May 09, 2023
Whose name is most synonymous with Philadelphia rap? That's the question posed in a recent episode of "Hip-Hop DNA," an Apple Music podcast and collection of digital mixtapes that chronicles the history of hip-hop for its 50th anniversary.
In the first five episodes, which premiered on Monday, host Ebro Darden focuses on hip-hop's origins on the East Coast and the genre's earliest connections to emo and punk rock musicians. While most of the episodes center on New York City, Darden examines the legacy of Philly's rap scene in the third episode, using Lil Uzi Vert as his primary example.
Born as Symere Bysil Woods in 1995, Lil Uzi Vert grew up in the city's Francisville neighborhood and was heavily influenced by skate culture and fashion at a young age. The rapper — known for their ever-evolving hairstyles, face tattoos and piercings — is described by Darden as one of modern music's most beloved rockstars.
Like many of their peers in the mid-2010s, Lil Uzi Vert initially released music on SoundCloud, gaining mainstream success as XXL's 2016 Freshman Class before releasing their first hit single, "XO Tour Llif3" as part of a four-track SoundCloud playlist in early 2017. The song peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 shortly after its commercial release and helped catapult the rapper to fame.
"The emcee was one of SoundCloud's earliest success stories, serving up emo-influenced sing-raps over trap and electro-tinged beats," Darden said. He referenced some of Lil Uzi Vert's most popular songs, like "Do What I Want," "You Was Right," "Futsal Shuffle 2020" and "Ps & Qs" as examples of the rapper's unique style.
50 years of shifting culture. 50 years of spine-chilling bars. 50 years of hip-hop!— Apple Music (@AppleMusic) May 8, 2023
We're celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop with #HipHopDNA, a new audio series that's diving into the people and places that've defined the genre. Check it out: https://t.co/mFIRmzjXP2 pic.twitter.com/UC10FhNnNA
Darden examines the distinct sound of other Philly rappers through hits like Meek Mill's "Dreams and Nightmares," DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's "Summertime," The Roots' "Don't Say Nuthin," Eve and Ruff Ryders' "What Ya Want" and Beanie Sigel's "Roc the Mic," noting that none of the emcees sound anything like one another — and that Lil Uzi Vert sounds nothing like any of them.
The rapper did earn a comparison to one Philly musician, Schoolly D, whose pioneering gangster rap single "P.S.K. What Does It Mean?" helped catapult him to national acclaim in 1985 and influenced other artists like Ice T and Danny Diablo.
The podcast episode is titled "Just Wanna Rock," a reference to Lil Uzi Vert's Jersey club-inspired single. It has been called Philly's next big sports anthem after Lil Uzi Vert led the Philadelphia Eagles onto Lincoln Financial Field for an NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers during last season's playoff run.
Other "Hip-Hop DNA" episodes feature explorations of New York rappers like Jay-Z, Nas, Cardi B, Nicki Minaj and the Notorious B.I.G. The series also dives into the back-to-school party hosted by DJ Kool Herc in the Bronx in 1973 that is considered to be the origin of hip-hop.
In the next installment of the podcast, which premieres on Monday, Darden will focus on West Coast rappers like Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar and Tyler The Creator. The series will also include episodes about rappers from the South and the Midwest, and compare the sounds, musical techniques and influence on the genre's most popular artists.