A Guide To The Best Rappers From Philly
Music has always played a vital role in defining the city of Philadelphia. The birthplace of The Roots and the city where John Coltrane defined his sound, music is as much a part of the city’s lifeblood as its iconic sports teams and Philly has produced no shortage of iconic rappers over the years.
The history of hip-hop in Philadelphia mirrors the rise and fall and eventual rise again of the city’s own appeal. With its proximity to New York, Philadelphia rappers connected with major record labels during the budding days of hip-hop. Over time, Philly has consistently produced iconic rap acts, including notable local legends like Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Meek Mill, Freeway and, more recently, Lil Uzi Vert.
Beyond commercial appeal, Philly also has a strong underground rap scene which has produced some truly innovative, original artists who went on to become some of the hottest new rappers in the world. And while national attention is usually focused on the mainstream, Endless Crate never fails to pay attention to what’s happening in the underground.
Who Are The Best Under-The-Radar Philly Rappers Right Now?
Today we’re shining a spotlight on eight of the most iconoclastic, individualistic, and exciting Philly rappers out today — artists who are forging their own path and taking Philly’s rap scene in exciting directions. They’re not all big names, though they’ll likely be big soon enough. Their sounds are unique and they’re growing a name for themselves at a rapid pace. These are some of the best rappers in Philly.
Born and raised in Philly, QThree is a rapper who’s been floating around the underground for some time. He began creating beats in the 9th grade, started rhyming shortly after, and hasn’t looked back since. His style recalls that great golden age of gritty production, while as a rapper he carries himself with a down-to-earth aura that seems larger than life at the same time. There’s a drawl in his voice that seems to influence the laid-back, yet intense flow he employs. His lyrics are witty; his storytelling is sharp, and his punchlines are crisp. And his production is complex, with densely layered sonics that recall the early work of RZA and the modern work of The Alchemist.
Lojii is a rapper, but the music he creates is atypical in today’s rap world. Honest, laidback and thoughtful, lojii’s voice has a unique quality that makes it hard to have any expectations about what he might say next – which is part of what makes his music so captivating. Even though lojii is not your standard rapper and his raps are executed with a skilled subtlety, there’s little doubt that he’s not only one of the best rappers in Philly, he’s also one of the best rappers on the east coast right now. His feel for beats and hooks, rich writing style and nuanced flow help set him apart as a master craftsman carving out his own niche over lo-fi, jazz-inflected beats.
Related Reads: 10 East Coast Rappers You Should Be Listening To
Hip Hop, jazz and experimental music have long been the backbone of Camae Ayewa’s (aka Moor Mother) music. Taking influence from noise and jazz, among other genres, her music as Moor Mother is soaked in layers of experimentation. When you first hear the beats that compose her music it may seem like a rap record of some kind; but then a voice from some other place starts to sift through the cracks, a voice that goes beyond the ability of many songwriters to deconstruct rhythm in a poetic and purposeful way. The result is some of the most captivating music coming out today in any genre. For the unfamiliar, her latest solo album, Jazz Codes, serves as a good jumping off point—a bold work that explores and transcends the boundaries of hip-hop and jazz.
Zilla Rocca is one of the not-so-best-kept-secrets in Philly’s hip-hop scene. As part of the Wrecking Crew—alongside Curly Castro (more on him below), Small Professor and PremRock—he makes classic East Coast rap embedded with his own aesthetic, one that’s neither derivative of the classic golden era sound nor indebted to the lyrically dense rhyming of New York’s pioneers of old. Although Zilla Rocca may still be a relative unknown in many circles outside the city of brotherly love, he’s one of the best rappers in Philly right now and definitely someone you should get to know. Not sure where to begin? Start with Never At Peace, Rocca’s stellar 2020 collaborative album with producer Small Professor, who together go by Career Crooks.
Curly Castro is one of the most interesting Philly rappers out today. A rapper who spits with a style of his own, he’s established his own language and his own lane, looping words into a whirlwind, splicing and dicing them until they form unconventional, unique rhymes that are wholly his own. Like fellow Philly iconoclast Moor Mother, his music is arcane and wholly experimental. His rap style is multi-layered and tells stories about life over hard hitting, idiosyncratic beats, while his gruff flow, barbed lyrics, and lyrical complexity make his work standout from the field.
From the very first time you hear his music, it becomes clear that Ghais Guevara is not your average rapper. An immense reflection upon racial identity and historical suffering, his work is not an easy listen. Ghais Guevara is a Philly rapper and producer who puts his energies into a brand of hip-hop that looks at the roots of social inequality in America. He also incorporates Islamic views into his music, which separates him even further from other rappers who don’t share these beliefs. Although he doesn’t have a large following, his music has been well received by those who are interested in him; there is a lot to be said about what he’s doing, both on a technical level and on a thematic level. Performed over his original beats with their own sonic and emotional quality, his lyrics are deep and poignant, speaking of pain and racial identity in America. Ghais Guevara’s powerful voice, combined with his lyrical ability and rhyming skills, makes him one of the most original and daring Pennsylvania rappers in recent memory. If you’re looking for powerful, politically conscious hip-hop with a message, look no further than Ghais Guevara. He’s one of the hottest new rappers in any city and set to blow up in the near future.
With more and more attention being drawn to popular rappers who lack creative wordplay and skill, some see the art form of the emcee as slowly dying. In response, rapper Ralphiie Reese is blazing a trail by bringing the art of lyricism and storytelling back. His music is hip-hop in a classic east coast sense, complete with old school flavor while incorporating a style that’s tailor made for today’s underground. Top notch flow, fresh beats, honest rhymes — that’s the credo for all Ralphiie Reese songs. With gritty production and bars upon bars, Ralphiie Reese is poised to take his sound out of Philly’s underground into speakers worldwide.
As a Queer artist in the rap world, Ivy Sole takes stylistic risks just by being who they are. Their music contains surrealist descriptions of black life, personal imagery filtered through dream logic, and musical numbers that celebrate the struggle and liberation experienced by those who stay true to their selves and circumvent pain with strength. Forging a unique approach to genre-blending, Ivy Sole’s music is sonically lush, soulful, and smooth, with lyrics that transcend expectations by avoiding conventional narrative structures. Their latest album, Candid, is a blazing, bouncy listen from start to finish, showing that Ivy Sole is one of the best Philly, Pennsylvania rappers out today and showcasing a fresh voice that’s poised to turn heads for years to come.
Verb Tec never goes for the easy play. An immensely talented rapper who hasn’t gotten his rightful shine yet, he’s been building a consistent catalog over the past decade or so with a style that’s heartfelt and reflective, exploring the dynamics of life’s struggles, from the ups, downs, failures and successes. His music exudes a nostalgic yet reflective aura, sharing his candid thoughts with a passionate flow and emotional lyrics that listeners can relate to. His beat choices are typically soulful and solemn as well with soft keys, soulful vocal samples, and punchy drums.