The concept of “paying your dues” is repeated by many, but understood by few. Prophets of the Ghetto, a West Philadelphia-based group fully understands the concept. Formed in the early 90s, the group has received little recognition since its outset, despite support from Bahamadia, the legendary female emcee and fellow West Philly native.
Consisting of eight members, the Prophets have released a debut LP, Wreckless Writers (Soul Hole). The four emcees in the group (Meat Matter, Big Bob da Norfstar, D.B.L. and Phat-Nice, a Southside Chicago import) gel flawlessly with beats and scratches from the group’s producers and DJs Benellis, Gamez, DJ Ken-Cut and DJ Dyce. P.O.G.’s unique style is difficult to categorize, but songs such as “Suave Soul,” “Kurrency” and “West Phil,” a tribute to the group’s hometown, bring to mind the style of underground favorites Jurassic 5. Their strong hooks, upbeat tracks, lyrical harmonization and incorporation of multiple emcees is reminiscent of earlier times in hip-hop.
Other joints, like “What’s Tha Matter?” and “Fake Identity” (featuring Mecca Star), show the intellect of the group and discuss social issues, such as the phenomenon of rappers glorifying negativity. “Tha Battle,” “Vocal Lubrication” and “Da Expansion” (produced by Tantrum) are simply examples of their lyrical prowess, while “Muffled Mics” (Ray Supreme) and “Extreme Heat” (featuring the aforementioned Bahamadia) are also standout tracks. P.O.G. even offers some reggae flavor on “Puff n Listen” (featuring Ike Shawn, Jazzciple and Habib) and “I Speak,” and it works surprisingly well. The lyrics on Wreckless Writers are on-point and the beats compliment the emcees well, but the perhaps the group’s best trait is their versatility.
Although Wreckless is P.O.G.’s first release, the members of the group are not rookies. Besides performing at several shows in Philadelphia, they accompanied Bahamadia on her European tour and freestyled on the renowned Wake-Up Show in San Francisco.
Big Bob da Norfstar calls the experience of touring with Bahamadia “a dream come true,” and labels the female emcee a “positive influence.” As far as the group’s steez, Bob says P.O.G. has “a positive vibe,” and wants “to teach the youth.”
While they are not content with the lack of recognition they have received, Bob philosophizes “treading these muddy waters, somewhere near the tunnel, there’s some light.” Although they are currently struggling to receive some shine, with perseverance, P.O.G. will eventually gain success. Meanwhile, Prophets of the Ghetto are in the studio working on their next album, “Backyard Vision,” which has a tentative release date of this summer.
Prophets of the Ghetto will perform at UPenn’s Islam and the Globalization of Hip-Hop. Friday, March 30.The Rotunda.4012 Walnut Street. Speakers from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., music at 8 p.m.