When people think of rap, they often overlook the City of Brotherly Love as a source of talent. But Philadelphia has a rich hip-hop history.
If you've ever wondered who the best Philadelphia rappers are, here's a comprehensive list of the city's talent.
1. Meek Mill
First on the list is Meek Mill, a Philly native who started with battle rap. Once he began producing mixtapes, he seemed destined to become one of the best Pennsylvania rappers ever.
His career quickly developed, being offered multiple record deals. Soon, he had numerous singles, including “Going Bad,” reach the top spots on the charts.
Aside from his music, Meek Mill is famous for his work in criminal justice reform. He has a short docu-series based around his legal issues, which also gained the support of fellow musician Jay-Z.
2. Will Smith
Modern fans of Will Smith will think of the movie star, but Smith had a vibrant career as a rapper in the late 90s and early 2000s. Will Smith is one of the most famous and best Philadelphia rappers.
If you're unfamiliar with his work, we recommend brushing up on some of Will Smith's hits.
Will Smith was part of a duo with fellow Philly artist DJ Jazzy Jeff. His solo albums contained some of his most well-known releases that reached number-one spots on the US charts, including “Gettin' Jiggy wit It.”
3. Black Thought
The next rapper is Black Thought, born Tariq Luqmaan Trotter in Philadelphia. He co-founded the musical group The Roots with fellow Philly musician Questlove.
While performing with The Roots, it was common to see Black Thought appear on Jimmy Fallon's night show.
His work is often well-known for its unique lyrics and command of beat. Some of the American rapper's top songs include “You Got Me” and “The Seed.”
4. Lil Uzi Vert
One of the best modern rappers from Pennsylvania is Lil Uzi Vert. The young artist started to become famous in 2016, securing a double platinum single in 2017.
Lil Uzi Vert's rap is a mixture of styles, including emo and trap music elements. Some of the most popular hits for Lil Uzi Vert include “Just Wanna Rock,” “XO Tour Llif3,” and “The Way Life Goes.”
Their biggest musical inspirations aren't rappers but alternative musicians like Marilyn Manson and Paramore. Today, Lil Uzi Vert has won a few awards and is likely to continue to achieve nominations for his rap.
5. Beanie Sigel
Next on our list of the best Philadelphia rappers is the South Philly native Beanie Sigel. Beanie Sigel first became famous in the early 2000s with his work with Jay-Z.
Despite coming from the City of Brotherly Love, Beanie Sigel has had a few public disputes and diss tracks with fellow Philadelphia artist Meek Mill. He's also had involvement in other public controversies and legal battles.
Still, he holds his rights as an influential figure in rap.
6. Lil Dicky
Lil Dicky is another actor and rapper combo from Philadelphia. His music quickly goes viral, and he often incorporates comedy into his rap.
One of his most famous music videos was for the song “Earth,” where countless celebrities made cameos. The video attempted to raise awareness for climate change and raise money for environmental charities.
Lately, Lil Dicky spends his time working on a TV show based on his life. Despite his acting success, he still enjoys making time for music.
Fans of the 90s and early 2000s rap might be familiar with Eve. Her work broke into the top ranks of charts, and multiple singles reached platinum status.
Eve was born and raised in Philly, living in Germantown and graduating from the local Martin Luther King High School. Some of her top hits include “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” and “Who's That Girl.”
Aside from her solo work, she's often collaborated with other famous artists, including Black Thought and Questlove in The Roots.
8. Army of the Pharaohs
Army of the Pharaohs is a hip-hop collective with rotating members throughout the years.
Many of the best rappers from Philadelphia started as part of the Army of the Pharaohs. Vinnie Paz, Bahamadia, Reef the Lost Cauze, and Doap Nixon are just a few famous names that have served in the Army of the Pharaohs at one point.
Vinnie Paz founded the original group in the early 90s when the Army of the Pharaohs was at its peak.
Next is the rapper Freeway, another artist who started by building his reputation freestyling in Philadelphia. Freeway is from North Philly, but he left the city to begin working with Jay-Z.
In his personal life, Freeway has had to deal with kidney health issues. These problems have left him sensitive to the cause, and he often works to represent people with kidney diseases. The hits he is most known for include “What We Do,” Flipside,” and “Free.”
Cassidy is one of the best Pennsylvania rappers for freestyle and rap battles. He gained fame through these niches, releasing diss tracks back and forth with Meek Mill and battling Freeway.
These interactions aren't hostile or personal. Instead, Cassidy focuses on the true spirit of classic hip-hop battles.
Kurupt is a significant name in rap, as he was a foundational figure in gangsta rap. Originally part of the duo Tha Dogg Pound, Kurupt has built his reputation since the early 90s.
He has had a long career as a single artist and part of groups, often representing East Coast rappers. Modern artists like Kendrick Lamar and Eminem have stated that Kurupt significantly impacted their music.
Songs that cemented his place as one of the most influential rappers include “Who Ride Wit Us,” “We Can Freak It,” and “C Walk.”
12. Lisa Lopes
Lisa Lopes was a famous figure of the 90s, known by her stage name Left Eye. She was one of the backbone members of the R&B group TLC.
TLC credits Lisa Lopes with plenty of songwriting, and she won multiple Grammys for her diligent work for the group. Lisa Lopes contributed her vision to their choreography, outfits, albums, and music videos.
Unfortunately, Lisa Lopes passed away in 2002 from a car accident.
13. DJ Jazzy Jeff
Now one of the most influential musicians from the area, DJ Jazzy Jeff is a producer and DJ with a long history in rap. He started with Will Smith and had a few cameos on Smith's The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
If you enjoy transformer scratch and other modern DJ techniques, you can thank DJ Jazzy Jeff's innovation.
14. Schoolly D
Classic rap fans will appreciate one of Philadelphia's best rappers, Schoolly D. Schoolly D started his career in the mid-1980s and often wrote rap songs featured in films.
He embraced an Afrocentric style and brought complex themes to rap during a period when it was still uncommon. Ice-T credits Schoolly D as a prominent influence for his courage to explore gangsta rap.
Fans of the TV show Aqua Teen Hunger Force may also be familiar with Schoolly D's voice work, as he provides both the theme and periodic narration.
15. Lil Skies
This young artist was born in 1998 but has managed to have multiple songs break into the top spots of the charts, and his mixtape has gone platinum. Top hits of his include the following:
- “Red Roses”
Lil Skies chose his rapper name as a play off his father, Dark Skies, who sparked his initial music interest.
16. Tierra Whack
Tierra Whack is a famous Philly rapper who started performing as Dizzle Dizz. She grew up in North Philadelphia and was a student at the prestigious Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush with a vocal major.
Tierra Whack's love of rhyming led her to rap, and her debut album Whack World grabbed Grammy nominations. Still a relatively new artist on the scene, she's sure to have a long career in hip-hop.
Bahamadia is one of the original female rappers and one of the best Philadelphia rappers from the 90s. She's spent significant time as a member of various groups and as a single artist.
Her career began as a house DJ in Philadelphia before the artist Guru noticed her skill on her EP. She's known for the songs “Uknowhowwedu,” “True Honey Buns,” and “Spontaneity.”
18. Young Chris
Young Chris became famous as part of the duo Young Gunz, which he formed with his childhood friend Neef Buck. Both rappers are proud Philadelphia natives.
Their most famous work was “Can't Stop, Won't Stop,” which got them a Grammy nomination. Since then, Young Chris has spent time freestyling and releasing solo projects.
AR-Ab is another rapper who grew up in North Philadelphia. He's spent some time in groups and done collaborations with artists like Freeway. But his most recent works have been solo releases.
His rap career has had many controversial hurdles as AR-Ab often deals with legal troubles relating to drugs and some violent crimes.
20. Cool C
A principal name in the 80s and 90s rap, Cool C quickly rose to fame with his debut albums, I Gotta Habit and Life in the Ghetto, which broke into the charts. He was becoming well-known among major rap groups.
Cool C's career abruptly ended after becoming a prisoner on death row. He's currently serving a sentence for killing a Philadelphia police officer during a bank robbery.
21. Steady B
Steady B is another rapper from the late 80s, and he has connections to Cool C. Both were performers in Philadelphia's rap group, the Hilltop Hustlers crew. Steady B was the leader of this group.
Both rappers are involved in the same scandal, and Steady B is also carrying out a life sentence for contributing to the murder of a Philadelphia police officer during a bank robbery.
22. Vinnie Paz
Vinnie Paz is one of the best Philadelphia rappers and has already made it on this list as a foundational member of other groups. Vinnie Paz is the leader of both Jedi Mind Tricks and the Army of the Pharaoh rap groups.
It took him 18 years of rapping until he started releasing solo work. His music regularly breaks charts, no matter how he's performing.
Though Vinnie Paz is a Philadelphia artist, he was born in Sicily, Italy. His family immigrated to Philly when he was a young kid, so he has citizenship in Italy and America.
23. Lady B
Lady B might be one of the most famous and best rappers from Pennsylvania. She is one of the original female rappers, and her DJ work also helped propel the career of Will Smith.
Perhaps one of her most famous songs is her first single, “To the Beat, Y'all,” a phrase that has become iconic in hip-hop culture.
She is an award-winning musician, often for her vast impact on the popularity of rap.
24. The Ambassador
The Ambassador is unlike many other rappers, as he performs in the niche of Christian hip-hop. The Ambassador is part of the rap group The Cross Movement.
When he isn't rapping, The Ambassador is an assistant professor of preaching and Bible studies at The College at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also holds a Master's degree in Theology.
25. Reef the Lost Cauze
Reef the Lost Cauze has been a big name in rap since the late 90s. He's had a prominent personal career and worked in many rap groups, including JuJu Mob and Army of the Pharaohs.
Reef the Lost Cauze grew up in Philly and started his career in rap battling and MCing. He went to the Philadelphia University of the Arts to hone his songwriting and musical skills.
Aside from his music, he also makes frequent appearances at freestyle competitions, placing high when he competes.
26. Jay Bezel
Jay Bezel is a rapper with hard work and dedication who started his career by distributing CDs and mixtapes on Philadelphia's streets. He's spent time trying to collaborate with both big names like Lil Wayne and other minor Philly rappers.
He does produce music and often still produces his tracks. Today Jay Bezel works both as a signed and independent artist.
Another Christian rapper from The Cross Movement, Phanatik, is one of the best Philadelphia rappers in the genre. His work with The Cross Movement has gained Grammy nominations.
Outside of rap, Phanatik is also a prominent author and professor. He also teaches in Philadelphia public schools.
Despite his reputation as a Christian rapper, Phanatik has recently denounced Christianity.
28. PnB Rock
PnB Rock was one of the best Philadelphia rappers new to the scene. He released his first album, RNB3, in 2014 but started to gain national recognition for his work in 2016.
He grew up in Northeast Philadelphia after being born in Germantown. His name relates to street names close to where he grew up.
Tragically, in 2022 PnB Rock was murdered during a robbery.
29. Dice Raw
Next up is Dice Raw, another 90s rapper from Philly. He's had a long career as a solo artist and as a part of groups like The Roots.
Dice Raw's career started when he was young when a rap group spotted his talent in high school. He's spent some time working with fellow Philadelphia artists like Black Thought.
Nowadays, Dice Raw has refocused his passion on theater. He writes musicals and works on fostering new Philadelphia talents.
Planetary is a Philadelphia rapper that mainly performs in groups. He is most prominently a figure of the rap duo OuterSpace, but he's also worked with the Army of the Pharaohs.
Growing up in Philly, Planetary met friends in high school to form OuterSpace. The group has collaborated with Jedi Mind Tricks and had multiple successful solo projects.
OuterSpace continues to produce Planetary's most recent works, and he's a central player in the underground hip-hop scene.
31. Doap Nixon
Doap Nixon is such a significant figure in Philly's rap scene that it felt worth finishing on him.
Doap Nixon is a part of multiple supergroups, including the Army of the Pharaohs. He went in and out of the group but often made headlines when he joined back.
Aside from his work in groups, Doap Nixon's solo career has also had successes. Some of his top hits include “Bloody Tears,” “Gun Ballad,” and “Battle Cry.”
Top Philadelphia Rappers, Final Thoughts
Philadelphia is a vibrant city with plenty of history and culture. This list of the best Philadelphia rappers proves that the city is also a source of talent.
Great names of rap have come from Philly. We can thank the city for the likes of Will Smith, Lady B, and Meek Mill.
If you're wondering how other nearby rappers compare, consider checking out our list of the best East Coast rappers.