Philadelphia has long been a hotbed of overlooked creativity and inventiveness, and not just in the musical realm. In today’s digital age, the main Internet hubs are San Francisco and New York City, but Philly is quietly making important contributions.
Originally printed in URB magazine
Written by Pete Babb
“I think of Philly as the child who got picked on in school and then turned out to be a supermodel,” says Angela Nissen, co-creator and webmaster of Okayplayer.com, the online home of The Roots, Common, Dilated Peoples, among others. “There’s always been so much talent here, but we’ve lived in the shadow of New York, and that makes people here tray a little harder.” Indeed, while gaudier hip-hop sites have come and gone, sites coming from Philly have not only set standards, but have also enjoyed longevity. Okayplayer is one of the most popular hip-hop destinations on the Web, providing visitors with the lowdown on recent events and fun arcana about the musicians (and each other).
Hieroglyphics.com, helmed by Philly’s Stinke, is a prototype for forming an online community around a group. Hieroglyphics.com was originally a fan site, but Hiero partnered with it when Souls of Mischief’s Tajai stumbled across it one day. The union kept Hiero afloat and in the public eye when they were dropped from major labels and regrouped to form their Hieroglyphics Imperium indie. “We had contests and chats, things like that, early on,” muses Stinke. “We did stuff differently and had a lot of sites looking to us for direction, so we drew attention that way. Hiero was preparing 3rd Eye Vision, and they used the site to keep in touch with their fan base during that lull.” The site succeeded by creating a true sense of community among fans, a trait that still runs strong today.
Mike Jung, webmaster of Mountainbrothers.com, also found success using the community-based model. “Back in ’95, it was hard to get your name out if you weren’t on a label,” he points out, “but the Internet was a cost-effective way of reaching a lot of people.” To generate buzz, Jung used e-mail lists and other online promos to draw people to the Mountain Brothers’ self-released debut. Jung plans to again leverage the site with the Brothers’ forthcoming sophomore album.
Looking toward the expansive future of online hip-hop, Philly may not always get its due props, but it’s online reps are writing e-history regardless. — Pete Babb
Reproduced on Hieroglyphics.org for educational purposes.