With the last-night win of the Eagles over the Patriots at the Super Bowl, a few people asked me to write about the game, the Eagles season and where they should go from here. I regret to inform you I’m not really into football more than the big games, so I’m woefully unable to actually write anything about the game.
But I am able to talk about Philadelphia and what they provide to us in what this site’s topic matter is: Wrestling, Battle Rap and Music.
(spoiler alert: they contribute a LOT)
LET’S TALK WRESTLING, FIRST
Most more-than-casual fans of pro wrestling are going to know where I’m going with this off the rip because Philadelphia is the capital for one of the most innovative wrestling promotions of all time: ECW. Extreme Championship Wrestling was the product of Tod Gordon giving Paul Heyman creative control over Eastern Championship Wrestling around 1993. In ’94, it got the Extreme rebrand and for around 7 years, ECW was at the forefront of innovation in American Pro Wrestling.
Teams like Public Enemy (Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge) made their names synonymous with hip-hop culture and allowed for wrestling to have a more urbanized team than just “two guys who like to wrestle”. ECW brought in stars like 2 Cold Scorpio and signed them to deals with Record Labels that let them put hip-hop music in their entrances for $1,000 a week. Not only had it never been done before, but the effects of that are still being seen in teams like NXT’s Street Profits, PG Era Cryme Tyme and hell, even today’s R-Truth are all indirect products of ECW’s progression toward more characters in that lane.
ECW also pushed the envelope of “hardcore” wrestling through innovating matches like Barbed Wire matches, or Flaming Table matches, or even Death Matches. (Two of those matches have names that explain them: the one that isn’t self-explanatory is Death Match.) Making a more R-Rated program was unprecedented by any other company, and now almost entirely owed to ECW is the fact wrestling companies can take things further than just some blood and a couple steel chairs.
The appeal of ECW was that it never relied on this for too long. Sure, ECW events usually meant someone was going to have their head bashed open. Characters like New Jack would sometimes even use ECW as a cover for actual violent behavior and take business into their own hands, because that’s just how people like New Jack were rocking. Sandman actually busts his forehead open during his entrance during One Night Stand 2005 and that seems like it’s there for shock value, but that’s the beauty of ECW. At the same event Sandman drunkenly destroys his face with a beer can, there’s a technical match between the late Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit — one that proves even though ECW was known for reckless, destructive, sloppy shows of pain, it didn’t have to use it as a crutch because behind flaming tables, scaffold matches and 30 foot moonsaults, actual, non-shock wrestling found a foothold that reminded everyone why they loved wrestling in the first place. And the venue for all of that; all of the innovation and all of the progression was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
PHILLY PRACTICALLY INVENTED THE BLUEPRINT FOR THIS BATTLE SHIT
While Philly isn’t once the battle city it once was in the mid-2000s, Philly is to thank for a lot of incredible battlers that have found their place in the modern landscape of battle culture. People like E Ness have withstood the test of time and even bounced back through a drought of content in the early 2010s that would’ve washed most MCs away. In the past couple years, Ness came back against Bill Collector, Rosenberg Raw, Cortez, Ness Lee and even B Magic — all in performances he had a great showing in. It’s awesome to see a Philly product withstand the test of time into the modern era like that, and it’s probably got a lot to do with the fact he’s from Philly in the first place. That’s resilience.
Even lesser-known battlers like Rosenberg Raw have had incredible outings in recent memory that put on for the city really well; such as this Rosenberg Raw vs Reverse Live battle from KOTD’s Bunker.
Even prior to the new-era of Battle rap, things like Tech 9’s performance vs Arsonal goes down as legendary for how aggressive and hungry both of them feel.
Sometimes, you just don’t see that level of competition anymore, but it does surface a lot in these battlers from the City of Brotherly Love and you can always bank on that.
AND THAT LEAVES RAW MUSIC.
In honor of the Eagles taking home the Super Bowl trophy, I’ve listened to (almost) exclusively Philly’s underground freestyles all day. Names like Reed Dollaz, Young Hot, Bricks, NH and even more mainstreamed names like Cassidy and Ar-Ab. For those unfamiliar, the Philly underground blueprint is pretty simple. Usually, it’d be one or two guys standing on a corner/in a music store somewhere flanked by an entire entourage of their homies. One guy with a camera would follow the MCs around, the rappers would spit bars for a couple minutes over some sample loop and during that, the entourage would finish the punchlines with the rappers. It’s not much in words, but when you watch it, it’s so very obvious that this city is legendary for its raw rap scene and there’s zero debate about it.
I don’t even really have other things to say about Underground Philly rap that I didn’t just say above, but that’s okay. I think it speaks for itself, you know?
Like Young Hot from Touch Money. In this diss to Joey Jihad and D Jones: you can just watch the entourage go over the material with him in the back while he vibes with them and feeds off that energy. He snaps for nearly 2 minutes and not a single line feels like filler.
There’s even this short diss from NH (also of Touch Money) directed at a little bit bigger of a target (even though when this diss dropped, his opponent was a little less popular than he is now and was more inclined to fire back some verses of his own) and while it’s short, it’s obvious that at this point in time, they were all clawing at a crown and this was what they were born to do.
HOLD UP, WAIT A MINUTE // Y’ALL THOUGHT I WAS FINISHED?
But only one of them actually got that crown.
There’s no way you can write about Philly without writing about Meek fucking Mill. Meek’s locked up right now, but his influence and touch on the industry is absolutely undeniable. The come-up, the way he presents himself now, the bounce-back from one of the biggest losses anyone could’ve taken in hip-hop — it’s all a testament to the fact Philly needs no better face than Meek Mill at the helm.
Dreams and Nightmares still goes off at every party I’m at. The entire crowd still belts out the entire Nightmares verse. The roof caves in every time. There’s something so satisfying about seeing someone win and be able to just talk their shit about it like he does on Dreams and Nightmares and even in the face of adversity, Meek has always shown resilience and an ability to weather the storm.
But that brings me to the next point: the point that ties this all together. Meek’s locked up right now over a crime he’s been serving time for for nearly a decade, and that rubs me the wrong way. Meek’s caught up in what’s been almost sitcom levels of crazy during this trial, from the Judge (allegedly) asking Meek to cover a Boyz II Men song, the Clerk asking him for money and the (alleged) fact the Judge has been bias toward Meek since the beginning of his trial. This isn’t just relevant because Meek is from Philly; it’s relevant because Meek is from Philly and all of Philly stands behind him in wanting him free again, because of how big he is to that city. Not only as a cultural figure and a city icon, but because prior to being locked up again Meek was a good influence on Philly. Meek donated 60,000 water bottles to Flint during January of ’16. During Thanksgiving, he gave out a thousand turkeys to underprivileged families in Philly as part of a Dreamchaser’s Thanksgiving initiative. Shit, even BEHIND BARS Meek donated $10,000 to Youth Service Inc. a few days ago. Meek’s been trying to get back on this straight and narrow, and it shows, and the fact an entire city/pretty much the entire Hip-Hop game wants him free speaks volumes of just how important he is to Philly. The trial he’s caught up in is definitely something that needs a bigger look at, and here’s hoping Meek is free sooner than later making the best music he can, as well as the biggest impact possible.