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7/9/2017 Will Flip-Hop Save OPM?

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Will Flip-Hop Save OPM?


By: Eric S. Caruncho - Staff Writer / @Inq_Lifestyle Philippine Daily Inquirer / 02 04 AM May 04, 2014

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OPMS not deadit was just beginning to smell funny.
obscenity

But thanks to a new generation of Filipino rap MCs (emcees), possessed of


mad verbal skills honed in the trenches of the FlipTop Battle League, its
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1 Tip That Finally
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7/9/2017 Will Flip-Hop Save OPM? | Inquirer lifestyle
mad verbal skills honed in the trenches of the FlipTop Battle League, its 1 Tip That Finally

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While not exactly in the pink of
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been reanimated for the time being. moving around, in

The local music scene hasnt seen


this much crossover excitement
Recommended by

since the glory days of the


Eraserheads and the alternative
rock avalanche they unleashed in
the mid-90s.

Kids are actually buying CDs again, a


rare occurrence in an age of digital downloads. Hip hop songs such as
Abras Gayuma and Bassilyos Lord, Patawad have been ruling the
charts (although these days, the charts are measured in terms of YouTube
hits rather than CD sales).

Even the mainstream has taken


notice. Last year, rap battles
featured prominently in noontime
shows, and the networks scrambled
to get name MCs on their programs.

We are the new Mecca of hip-hop,

STALWART VOICES: (From left) Bassilyo, Ron Henley,


says Loonie, a.k.a. Marlon Peroramas,
Abra and Loonie JILSON SECKLER TIU INQUIRER one of the leading lights of the new
school Flip-hoppers.

Hip hop may be on the wane in the land of its birth, he says, but we Pinoys
are in the midst of a golden age of hip hop, and now rappers all over the
world are looking to us to get our views.

Its like a second coming of hip hop: new artists are emerging, albums are
selling, shows are packed. This has never happened before, its only now
that we see a multitude of hip-hop artists coming up at one time.

We have actually gathered a representative sampling of the new school to


show Flip-hops diversity: apart from Loonie, theres his Pasig homeboy Ron
Henley (yes, his real name) and Bassilyo a.k.a. Lordivino Ignacio, the man
behind the hit song Lord, Patawad.

Last to arrive is baby-faced ADVERTISEMENT


sparkplug Abra, a.k.a. Raymond
Abracosa, arguably the MC who has
penetrated furthest into the mainstream with 27.5 million views (and
counting) for his Gayuma video and a song on a network telenovela
soundtrack.

All of them featured prominently in MCA Musics seminal 2013


Homegrown Hip Hop compilation and all have since released solo
albums: Loonies Ultrasound, Ron Henleys Wala Pang Titulo, Bassilyos
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7/9/2017 Will Flip-Hop Save OPM? | Inquirer lifestyle
albums: Loonies Ultrasound, Ron Henleys Wala Pang Titulo, Bassilyos
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Klasik Sunday,
and Abras July 9, 2017 debut.
eponymous TODAY'S PAPER
Again, not since the Eraserheads have the recording companies invested
this much capital in releasing relatively new artists, and seen a return on
their investments.

If theres one thing that separates the


new school hip hop artists from their
predecessors, its their time in the
trenches of the FlipTop Battle League,
the home-grown rapping competition
founded in 2010 by rapper Anygma,
which was patterned after the US
Grind Time battle league. TAKING the plunge into the mainstream JILSON
SECKLER TIU INQUIRER
Rap battles have been around for as
long as hip hop. Basically cutting contests in which MCs challenged one
another to see who could come up with the most scathing insults, the
snappiest putdowns, the wittiest comebacks, all set to the most excellent
rhymes, the form entered mainstream consciousness after Eminems film 8
Mile hit the screens.

With lyrics often composed freestyle, or spontaneously on the spot, battle


rap quickly separated the men from the boys, the MCs with the skills to pay
the bills from the wannabes.

In a matter of months, FlipTop snowballed from a handful of hardcore


enthusiasts to millions of hits on YouTube. Within a couple of years,
FlipTop surpassed its American model in terms of YouTube hits. (One classic
battle alone, Loonie vs. Zaito, has over 13 million hits.)

FlipTop also resonated deeply with the Filipino audience, who are culturally
receptive to verbal jousting and displays of linguistic skill, thanks to the
tradition of the Balagtasan and other folk forms that involve poetic
improvisation. Although most academics took pains to point out the
differences between battle rap and Balagtasan (most notably the absence of
four-letter words in the latter), most members of the lay audience couldnt
care less, embracing Filipino battle rap as the new Balagtasan, a legit art
form in its own right.

It was a big help, admits Bassilyo, speaking in his characteristically deep


Tagalog. Hailing from Malanday, Marikina, Bassilyo is, at 36, something of
an elder statesman for the group, having started as an MC way back in 1996.

We used to sell tickets just so we could perform at Club Dredd, he recalls.

After Francis M. died in 2009, the local hip hop scene was in the doldrums,
he recalls. But thanks to FlipTop, the scene has been reinvigorated.

FlipTop gave local rappers a face,


Bassilyo adds. Before, people only
knew our lyrics, but now people also
recognize our faces everywhere we
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recognize our faces everywhere we

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Battling also raised everybodys game.

Skys the limit for these radical wordsmiths JILSON Sometimes you get nervous when
SECKLER TIU INQUIRER
you get up to sing, more so when
theres an opponent waiting to get
back at you, he says. Sometimes you choke and you are forced to
freestyle, you turn your opponents words against him. It keeps you from
being lazy.

As Bassilyo I combine everything I have learned about making poems and


rapping. I put in melodies, and variations. I tell a story, often with a twist,
and 90 percent of what I write is based on my life experiences.

Apart from his solo work, Bassilyo also performs with his cohorts Crispin
and Sisa as Crazy As Pinoy. Having grown up in Marikina among natives of
Bulacan and Binangonan, Bassilyo has an ear for pure Tagalog idiom, which
he injects into his rhymes.

I want to bring out the real Pinoy flavor in my work, he says.

A rappers first aim is to reach as many people as possible with his words.
The more people hear my words, the better. I want to reach young and old
alike, thats why personally I prefer the mass audience. It would be a waste
if we kept our lyrics for just the hip hop audience.

Thanks to the crossover success of Lord, Patawad, it would seem that


Bassilyo has realized his wish; his mall tours now see entire families in the
audience.

For Loonie, the Internet has been critical to new school Flip Hops success.

Kids in the Philippines are tech-


savvy, and there are internet cafes
everywhere you go, he says. That
probably explains why FlipTop gets
millions of views on YouTube. The
battle leagues in other countries are
wondering how we can get so many
hits, they think were padding the
figures. Where theyre from, one
million hits is a lot, but in the
Philippines, its commonplace to get
10, 15, 20 million views. So you could
say that its the Internet that has
made Pinoy hip hop mainstream.

Coming up in Pasig City, where Ron


Henley was a year behind him in high
school, Loonie gives props to Francis
M.

Without him there would be no Pinoy hip hop culture, he says. The man
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Without him there would be no Pinoy hip hop culture, he says. The man
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Sunday, July 9, 2017
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Loonie cut his MC teeth backing up Francis M., while juggling an IT course
and a succession of call center jobs. All the dues-paying have made him a
formidable wordsmith, and he gets props from other MCs.

I use conversational Tagalog in my rhymes, he says. Its more freestyle. I


used to practice composing lines in my head, without writing them down. I
started with eight lines, and worked up to 16 lines, straight to the mike,
without putting them down on paper. That was how I wrote Ang Bagong
Ako which I recorded with the Greyhoundz.

Although he prefers to keep the language simple, one line can have two or
even three interpretations. A good MC can compose verses with many
layers of meaning, he says.

Sobrang free, he continues. This is the most open genre, and you can
inject it into any other genre. For me rap is the most versatile style of music,
and one of the most extreme forms of public performance or performance
art, because its spontaneous, its raw, because whatever youre feeling you
can express on the fly, on the spot. Its like poetry, sports and music rolled
up into a single entity. Thats why battle rap is so interesting to the youth,
its like drama to them. You can learn about the state of society through
listening to battle rap. You can find universal truths in it that you wont find
in todays sugar-coated media. Youre going straight to the source.

Much has been made in the press of Abras suburban origins (he came up in
the mean streets of Valle Verde, and went to Colegio de San Agustin, not
exactly a hotbed of hip hop).

Its not really my choice, and I cant exactly deny it just for the sake of
being street, he says.

Its hard being an artist these days, because of widespread piracy, and also
because theres a lot of hate within the community, and outside the
community. But Im glad because OPM artists are so supportive of each
other, regardless of genre. Theyre more open now, just like the Internet
which is open to everything.

From a young age, he recalls, he


roamed around freely, being an
adventurous sort, gathering material
for future rhymes.

My rhymes incorporate what its like


to be me, how I grew up as Raymond
Abracosa in an environment without
hip hop around me.

By his own account, Abra was a late


bloomer as far as hip hop was
concerned. He was already in third
year high school when he discovered
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7/9/2017 Will Flip-Hop Save OPM? | Inquirer lifestyle
year high school when he discovered
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Figgas, and found himself enamored
by these artists lyrical gift.

How can anyone think its baduy


(gauche)when its so hard to write,
multi-syllable rhymes, and not just
last syllable rhyming? How can you
form a perfect thought in a perfect
verse with a unique rhyme scheme? I
loved the art that also seemed to have
a science within it.
Gloc-9 INQUIRER PHOTO
Eventually, Abra formed the Lyrically
Deranged Poets with a couple of like-minded MCs, and like most of the new
school found himself centerstage sparring with other MCs at the FlipTop
battles.

The battle is where you sharpen your sword, he says. Its like a slam
dunk competition, its a battle of skills. Hip hop is really a warrior sport.
You know that the people listening to you are going to judge you. You need
to always be hungry, because people will know if you dont have that
hunger. Youre not out to please the audience because youre just making
your music, but they will judge you.

Like the other MCs, Abra is surprised and bemused by the mainstreams
embrace of Flip Hop.

It went beyond my expectations, thats why Im so grateful to those who


support us and listen to our music, he says. But Im also grateful to those
who want to pull me down, because theyre the fire that fuels my drive. If
you have the blood of a battle MC, you want to get back at those who
criticize you. The love and the hate: thats what inspires me to do my best.

As far as mainstream acceptance is concerned, it doesnt really bother Abra.


What else can you do if you make your music and a lot of people happen to
like it? Why limit yourself to the underground? Just because youre
mainstream doesnt mean you cant go underground, and vice versa. Its
just a matter of platform: if youre a good artist, youre a good artist. But if
the people like you, then you have no choice, youre going mainstream.

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