Remember when “Roc the Mic” first dropped? “And I got what it takes to roc the mic right” was chanted by everyone in the club? To this day, play that song in Philadelphia and you got yourself a party. The City of Brotherly Love seemed to have their roster stacked with MC’s, and became a music haven. Remnants still reign on true until this day. With the success of Meek Mill and Jay-Z bringing his “Made in America Festival,” the spotlight has come back to the city.
North Philadelphia artist Grande Marshall (the newest member of Fool’s Gold) and South Philadelphia producer D-Trackz are trying to break down the barriers that surround this city’s hip-hop culture, and come to the main stage.
“I feel like we are truly the last American city,” Xavier Marshall-Booker, better known as rapper Grande Marshall, replied proudly when asked the difference between Philadelphia and its neighboring cities New York and Washington DC.
“Philly, this is all us. This is all us doing this sh** in here,” Grande said.
He has been compared to everyone from A$AP Rocky to Kanye West and this is what frustrates him the most, as Philadelphia is not really the city that people yearn to come to, and with streets lined with cobble stones, instead of gold. Like many new artists, he feels put into a box if he produces any music resembling anything that has been done by more established figures. His career becomes an uphill battle to stand on his own.
“I may talk about the same sh**, but that is life,” he says.
Grande, as friends would call him, first was drawn to music as he saw how it made people feel. His mother would often be enchanting their kitchen in the mornings with her voice, and then at night, his father would get the party started with his DJ gigs. His father would fill the house with all of the current hip-hop hits at that time, while his brothers stuck to the Philly artists. His mother, on the other hand, held to the classics. Slick Rick was her artist of choice most of the times; to this day “Children’s Story” is one of his favorites. He was drawn to a different sound though, and after hearing Nas’ “One Mic”, he began to start writing his own verses.
“But, I don’t sound like anyone else,” said Grande Marshall.
When asked to describe his sound, in so few words, he said, “It’s f***ing me.” He says it’s his sound that separates himself from other Philadelphia artists. Being a rapper from Philly, one often configures the image of a gangster. As he puts it, that’s what Philly is known for; crime and hustlers. But, even though we have all of these hustlers coming from the same area in Philadelphia, he feels as though this is a good thing. One gets Philly from every angle.
When going into making his latest mixtape, 800, he wanted to tell his story. Tell the world what’s going on in Philly through this young man’s eyes, as he is trying to hustle his way out of it.
When looking forward, he wants to see more people enter the main stage from Philadelphia, somewhat similar to Chicago artist Chief Keef. If he could lead the path to more artists coming to the mainstream stage, it would be destiny he feels. His name alone, Grande Marshall, modified from Grand Marshal, is the leader of a parade. Simply put, he is leading a movement of a large group of people.
Grande stated, “I don’t know what it is yet. I am leading in something.”
“I got sh**,” responded D-Trackz after being asked why artists should come to him.
Interesting words coming from a man who says he is humble. Only later, did he admit… sometimes. Demetrius Howard Johnson grew up in South Philly, the “trap” as he describes it. After hearing a 9th wonder instrumental, “December 4,” it drew him to become a producer. Even though when he was growing up Philly natives, State Property, dictated his playlists, he is mostly inspired by the dirty south “trap” music. The creative process begins after taking in some images off of 40ozVanNYC.tumblr.com, depending on his mood, and he will go to work on a beat.
In his opinion, “I think Philly makes the worst trap music in the U.S. fareal,” about music producers in Philadelphia.
Though, he feels that the City of Brotherly Love does have the best spitters; a rapper with a good punch line to do you in, the city is lagging far behind in the arena of producing new styles. As a Philadelphian, he feels like the city’s sound will always be that of Meek mills, pioneered by Freeway and Beanie Sigel; forever an ode to the hustlers. He may not craft the traditional Philly sound, pulled more to the slowed-out, heavy bass of the south, he is still a hustler. When self-described in three words he says, “humble, dedicated and go-getter.” Bringing in the new Philadelphia, for the world to see.