When it comes to Philadelphia-born-and-bred hip hop, Son of The 215 is both an old soul and a new sensation.
For even though he has been rapping for a minute (since age 16), and hooked into veteran crews such as Major Figgas and Freeway’s Freedom Thinkers Academy, Son of The 215 is only now, truly, coming into his own with prestigious awards such as Underground Artist of the Year and new records such as “Veterans Day 2”.
If you want a feel for where this, deep-voiced, clarion clear rapper is coming from, check the lyrics to his track, “Heavy,” where he stakes his claim for traditional hip hop rhymes and flows, over commercial trend, with, “What happen to the art, rappers just mumble then they stumble on the charts”. Interviewing him from his base in Mount Airy, Son of The 215 rhapsodizes about the good, the bad and the beautiful of his home area, the hip hop scene and how he has developed and flourished as a true Son of The 215.
A.D. Amorosi: You’re from Mount Airy. Pieces of a Dream. Germantown. Bilal. What was it like, in hop hop terms coming up through that area? How do you think that has inspired your forward motion as far as hip hop goes?
Son of The 215: It’s the Uptown area. West Oak Lane. Germantown. Mount Airy. Still here. I’m in the county now, a little further up. My earliest memory of being here comes from Patti Labelle. She used to have a house two, three blocks from where I lived. Everybody in the neighborhood used to point at her house in amazement. That was amazing to me. Seeing her house every day, that was motivation. On the block I was born, one of The Stylistics lived next door.
A.D. Amorosi: You grew up among Philly R&B royalty.
Son of The 215: Right? I love all music. Cassidy is also from around here, a battle rapper who made it into the mainstream. He lived two, three minutes from me, and I had a chance to rap for him when I was a kid. He offered me a great opportunity and some good advice. There was a small, solid underground scene here too. Being from Uptown, people think we’re the county. We’re close. But we’re not. There’s a big difference between the two areas. It was beautiful… a beautiful place. Yet every hood as its own stories. The music here is fly-er, more stylish. I had both parents at home, one of a very few families that I knew who did, so that was a blessing.
A.D. Amorosi: And what you’re rapping about follows suit.
Son of The 215: We talk about fly stuff. Nice cars and pretty women. Getting money. Staying close. Reaching, attaining a better life. Still, this is Philadelphia. You turn the wrong corner, and you’re confronted by the beautiful struggle. I love that about Uptown. It gave me wittiness and style. It wasn’t all hard street at its core. I could go into poetry with my rhymes. I could talk about dressing nice, looking good, and women.
A.D. Amorosi: And your flow?
Son of The 215: I think my flow is close to that of Fabolous, Nas or Jay-Z… that godfather flow.
A.D. Amorosi: When and why do you get that feeling, that idea, that you want to express yourself through rap?
Son of The 215: That became a thing early on, at 8 or 9 years old. My grandmother died in 1998, and she had all sorts of musical instruments that she left to me. I wasn’t even doing music by that point, so she knew. That was a sign. Piano, saxophone, guitar… I can play a little piano and guitar. I was nice on the flute. Around the same time, my older sister is a big hip-hop head: KRS-One, Kid N’ Play, Tupac. She used to tape Yo! MTV Raps. I used to sneak into her room and listen to music. They made you know that you could get out through music, that you didn’t have to dribble a ball. I was also a speaker, a writer. I used to write in school and liked giving speeches. It was in me to be able to command a crowd. I even had my seventh-grade talent show hip hop group. I was scared, performing for the eighth grade. But, I did my little rap, got the applause, and that was an “a ha” moment. From then on, anytime someone needed a rapper, I was that kid.
A.D. Amorosi: So, going forward in rap, what separates you from the pack?
Son of The 215: Hard work. There are a million different rappers here, but I’m the guy who puts the work in. I like to work hard. When I go into the studio, I‘ll knock out three songs in an hour. Getting that first taste of hip hop early on helped. Plus, my dad was a singer in the South, before coming to Philly in the great migration. He knew what it meant to work. I come from a musical family, so that’s in my blood. But hip hop… that’s that thing of ours.
A.D. Amorosi: That thing of ours. Just like the mob. What was the first tracks you did that got out there, to the public?
Son of The 215: Oh, wow. So much music. The first track going into the studio I was with this group, The Union. High School. 10th grade. Our manager was one of our teachers. I was the youngest, the little kid. We had a song called, “Playaz Wanna Hate Me Now.” They were all hype because I did my verse in one take. That’s because I practice. A lot of MCs don’t like to practice or write. I do. My first project that I put out, on my own, was “Th’ Investment”. Very underground. No platforms. Only true Son of The 215 fans know that one. The first thing that came out out, on all platforms, was “Son of The 215 Pt. 1”. I put that out when my son was born, so I know that date: 2007.
A.D. Amorosi: If you’re going back so far, how many tracks do you think you have out there in the world? I stopped counting.
Son of The 215: Woooooo. I would have to say, rounded up, 500 songs. 2 full albums. 5 mixtapes. More.
A.D. Amorosi: Once you step to the mic, are you one-and-done, or do you like playing with the mix?
Son of The 215: I hit and quit. One take. It also depends on the vibe. If I’m in there with a producer, he puts a beat on, and we start drawing from scratch, anything can happen. Or maybe I get a beat sent to me, and I write to it. I work good under pressure too. I did a song, “New Philly” not long ago, from scratch. Song of the year that was, from the New Jersey Indie Music Festival. I can go both ways.
A.D. Amorosi: Are you hooked into RocNation now?
Son of The 215: I have a distribution deal with a company called EQ Distro. I don’t like to wave the RocNation flag too much, but that is Jay-Z’s distribution company, also named Equity, Roc Nation’s indie distribution company. Also, my big bro Freeway has his Freedom Thinkers Academy Label disturbed through RocNation, so I got a lot of RocNation ties. Free’s down with Adam Sandler right now doing that Hustle film. He and Beanie (Sigel). I was supposed to be down there too in South Philly, but I’m tied up up North. They deserve their shot in the film. They deserve their flowers. Especially Freeway. He’s been holding us down for years.
A.D. Amorosi: Freeway is special. He gave you the co-sign.
Son of The 215: Me hooking up with Free, the legend, the G.O.A.T., and me being a young G.O.A.T., a son of The 215, it made perfect sense for him to be the one to give me the stamp. To say that I’m one of the next guys to come of the city.
A.D. Amorosi: So, young G.O.A.T., what is all that you have coming next? I know “Veterans Day 2” is out there, and strong.
Son of The 215: I was born on Veterans Day, November, 11. 11, 11. Lot of signs in my life. I just put out a mixtape dedicated to Freeway and his first album “Philadelphia Freeway”, called “The FREEstyles”. I do some covers and drop some original beats, all in tribute to my O.G., just to say thanks. For opening the doors and being a mentor and a big brother. I wanted to pay homage to the mixtape era, too. A lot of cats don’t do that. That’s also on Free’s label, all major platforms as well as my imprint 215 LLC. I got, “New Philly pt.2” with Suzanne Christine, and she’s worked with Patti Labelle and Gamble and Huff. Me and Free are back in the lab, plus I’m working on my next full-length album, “Success or Nothing”. I’m just working. Building up my fan base. Doing it all for Philly. The 215.
A.D. Amorosi: And the motto? Your motto?
Son of The 215: For the city by the city. Success or Nothing. That’s my name: S O N.