Getting Philadelphia rappers Beanie Sigel, Freeway, Peedi Peedi, Omillio Sparks, Young Chris, and Neef Buck together for a reunion of the 2002-05-era hit-making supergroup State Property was easy. “We’re in each other’s business, or on the phone with each other every day,” said Sigel.
“This isn’t a reunion. We’re family. That never changes,” says Freeway.
The group’s tour brings them to the Fillmore on Sunday, Dec. 23. It’s their first show in Philadelphia since 2005, and the area has had only a one-off gig — in 2011 in Atlantic City — after that.
You have to go backward, to the history of State Property, before you race ahead. That starts with South Philly’s Sigel signing with Roc-A-Fella Records in 1999, a label then connected to Def Jam and founded by Jay-Z, Damon “Dame” Dash, and Kareem “Biggs” Burke in 1995. “Jay-Z took a real liking to us, to Philly,” says West Philly’s Neef Buck, who along with Young Chris formed Young Gunz.
“I was the first one signed there … but other locals were coming up, like Young Chris and Neef, who were like 15, 16 years old,” says Sigel, the streetwise, observational MC whose debut album, The Truth, dropped in 2000. “Omillio came up next, and Roc-A-Fella was wheeling, dealing. Then I called Free and asked him to come with me. We had so many guys, friends, who were recording tracks and had individual deals there. We were smart enough to put it together. We’re stronger together. Always.”
After Sigel mentions how all members had to be in the studio for a State Property track (“no one staggering in separate or late”) each expresses the “stronger together" ideal.
“It was not as if anyone of us had assigned roles. We just fell into who we were to the group,” says Freeway. “Everybody respected each other. There was genuine energy there among us.”
“I was underage at that time, so I was happy just to follow in their footsteps … Cool to play point guard. The better our relationship, the better the music,” says Young Chris. All of that music, individually and together, had to do with what the rappers experienced — drugs, violence, poverty, love — during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“That’s what we saw,” says West Philly native Omillio Sparks. “That’s what we wrote.”
It was a movie script that truly united the friendly but disparate Philly rappers, a story from Abdul Malik Abbott and Ernest Anderson called Get Down or Lay Down that was eventually changed to State Property once Dame Dash and Jay-Z got involved in its creation and brought their new Philly signees to to the film. “Jay gave us the opportunity to star in the movie and do the soundtrack,” says Sigel. “We all had individual deals with him. Jay connected the dots.”
“We just took our name from there — it fit — and we were united by that film,” says Freeway.
“Man, I was 15, so you can imagine how I felt, especially since I got to cut class to be in a movie,” Young Chris says with a laugh.
Their first collaboration was the movie soundtrack, an eponymous album that featured the hit “Roc the Mic” by Sigel and Freeway. 2003′s The Chain Gang Vol. 2 followed, featuring the single “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” by the Young Gunz. They made another film together, State Property 2 (eventually retitled Blood on the Streets), in 2005, and launched their own clothing line.
“It was surreal, and yet it felt natural,” says Sigel. “We were different from what had come from Philly and gone into the mainstream. Philadelphia didn’t have anything underground, from the street … we became that group … individually and together.”
What changed, however, by 2004, was Sigel’s yearlong incarceration after being convicted on a 2002 federal weapons charges. “I had legal issues, and we fell apart,” says Sigel.
Around this same time, Jay-Z and Dame Dash split up Roc-A-Fella. Jay became CEO and president of Def Jam Recordings and Island Def Jam Music Group and brought a majority portion of Roc-A-Fella with him, causing a fissure in State Property, too — everyone but Sigel stayed with the Roc. Beanie Sigel’s 2005 album The B. Coming was released through the Dame Dash Music Group.
“You chop off the head, the body falls,” says Chris.
“But we never stopped working together or being brothers,” says Sigel, pointing out the occasional mixtapes that have been released since their initial 2005 fissure, as well as guest appearances on one another’s solo recordings.
“Everybody can do their own thing anytime, and we do, but we just felt that collectively, now was the time to get this going again, as timing is everything,” says Freeway.