Career Crooks released Good Luck With That this past week. In honor of the event, Zilla Rocca and Small Professor are taking over the site for today. Here, Zilla talks about which Philly rappers inspired him…and which didn’t.
Charli’s maligned debut album Cold As Ice from the late ‘90s was a total corporate paint by numbers job, but she had the DJ Premier banger “Everybody Wanna Know”, one of my favorite RZA and Ghostface songs of all time (“Stand Up”), the obligatory Mobb Deep guest spot (“Infamous”) AND the Hot Guys At The Moment Joint with Cam’Ron and Nore (“NBC). Charli was whatever on the mic, but she taught us the importance of a huge budget, trend hopping, and big name favors, none of which we applied to our album.
I went back and revisited Jade’s debut Girl Interrupted and was blown away. Sure, she sounded exactly like Eve, but she caught ’02 Timbaland in his bag. “Big Head,” “Ching Ching,” and “Feel the Girl” owned Philly radio when they dropped, but she also had the insane Jay-Z feature “Count it Off” (which flipped the same vocal sample as Charli’s “Stand Up”). Haley P broke down how Timbaland actually is one of the worst great producers ever on this very site, but this album never left my iPhone over the years.
G Love was the type of rapper that your parents would hear on NPR to prove that they did like “some of the rap.” My homegirl in college put one of his songs on a mixtape for me in 2000 that wasn’t the worst thing ever, but he directly inspired Jason Mraz and perpetuated the myth that a white dude with a guitar who can speak rhymtically was a rapper. So no, G Love didn’t inspire us.
Rosco P. Coldchain
This guy had it all: the voice, the flow, endless street credibility. Totally original. I discovered this random album Almost Famous and would play the hell out of it at the gym. Probably dropped while he was in jail, but it’s a legit project. His joint with Premier “Whut Itz All About” is still crazy. If he never went to jail, he’d be the biggest rapper out of Re-Up Gang/Star Trak. I wish Rosco was on “Rocca Luminous” off the album. He’s a monster.
You probably never heard of this dude, but whatever drug connected or crime-related muscle he had backing him really tried to make him a thing in the post-50 Cent world of the early 2000s. Dude was absolutely trash. He had distribution, videos, posters, back when all of this shit cost serious money, but no one cared—he had a feature from The Game in 2004. He looks like Copywrite trying out for State Property! Just watch this video. And here’s Jimmy Brinx freestyling behind a laundromat that’s three blocks from house. I can’t make this up:
He did not inspire us.
Dice Raw is always out and about in Philly, usually in a suit. The first time I ever rapped in public at a show in 2000, he was there and gave me dap. Then, I remember he sat behind me at the movies for the premiere of Bad Boys 2. Years later, he popped up at another show I did during my Nights & Weekends era and told me he dug my cover of “Devil’s Pie,” which is produced by Small Pro. His verses on “The Lesson Part 1,” “CLONES,” and his single “Thin Line” with Black Thought and Malik B always rattle around in my head.
If there’s one rapper who had a cameo in Creed who wishes he could change his name right now, it’s Tone Trump. He’s incredibly positive with a beard to kill for, but he did not inspire this album.
Did you know Major Figgas won an ASCAP award for “Song of the Year” in 2001 for “Yeah That’s Us?” That song was everywhere in Philly, but their album flopped and Jay-Z completely annihilated them subliminally on his verse on “Do It Again.” Ab-Liva got his start with them and I love him, but nah, Major Figgas didn’t do it for us.
Nostra, aka The Italian Non-Phixion, came out right when The Sopranos popped, so their entire existence was built around reclaiming Mafioso rap for white Italian dudes in South Philly. All of their songs were just references to Casino, Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale, The Godfather, etc, but Italian dudes in South Philly really used to watch The Sopranos and those movies either wishing that was their life or thinking they were actually Tony Soprano. Some of their promo stickers are still on telephone poles right now. I was in awe of them in 2000-2001 ‘cause there were no white rappers in my area back then, so I guess they deserve some credit. Check ‘em:
Before Wikipedia, I never knew in my entire life that Khia was from Philly. We weren’t in that Uncle Luke/Too Short chamber making this album, so nah, sorry Khia.
This dude is one of the greatest ‘What If?’ rappers ever. We all acknowledge Black Thought as the best rapper in Philly history, but early on with The Roots, people thought Malik was the better rapper. I bought Do You Want More??? on tape and would always rewind Malik’s verses on “I Remain Calm” and “My Mellow My Man.” My favorite Malik shit is “Proceed 2” and “Meiso” with DJ Krush. Malik had problems and was pretty much gone from the Roots starting with Phrenology but popped back up blamming shit on Game Theory. He’s the Philly version of Vordul Mega, emcees who were incredible writers, in groups, but couldn’t keep it going beyond small stretches. He’s very nuanced and emotionless, and like Vordul, he never uses punchlines or pop culture references, so his words are timeless and waiting to be unpacked. I love Malik B!
He’s the new kind of rapper where his YouTube shit and interviews are more compelling than his songs. He’s like a walking skit you just want to keep replaying. I love Ab, but he didn’t inspire this one. Also, I’m legitimately terrified of him.
I’ve been telling Small Pro FOR YEARS to do an album with that dude. Goddamn he’s like young Malik B on some “What If?” shit. If you’re in The Roots, all you have to do is just show up everyday and you’ll have a 30 year career. But some dudes just can’t show up to work everyday. Anyway, Peedi has had label problems but has never been wack. Crazy to think all these years later that Freeway is the most consistent and thriving member of State Property, but dude outworked all of those guys. Peedi still has the most charisma ever!
If you saw my #FailedRapTales series on my Instagram/Facebook over the past month, I was being groomed at 19 years old to be on A&M Records, the same label as Kurupt, Shaq, The SPOOKS, and the Five Deadly Venoms. Kurupt has had some unbelievable moments with Pete Rock (check the random heat rock “Yessir” below) but outside of the early Death Row/Dogg Pound stuff, I never stayed up with Kurupt Young Gotti. I’m lacking. He didn’t inspire this album.
Reef the Lost Cauze
Reef is a good friend of ours and a fellow South Philly #RapDad. And he’s also the best performer I’ve ever seen in the city. He’s incredibly gracious, hardworking, and raps his ass off at all time. His goddamn Facebook posts should be a reality show. You better believe I would never want Reef to think anything on this album is weak.