Kenny Greene Looks to Revitalize Philly Hip-Hop

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Photos courtesy of Aaron Ricketts

Where Kenny Greene’s story begins depends on who you ask. If you ask Kenny, he’ll tell you his music career began when he started drawing and writing lyrics on the walls of his room. “I saw that I could take it further,” he explains. “I started playing instruments… and I felt a natural reaction to every sound I heard. My big evolution started when I realized I could move people.” The encouragement he received from his friends and family motivated Kenny to reach out to producer Tyler Nicolo in the hopes of collaborating for a project. Tyler and Kenny have been partners ever since.

When I ask Tyler, he sees his and Kenny’s story in context to Philadelphia’s greater musical history, one his own family has contributed to greatly. His father Joe Nicolo began his career working with Jazzy Jeff, Schoolly D and Will Smith before launching Ruffhouse Records with Chris Swartz, a hip-hop label that rose to fame after partnering with producer Jermaine Dupri to release Kriss Kross’s multi-platinum LP, Totally Krossed Out.  Ruffhouse would also go on to release music from Cypress Hill and the critically-acclaimed The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Ruffhouse helped make Philadelphia one of the hottest scenes for hip-hop in the ‘90s. Though Joe ultimately sold the label at the end of the decade, its legacy has given Tyler the drive to reach the same heights with Kenny. “Kenny is more of a nationwide artist, not just a Philly rapper.” Tyler says. “Just as Joe saw that Will [Smith] wasn’t what was necessarily happening or popular in Philly, I see Kenny as more of a nationwide artist. What we’re trying to do is create music that will appeal on a wider level. That’s where a lot of inspiration comes from.”

Kenny has enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh, however, his and Tyler’s focus is no less diminished. After releasing Oldie To My Ex’s as well as drop hints about their next project, Chameleon, I was able to sit down with both of them to discuss their upcoming music, Meek Mill vs. Drake, and more. 

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