They get ill

Five Philly rap essentials
By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  May 27, 2009

Goodbye nasty: Amanda Blank cleans up her act. By Daniel Brockman.
JOCKO HENDERSON | "RHYTHM TALK" [1979] | Back when a DJ was actually a disc jockey with a listening audience, veteran drive-time mouthbox Douglas "Jocko" Henderson followed up an unsuccessful 1978 bid for Congress by putting his uniquely square rhyming over an instrumental track of McFadden & Whitehead's "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now." The resulting 7:15 of vinyl delight, with steez like "Hello, Daddy-O and Mommy-O, this is Jocko," constitutes the first recording in Philadelphia rap history (following hard on the heels of the generally acknowledged first rap recording of all time, the Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight").

LADY B | "TO THE BEAT Y'ALL" [1980] | Arguably the first female rapper, Wendy Clark a/k/a Lady B was a popular DJ who recorded this crucial slab of wax long before MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Roxanne Shante, and the Real Roxanne would fuck up rap's glass ceiling. Clark often insisted she wasn't much of a rapper, but the brassy sass of this track belies that misplaced bit of humble pie. Perhaps she prefers to be renowned instead for her reputation behind the decks, where her wax spinning was instrumental in boosting the early careers of such then-unknowns as Poor Righteous Teachers, Public Enemy, and . . .

SCHOOLLY D | "P.S.K. (WHAT DOES IT MEAN?)" [1985] | Breaking out of Philly's 5-2 Crew with DJ Code Money, Schoolly D fired one of gangster rap's early salvos with this ode to his friends in the notorious West Philly gang Park Side Killers. Using the cold-blooded tales of ruthlessness and ferocity amid urban decline that swirled around him as his source, D laid the blueprint for future generations of artists who would attempt to mine the desperation of the inner-city experience for rap gold.

DJ JAZZY JEFF + THE FRESH PRINCE | "GIRLS AIN'T NOTHING BUT TROUBLE" [1986] | They may have hailed from the same West Philly streets as Schoolly D, but Jeff and the Prince marched to a different beat, creating a playland of lighthearted boasts and cuddly beats. "Girls Ain't Nothing But Trouble" sampled I Dream of Jeannie while taking the Slick Rick formula of sleazy storytelling and recasting it for a PG crowd. The result? Commercial paydirt and the first rap Grammy ever (for 1989's "Parents Just Don't Understand").

THE ROOTS | "YOU GOT ME" (FEAT. ERYKAH BADU AND EVE) [1999] | Begat in 1989 by a Lord Creator who had heard one too many rap critics cry out, "But they don't play their own instruments!", the Roots eschewed typical hip-hop sampling and production in favor of a live-band dynamic centered on drummer ?uestlove and rapper Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter. Their fourth album proved to be a breakthrough, and that was in part due to the massive success of this Jill Scott–penned drum 'n' bass love ballad.

Related: Beyond Dilla and Dipset, An abridged history of the Roots' collabs, The Big Hurt: We floss econo, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Entertainment, The Roots (Band), Schoolly D,  More more >
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