Philadelphia is about to get even more representation on FXX.
Rapper-turned-actor Lil Dicky, whose real name is Dave Burd, will debut his new comedy series Dave Wednesday at 10 p.m. on the network that already hosts It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Burd, a Cheltenham native, cocreated and also stars in the show, which follows a fictionalized version of himself as he attempts to prove that he is “one of the best rappers of all time.”
In real life, that journey started in and around Philadelphia, where Burd grew up and cut his teeth as a performer. Dave, however, mostly shows his post-Philly life in Los Angeles, albeit with plenty of callbacks to his hometown. Burd rose to fame in 2013 with a viral YouTube video for his track “Ex-Boyfriend,” which earned about a million views in just 24 hours after its release. Since then, he has gone on to release his own album, 2015’s Professional Rapper, and collaborated with artists such as Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, and Justin Bieber.
We caught up with Burd ahead of Dave’s premiere, and talked with him about the Philly spots that shaped the Lil Dicky we know today. As a Philadelphian, however, Burd’s list breaks down into just a few categories.
"What pops into my head,” Burd says. “Kind of just where I went to school, where I ate food, and where I watched sports.”
“Good old Harrison Avenue,” Burd says about the 300 block of Harrison Avenue in Cheltenham Township, where he grew up. “I loved it. I knew my neighbors. I had a basketball hoop outside and I would practice my jump shot.”
That hoop was an important piece of Burd’s childhood, so much so that his former neighbors actually still have the backboard, the rapper says. Call it the ultimate piece of Lil Dicky memorabilia.
“That basketball hoop was so nostalgic to them that they kept the backboard,” Burd says. “They have it in Florida now. I respect them for doing that.”
Burd spent the duration of his public education life in the Cheltenham School District, starting out at Myers Elementary before heading to Cheltenham High School — what he calls his “stomping grounds” — as a teen.
But it was at the district’s Elkins Park School that he would have one of his first formative experiences with hip-hop.
As a middle-school student, Burd was tasked with writing a history report on Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. But rather than do a straightforward write-up, Burd rapped about the poet.
“I got an A,” Burd says.
For Burd, the ultimate childhood eatery is Frank’s Pizza in Cheltenham, which makes “the best chicken cheesesteak in the game.”
“The amount of money my family has spent at that place,” the rapper says of Frank’s. “Twice a week I would be getting the best chicken cheesesteak. I just love the chicken there.”
Burd also formed what he calls one of his “core memories” there after throwing a half of one of his beloved chicken cheesesteaks into the establishment’s open basement on a dare.
“The owner was down there and he came up and he screamed at me, and it was so impactful,” Burd says. “I felt so bad. Maybe that was just a lesson on being a good person.”
Burd is a noted fan of all things Philly sports, but no other team matches his love for the Sixers.
He was attending games back when the Wells Fargo Center was known as the First Union Center or Wachovia Center — a time when he got to see his favorite player, Allen Iverson, dominate the court.
Burd was 13 when Iverson led the team to the 2001 NBA finals in what Burd calls a “prime developmental year” of his childhood.
“Had Allen Iverson not been the leader of my favorite sports team, would I had felt as influenced by hip-hop culture?” he says. “To have that guy be my favorite athlete year in, year out definitely shaped me.”
Few rappers can trace their careers back to summer camp, but Burd’s stretches all the way to Camp Kweebec in the Perkiomen Valley, where he once opened up for the R&B quartet 112.
Every year, Burd says, the camp announced its annual Color War “in some dramatic fashion,” such as having a skydiver jump out of a plane with a banner. That year, however, 112 performed a concert to announce the event.
Burd, then 14, got the inside scoop from his camp counselor, who asked the young future rapper if he’d like to serve as the group’s opening act. Burd’s response: a nonchalant “sure.”
“Even back then, I was joking around rapping and dancing and whatnot,” Burd says. “I went and had food with them, and I performed.”
As junior at the University of Richmond, Burd found himself interning at local Philly ad agency LevLane Advertising, which opened him up to daily lunches at Reading Terminal Market.
“The world is your oyster at that place,” he says.
His favorite spot: DiNic’s, though he typically opted for a meatball sandwich instead of the eatery’s signature roast pork.
By Burd’s own admission, he’s not a very adventurous eater. “I eat the same food at all times — I just like trying it from different places,” he says. “At that market, you could get, like, six cheesesteaks from different places that were all delicious.”
While Burd first went viral as Lil Dicky around April 2013, his first live performance as his rap alter-ego didn’t take place until nearly a year later at the TLA on South Street.
Burd remembers that performance as “the scariest day of my life” because up until then he had “never even rapped in front of another human being before.”
“You get so successful behind a computer screen, and then all of a sudden you have 2,000 people sitting there,” he says. “I used too much energy during the first song that the entire rest of the concert just felt like survival.”