Music Videos Tour Philly’s Famous Sites

A history/rap lesson.

Many local rappers have lately been paying homage to the city’s iconic locales. Here are a few of my favorites.

ARTIST: Reef the Lost Cauze SONG: “Philly Cousins” VENUES: Broad Street Line, FDR Park

We start with my favorite rapper in Philadelphia, Reef the Lost Cauze. Charisma, talent, intelligence, sense of humor, this guy has got it all except a large ego. Super nice dude. If you want to feel good about supporting a local artist, then by all means, follow Reef.

His video for “Philly Cousins” starts with him coming up out of the Broad Street subway. The line opened on September 1, 1928, running only between City Hall and Olney. The Lombard-South Station opened in 1932, and service was extended to Snyder in 1938. The line was extended north to Fern Rock in 1956 and south to the new stadiums in 1973.

At the 1:35 mark of the video, Reef’s at the skatepark at FDR Park. FDR Park was created in the early 1900s by the Olmstead Brothers. The brothers who designed the park, John and Frederick, were the sons of Frederick Olmstead, who had designed the grounds of the Biltmore Estate and co-designed Central Park in NYC. The park was designed in 1914, and hosted the American Sesquicentennial Exhibition in 1926. The gazebo, the boathouse, and the American Swedish Museum all still stand. As far as the skatepark itself, it was built in 1994 as the city tried to steer skaters away from Love Park. The park was a pretty pathetic effort at first, but then local skaters started to build their own additions, and by 2002, Transworld Skateboarding called it an “East Coast Skate Mecca.”

ARTISTS: We Major Gang SONG: “In the Mix” VENUE: Love Park

A couple of young guys coming out of South Philly with an Old School sound, We Major Gang consists of Rodney C. and Twain, who went to South Philly High together. They name-check plenty of Philly  in this song. (My favorite line: “Place where they made Rocky at, corner store where Papi at, I need a cheesesteak, salt and pepper, where the fries be at?”) They’re video for “In the Mix” is shot primarily in Love Park. Skip to the 1:00 mark to get to the actual song, and by 1:10, you’ll see the iconic LOVE sign, and you’ll see it throughout the video.

Love Park was designed by City Planner Ed Bacon and architect Vincent G. Kling, and built in 1965. It’s actual name isn’t Love Park, but JFK Plaza. The LOVE sign was first placed in the park in 1976, for the bicentennial celebration. Before it became a sculpture, LOVE was a Christmas card that sculptor Robert Indiana produced for the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1964.

Love Park was also a skate mecca, until Mayor Street forced the skateboarders out immediately after the 2002 X-Games were held in Philly. That led to one of my favorite moments in Philly history. The original creator of Love Park, Ed Bacon, was so outraged by the skateboarding ban that at age 92 he put on a helmet and skated in the park in an effort to get arrested. It didn’t pay off. He didn’t get arrested and the ban stood, but in my mind it stands as one of the most wonderful protests in Philly history.

ARTIST: Neef Buck SONG: “Louder” VENUE: Memorial Hall

Neef Buck skyrocketed to stardom in 2003 as part of the duo Young Gunz with the song “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop.” The duo recorded two albums and then began working on solo projects. Neef Buck released the song “Louder” as part of his recent Mixtape #FDM4 Loyalty Before Royalty.

While it is slightly amusing that a rapper as hard as Neef would do a rap video in front of a place called the Please Touch Children’s Museum, you can hardly blame him. Memorial Hall is a spectacular building, and a terrific backdrop for the video. Construction on Memorial Hall began in 1874, and the building was completed in time for the World’s Fair in 1876. Its grand opening featured a speech from then-President Ulysses S. Grant. After housing art at the Fair, Memorial Hall served a variety of purposes, from being the first home of the Museum of Art to a gymnasium to a police station. Finally, in 2008, it became the new home of the Please Touch Children’s Museum. And Neef isn’t the only local rapper to use it as a backdrop. Freeway also used it, though not as extensively, in this Philly-heavy video for his song “Escalators.”

ARTIST: Gilbere Forte. SONG: “Born in ’87” VENUE: City Hall

Originally from Flint, Michigan, Forte moved here to attend high school and later attended Temple. He’s released a couple of mix tapes and has done verses on a song with Kanye and a song with Pusha T of the Clipse. Here’s the video for his song “Born in ’87.”

Forte is all over the Philly map in this video, from Ishkabibble’s to the Clothespin to the Ben Franklin Bridge. But the centerpiece is undoubtedly City Hall. City Hall was designed by architect John McArthur Jr., who moved to Philly from his native Scotland when he was 10 years old. McArthur, who also designed the Tenth Presbyterian Church at 17th and Spruce, didn’t live to see the his designs completed. He died in 1890, and City Hall wasn’t finished until 1901. Upon its completion, it was the third-tallest building in the world, and the tallest habitable building (only the Washington Monument and the Eiffel Tower were taller). The famous statue of William Penn on top of the tower was created by Alexander Milne Calder, who rather remarkably also came to Philly from Scotland. In addition to the William Penn statue, he created more than 250 pieces in marble and bronze for City Hall as well. A Philly artist honoring his city, a tradition that, as we’ve seen in the above videos, lives on today.