Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.

March 18-24, 2004

cover story

Original Gangsta

How Schoolly D changed the rap world.

In 1985, Philadelphia native and soon-to-be legend in hip-hop Schoolly D recorded a song with his DJ, Code Money, that not only pushed him from the shadows and into the limelight, but also single-handedly kick-started a whole genre of rap.

"PSK What Does It Mean?" was an ode to some of Schoolly's neighborhood friends, an infamous crew known as the Parkside Killers, and became the spark that ignited the genre of hardcore "gangsta rap" that was later popularized by West Coast acts such as NWA and Ice-T. The song's streetwise lyrics and ominous booming bass were something out of another world, and it almost never came to be.

"I was getting ready to quit, and a couple of cats inspired me," says Schoolly. "I ran into one of them on the El, and he was like, "Give it one more shot, give it one more song, and if you don't feel right about it, just quit.'"

Further inspiration came from the neighborhood.

"A couple of guys I know, Abdullah, Disco Man and my man Manny, were like, "Why don't you write a song about us, why don't you write a song about Parkside Killers?' It was one of the easiest songs I'd ever written. I wrote it sitting at my mom's dining-room table, smoking some weed at 3 o'clock in the morning."

Armed with his newfound inspiration and a large amount of weed, Schoolly hit the studio. Out of necessity he was forced into recording in a studio designed for classical music.

"They had these big plate reverbs, that's why you got the "PSK' sound because nobody used the real shit. We did everything live, and if you listen you can hear my fingers programming the drum machine. We just kept getting higher and higher and higher, and smoking and smoking and all of a sudden the song just took on this whole other life because we were just so fucked up. It just made this sucking sound like "boosh, boosh' and we just looked at each other and were like, "Yeah, do more of that shit.'"

The "boosh" sound is what really made "PSK" stand out as something that, until that time, had never been done. The tweaked-out reverb bass caused a sensation.

"I got home and I put the tape in the tape recorder and I was like, "What the fuck did I do?' Nobody had ever done something like that before, with all the reverb, nobody. And I was like, "I gotta go back and take some of that reverb out because this shit just sounds kinda crazy.' But I didn't know that everyone else was making tapes and passing out copies to everyone in Parkside, so by the time that I wanted to go back to the studio it was already out everywhere, and motherfuckers was going crazy, they was like, "That's the baddest shit we ever heard in our whole fucking life.'"

At the time he had no idea that what he was doing was going to be so pioneering, and the fact that it came about by accident should not take away from its greatness.

"Some of the good shit comes by accident. You have gotta allow some time for accidents. I went from selling 500 copies to 5,000 copies to 30,000 copies, and from 30,000 copies to 100,000 copies in New York in about two months alone. I was all over the world. Then the Spin article came out. It was always going to be hardcore music, but without "PSK" it was never going to be gangsta rap."

PSK What Does It Mean?

Schoolly D Chorus:

PSK, we're makin' that green

People always say, "What the hell does that mean?'

P for the people who can't understand

How one homeboy became a man

S for the way we scream and shout

One by one, I'm knockin you out

K for the way my DJ kuttin'

Other MCs, man, they ain't sayin' nothin'

Rockin' on to the brink of dawn

I think, Code Money, yo time is on

Drivin' in my car down the avenue

Towin' on a J, sippin' on some brew

Turn around, see the fly young lady

Pull to the curb and park my Mercedes

Sayin', "Fly lady, now you're lookin' real nice

Sweeter than honey, sugar and spice'

Told her my name was MC Schoolly D

All about makin' that cash money

She said, "Schoolly D, I know your game

Heard about you in the hall of fame'

I said, "Mama, mama, I tell you no lies

'Cause all I wanna do is to get you high

And eh -- lay you down and do the body rock

To the wall, to the corner,' got into the car

Took a little trip to a fancy bar

Copped some brew, some J, some coke

Tell you now, brother, this ain't no joke

She got me to the crib, she laid me on the bed

I fucked her from my toes to the top of my head

I finally realized the girl was a whore

Gave her 10 dollars, she asked me for some more


Clinton Road one Saturday night

Towin' on a cheeba, I was feelin' all right

Then my homie-homie called me on the phone

His name is Chief Keith, but we call him Bone

Told me 'bout this party on the south side

Copped my pistols, jumped into the ride

Got at the bar, copped some flak

Copped some cheeba-cheeba, it wasn't wack

Got to the place, and who did I see?

A sucker-ass nigga tryin' to sound like me

Put my pistol up against his head

I said, "Sucker-ass nigga, I should shoot you dead'

A thought ran across my educated mind

Said, "Man, Schoolly D ain't doin' no time'

Grabbed the microphone and I started to talk

Sucker-ass nigga, man, he started to walk


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