Don’t let the green grass fool you, Zilla Rocca is as regional a rapper as you could find. Occasionally, he slips into the Shadowboxer noir-hop executive trench coat, but on the new Party with Villains EP, he pulls from the bullets and bourbon sagas of South Philly crime reporter George Anastasia, the legacy of Allen Iverson, and the corruption still simmering in mob-run municipal districts. Philly isn’t just Freeway, Beans, and Meek Mill, there are stories behind every fire, decaying brick facade, and crooked cash transaction.
Few rappers are writing this well right now. The language comes from James Ellroy and Raymond Chandler, the scenery from the long-simmering block wars, the style continuing to evolve. Taut, shadowy and moody as a morning-after without coffee. If you dismissed our coverage of Zilla, Has-Lo, Castro and Small Pro as some nepotistic impulse, you’re mistaken. The ideal is that artists carve out their own lane. This one is all theirs, bonfires on the shadowy fringes, iron and liquor slugs, tilted brims and muttering tough talk. Hard boiled fiction with high living villains. The phrasing to make you re-consider.