Northern Liberties, home to A Touch of Jazz's studio.
Names: Black Thought, ?uestlove, Hub, Ben Kenney, Kamal and Scratch (recently departed: Rahzel and Malik B)
Known for: Being the original hip-hop house band and godfathers to the okay player.com global community. The roots are the "thinking person's" hip-hop faves and have launched dozens of careers.
Why they're so Philly: The Roots cut through the velvet rope and established a genuine, accessible rapport with their fan base.
Name: Eve Jeffers
Known for: Being a self-proclaimed "pit bull in a skirt." Exudes sexy confidence while eschewing the tried-and-true rap-diva blueprint.
Why she's so Philly: Like A.I., she's a full-court presence. A TV show, clothing line, films, Reebok endorsement--all this, and not one ounce of doubt on her cred.
DJ Cash Money
Name: Jerome Hewlett
Known for: Erupting in '88, the year he won DJing competitions at the New Music Seminar, American Mix Championships and London's Disco Mix Club (DMC). First inductee into Technics' DJ Hall of Fame. His trademark trifecta: lightning-fast fader, chest-pounding showmanship and being arguably the originator of the scratch.
Why he's so Philly: When Philly ruled the roost as the city of DJs, he was its king.
Name: Wendy Clark, aka "Godmother of Hip-hop"
Known for: Her legendary radio stint at WHAT (1340-AM), one of the first rap-format shows, a tradition she continued with the Street Beat show on Power 99 and 103.9.
Why she's so Philly: She helped jumpstart the careers of Public Enemy, Poor Righteous Teachers, King Sun, Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince, MC Breeze and Schoolly D, among others. Want her back on the air? Sign the petition at urbanbeatmovement.com.
Name: Leslie Pridgen
Known for: His nasal drone that's currently blowin' up Roc-A-Fella's roster with his honesty about street life. He also adds personal snippets, such as the weird-but-true fact that he fathered two children by two different women four months apart before being carted off to jail.
Why he's so Philly: His motto might as well be adopted by Philadelphia's diehard sports fans: When the going gets tough, the tough get crunk.
Names: Baby Blak and Mr. Lish
Known for: Unleashing "188.8.131.52" in '98, at the pinnacle of underground's golden age and Philadelphia's hip-hop slump. The track was filled with highly complex lyrical patterns that bridged the middle ground between thuggin' and emotive, gaining instant respect from all sides.
Why they're so Philly: Blak recently inked a deal with the highly regarded BBE Records. Staying power never sounded so fresh.
Name: Antonia Reed
Known for: Stepping out from behind the turntables during a mid-'80s house party, when her laid-back but cotton thick vocals launched the dawning of a new jazz-infused era. Her refusal to compromise her standards got her work with only the best--Guru, Sweetback, Roni Size, the Roots. The BB Queen also held it down for two years on 103.9 with Bahamadia's B-Sides.
Why she's so Philly: She gave the other side of female life a voice. Her unpretentious style and real-life prose embraces the duality of modern feminine thought.
Names: Oatie Kato, Madd and Swayzak
Known for: Their politicized and punning rhymes on topics ranging from the mistreatment of Native Americans to Dan Quayle. Their words were punctuated by the organic grooves of a live band.
Why they're so Philly: Their political activism gave way to drug abuse and internal friction, ending in a dramatic split-up during a European tour at the height of their popularity. The Delta 72 wishes it had wounds this deep.
Names: Chops (Scott Jung), Peril-L (Chris Wang) and Styles Infinite (Steve Wei)
Known for: Winning Coca-Cola's "Rhymes From the Mind" contest after meeting as students at Penn State. The trio was the first Asian-American hip-hop group to release a self-produced EP and ink a major-label deal.
Why they're so Philly: They are seriously dedicated to keeping it sample-free.
Known for: Being the inventor of the precursor to transforming, a technique involving rotating the record back and forth while simultaneously cutting the fader to create the foundations of scratched rhythm. Also DJ for Bell Biv Devoe.
Why he's so Philly: Bragging rights start right here.
Name: Dallas Short
Known for: Floating between gigs as MC, DJ, writer and A&R rep. Meddafore won Phillyhiphop.com's 2001 "Mixtape DJ of the Year."
Why he's so Philly: His hand-in-every-pot profile is matched only by an insatiable desire to represent Philadelphia artists on mix tapes that highlight every style of hip-hop imaginable. (He once put out eight mix tapes in one year.)
Name: Dwight Grant
Known for: Shooting straight to the big time on Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella label. He later starred in the ghetto fabulous State Property.
Why he's so Philly: Sigel Street, the inspiration for Grant's name, is also where he was arrested for assault in 2001.
Known for: Being unearthed by the Roots after an impromptu session at the Ramada Inn in 1993. His discovery led to the recording of the rough and rugged voice that defines "Do You Want More?"
Why he's so Philly: Dice's freestyle skills have made a believer out of even the city's most crotchety anti-rap card carriers.
Known for: His deft fingers on the fader, being a star of the revered "Return of the DJ" series and being a feared battle contestant.
Why he's so Philly: Like a gravedigger, Ghetto's staying underground until the job is done.
Big Rich Medina
Known for: Being an Ivy League grad, former pro ballplayer, record collector, ECKO Unlimited model, poet, engineer and DJ. Got his start rocking house parties at Temple and Penn and has since gained international recognition for his eclectic, get-on-the-dance-floor sets at Little Ricky's Rib Shack nights here and in NYC.
Why he's so Philly: In '97 he and partner Bobbito Garcia opened Footwork Illadelph, a hip-hop entrepreneurship in the northern corridor. An open forum for underground talent, Footwork's projects were the starting place for much of Philadelphia's current hip-hop representation.
Name: Jesse B. Weaver Jr.
Known for: Being an early proponent of the bang-'em-up sound that defined the mid-'80s. His "Gangster Boogie" 12-inch merged punk and breaks and debuted the influential sound that became the template for hardcore acts like Public Enemy. Currently scores for Cartoon Network's Aqua Teen Hunger Force as well as the films of Abel Ferrara.
Why he's so Philly: Style over substance, baby.
High and Mighty
Names: DJ Mighty Mi (Milo Berger) and Mr. Eon (Eric Meltzer)
Known for: Tacky but subversively infectious rhyme schemes on the insta-classic Soundbombing II. Given that they own Eastern Conference Records, who's going to argue with them that it is indeed time to Porn Again?
Why they're so Philly: Because they're just two filthy-minded white kids from Philly looking to make it big in the rap game.
Name: Rafiek George
Known for: Choosing between a career in the NBA and in music, and supporting his quest for a recording contract by working as a youth counselor and public speaker. His rare ability to merge street cred with intellectual depth is supplemented by a quick-switch flow and padded vocab heavy on the 50-cent words.
Why he's so Philly: Family comes first for this scribe, so you know we have to love him back.
Name: Joseph Ellis
Known for: Being a B-Force member first and a composer for MC Hammer later. Breeze started off writing his own music, drawing his album artwork and releasing his record on his own label--all funded by a Domino's delivery job in 1985. As the first MC to sing and be banned on the radio for his EP Discombobulatorbubalator, he was then tapped to write the Rocky V theme song.
Why he's so Philly: Says Michael Dennis, director of Philly Boy, a documentary exploring his rise and fall: "Of all the old-school Philly rappers, Breeze most represents this city." Understood.
Names: Handmaster Flash, Disco Dave and MC Breeze.
Known for: Being the original b-boys, representing wherever needed--whether block parties, impromptu street sessions or on wax.
Why they're so Philly: Involved in the Greater Philadelphia Hip-Hop Alliance, B-Force members Disco Dave and MC Breeze not only keep an eye on the progress of the area's hip-hop community, they help make it better.
Cool Earl and Cornbread
Known for: Initiating the graffiti-bombing movement and the Philly tag style--long letters with platform bottoms--in the 1960s. Once tagged both sides of an elephant's backside with "Cornbread Lives" when it was rumored he was dead. Also bombed Jackson 5's jet as it landed at Philadelphia Airport.
Why they're so Philly: Graffiti, the artistic mantel of the b-boy lifestyle, is forever identified with the City of Brotherly Love, thanks to two lovesick clowns from north of Market.
Name: Douglas Wendell Henderson, aka "The Ace From Outer Space."
Known for: Being the father of rap. As a DJ for radio stations in both Philly and New York during the Alan Freed era, he thumped on telephone books and introduced his show with rhymes: "Hello Daddio and Mommio, this is Jocko!" His "Get Ready" job training programs were distributed on tape and utilized rap to connect with those who needed it most.
Why he's so Philly: Was the precursor to all Philly rhyming DJs.
Known for: The Street Beat radio show with Lady B, a current gig with 103.9 and his hush-hush First Friday email-invite- only parties. DST was the first to take Philly's new sound to the place it belonged--with the people.
Why he's so Philly: An old gold original who can still boast that 99 percent of his business comes via word of mouth.
Known for: Holding down South Philly's block parties and sparking a devoted following of younger tableists with his experimental tactics in the early '80s, when DJing became a force and neighborhoods were divided over loyalties to different scratch kings.
Why he's so Philly: Chapter one was carved out on Nell's Technics.
Name: Bobby McLean
Known for: Being the reigning king of hip-hop affairs at the Cornucopia, the LaFerry, the now-closed Wynne Plaza and the J.C. Hall. A venture called Club Dances was the city's first hip-hop club for underage scenesters.
Why he's so Philly: Bobby "Dance" McLean garnered his nickname at Shaw Junior High School after stomping out the competition in platforms with some seriously turned-out socks.
Steady B and Cool C
Names: Warren McGlone, Christopher Roney
Known for: Being part of the Hilltop Hustlers crew and developing a stoned-out battle-style technique that married West Coast slurs with concrete rhythms. Steady B was a producer extraordinaire, turning out tracks for the likes of Three Times Dope.
Why they're so Philly: McGlone and Roney ganged up to rob a bank, resulting in the death of a female officer.
Three Times Dope
Known for: Comic, boastful narrative underscored with elements of social consciousness. 3xDope even had its own Yo! MTV Raps card.
Grandmasters of Funk
Names: Garry O, Cosmic Kev and Parry P.
Known for: Garry O, who was the first DJ to have a big setup, and Kev and Parry, who were the first Philly hip-hop group to take it international after bouncing on the scene with their Wagner's Ballroom parties.
Why they're so Philly: Check Kev on Power 99 any day of the week.
PW's 2015 Philly Spring Guide