Philly soul-hop king PnB Rock drops a new EP, tops TikTok, hits the Fillmore

PnB Rock is performing new music Saturday at the Fillmore.
Bianca Ortega

When the Fillmore Philadelphia presents the “2 Get You Thru the Rain” concert on Saturday, locals will get the first, live, in-person look and listen to their hometown hero — Germantown R&B vocalist, rapper and producer PnB Rock — that they’ve had in a minute.

For the most part, how audiences have satiated their PnB Rock fix since autumn has come courtesy of his smooth, hot single “HIGH” (with Dj Luke Nasty) and how it affected the charts and apps.

Sandwiched between PnB Rock’s even newer single “Forever Never” with guest features from Swae Lee and Philly’s own Pink Sweat$, and spring 2021’s “Need Somebody” track, “HIGH” was the perfect post-summer hummer that just happened to jump to the top of the TikTok stacks, with over 5 million video creates and 4 billion views.

Better yet, the reign of the soulful “HIGH” plains drifter continues as it is currently part of his newest EP release, December’s  “2 GET U THRU THE RAIN,” a hearty, heavy, six-song volume with guest shots from Lil Baby and Young Thug on “Eyes Open.”

Like everything else that PnB Rock sings and swings, the music – like his vocals – are caramel coated and nut-crunchy with crackling, trap beats and sonorous, tightly-wound choruses. There may be other space soul and mod R&B singers around – Kalid, Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, Philly’s Pink Sweat$ – but no one sounds like PnB Rock. He’s got that penthouse to pavement crust and sophistication down cold.

Years since his first mixtape, “Bangerz,” PnB Rock told me back in 2018 about how far at that point he had come from his hard and humble Germantown beginnings.

“I’ve changed so much and things move so fast – evolution is a God-given talent,” he said, then. “I’m looking for the next adventure… and if it wasn’t for Philly I wouldn’t be here.”

Talking about himself in relation to another priceless prince of Philadelphia hip hop, Meek Mill, PnB Rock always knew that he was one of this town’s brightest hopes when it came to topping the charts.

“I felt for a long time that Meek and I were pioneers – that there were people who looked up to us and trust us,” he said. “There’s a lot of guys up and coming that are worth hearing. I’m just ready to keep it going and keep the love going and make it all positive.”

Bianca Ortega

Like Meek, PnB Rock had his troubles with the local legal system. Along with youth detention, violating probation and a time in his teens where he existed without a home (“That was me at my lowest point. I can’t tolerate people laying back but here I was homeless – it was a total contradiction to how I live. Everything had to be up from there”), PnB’s pandemic months found him hit, again, with what sounded like a pumped-up firearms and drugs charge.

What a difference, however, a few months must make for, rather than make local headlines for the courts’ literal trials and tribulations, here PnB Rock is, riding “HIGH” and getting ready for the Fillmore.

“There’s no time for any chip,” Rock told me, presciently, back in 2018, dealing with the good and bad of his past. “Everything now is about what are you gonna do with it? I had to prove myself, live up to that.”

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