History of Pinoy Hip-Hop
The culture of Hip-Hop in The Philippines is arguably the oldest and most established in South East Asia and possibly, the entire Asian continent. This is because The Philippines was a former US territory back in the late 19th to mid 20th century. And Filipinos embraced almost everything American, especially popular culture.
As a result, hip-hop arrived in The Philippines much earlier compared to it’s Asian counterparts including Japan. But before we discuss how hip-hop started in The Philippines, we should first educate ourselves on how the culture began and the best way to do that is to explore its evolution through its birthplace, New York City particularly The South Bronx.
Birth of a New Urban Culture. (Late 1970s)
A new youth-driven urban culture was starting to develop in New York City back in the 1970s, particularly in the inner city neighborhoods of The Bronx. The South Bronx was considered among the poorest in the city with mostly African-American and Hispanic demographics.
Other then poverty, this area of New York City was faced with social problems such as poverty, unemployment, drugs, crime, and gangs. As a way of escaping the harsh realities of inner-city life, block parties became popular among it’s resident youths and various DJs would play different genres of popular music, mainly funk and soul.
The most notable was Clive Campbell, more known by his hip-hop name as DJ. Kool Herc. He developed the foundation for hip-hop music by extending the “breakbeats” of popular funk and soul tracks using two turntables and a mixer. Plus the style Campbell developed when mixing music which he calls, “The Merry-Go-Round“. A new style of dance developed from the energy and vibrancy of DJ. Kool Herc’s mixes particularly the “breakbeats” or the “breaks”.
That style of dance became known as “breakdancing” or “breaking” and is characterized by acrobatic moves such as the “head spin” or the “windmill”. Its practitioners were called “break boys” / “break girls”, or “b-boys” / “b-girls” for short. With most block parties, The DJs also acted as announcers but would later be accompanied by someone who is an expert on such. They were called “Master of Ceremonies” or MC for short and from making these announcements, evolved a style which became known as “rap” or “rapping”. DJ. Kool Herc again was a pioneer as it was said that he would create simple “raps” while mixing. The DJ or The MC. would “rap” to encourage the party goers to enjoy and be entertained.
Originally the first “rap” were simple and were mainly party related, but would later on deal with a diversity of subject matter and many different styles of “rapping” would develop. Eventually, “rap” would become the defining element of hip-hop and many of its artists would be signed to a major label, release albums and earn a profit.
Associated is the New York style of letter based graffiti art which started back in the early 70s when youths illegally wrote their name or their alias, both inside and outside of subway cars and in various surfaces around the city.
The development of these elements gave the youth of The South Bronx a form of expression, an alternate from the social problems they face. Not just in this area of New York City but also in other lower and working class areas within other boroughs especially those living in public housing.
The Manila Sound (1970s)
Much of the earliest forms of hip-hop music were sampled from various popular musical genres particularly jazz, funk, soul and to some extent, rock & roll and disco.
African-American funk and soul legend, James Brown was a major influence in the development of hip-hop due to his musical style and delivery. In fact some of the earliest hip-hop tracks were sampled from James Brown as well as with other funk and soul musicians. Parallel to the development of a new form of urban expression that happened in New York City back in in the 1970s, a new form of creative musical expression was also happening in Manila and in other Philippine cities the same decade.
This movement became known as “Manila Sound” where local musicians created their own original sound of popular music whether it’s rock, jazz or soul. The new musical genre gave a positive and festive vibe within Metro Manila as The Philippine Capital and the entire country were placed under Martial Law during the 1970s, and was a period of social unrest.
Other than Metro Manila, a thriving music scene was also happening in other Philippine cities, particularly in Olongapo, a coastal city in The Province of Zambales right beside the former US Naval Base at Subic Bay.
Influenced by popular American disco, funk and soul such as James Brown, Earth Wind & Fire, The Isley Brothers, The Commodores, The Jackson 5, The Village People and more, local funk and soul bands were formed such as The Soul Jugglers, Cinderella, Advisors Band, Friction or Hangmen and Disco bands such as VST & Company, The Boyfriends, Hagibis and of course, Hotdog.
These bands created an independent scene in The Philippines that would become the predecessor to Pinoy Hip-Hop.
Enter Pinoy Hip-Hop! (1980s)
From The South Bronx to The Streets of Metro Manila.
There were many factors that contributed to the spread of hip-hop in The Philippines and as mentioned earlier, Filipinos embraced US popular culture as the country itself was a former territory of The United States before gaining full independence back in 1946. Despite The Philippines gaining its independence, The United States maintained military bases in Central Luzon until the 1990s, particularly Clark Airbase in Pampanga and Subic Bay Naval Base in Zambales.
The popularity of hip-hop culture reached many Americans including those serving in The Armed Forces and were stationed overseas, particularly those of African-African and Hispanic background. And it was the various servicemen stationed in The Philippines that would partly expose hip-hop to the local youth.
Another factor to the spread of hip-hop in The Philippines is the large number of Filipinos who have emigrated to The United States, but kept in contact with their relatives back home. Other than money, they would send presents which may include various rap albums or reading materials containing articles on Hip-Hop culture.
Such is also the case with Filipino citizens who fly to The United States either for business or leisure and would usually buy presents for their friends and relatives back home. These presents may contain rap albums or various items related to hip-hop.
Rap music from The US were widely played on the radio, and movies depicting Hip-Hop culture were shown on Philippine television and in cinemas particularly Wild Style or Beat Street.
Pinoy Rap Was Born! (early 1980s)
The first track to popularize hip-hop music in The United States and worldwide was The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rappers Delight”. It was released back in 1979 and contained a sample of Chic’s popular disco hit “Good Times”.
“Rappers Delight” was so popular that it was widely played in discothèques around Metro Manila and became the first exposure of rap music in The Philippines. The track caught the attention of Pinoy singer and comedian George Javier and a year after, recorded a parody version entitled, “Na Onseng Delight”. It was released as a 45 rpm single gramophone record.
Javier’s “Na Onseng Delight” may be a parody of “Rappers Delight” but it became the first rap record in The Philippines and possibly the first in Asia. It arguably was also the first rap record produced outside The United States and the fact the entire track was rapped in The Tagalog, it was the first rap track recorded in a Non-English language. “Na Onseng Delight” also proved that Tagalog is a highly suitable language for rapping.
Years after, Vincent Daffalong who was also both a singer and comedian recorded a similar parody of “Rapper Delight” and became known as “Ispraken Delight”. But unlike George Javier, Daffalong also recorded additional parody tracks in the form of rap music most notably, “Nunal”.
Although both George Javier and Vincent Daffalong were not really rap artists in the sense of the word, they paved the way for future Pinoy Rap Artists.
The Rise of Breakdancing (early-mid 1980s)
With movies such as Flashdance or Breakin’ shown on Philippine cinemas, and various American TV shows with scenes of breakdancing, saw it’s popularity from the early to mid 1980s especially in Metro Manila.
Many young Pinoys got into breakdancing and would form crews and battle each other. Not just breakdancing but also other forms of dance related to Hip-Hop such as popping or Electric Boogaloo. The parks and plazas in Makati Commercial Centre (now Glorietta mall) were popular spots for early Pinoy breakers to gather, express themselves, and even engage in a friendly battle.
Media and broadcasting companies took notice of the rising breakdancing scene and competitions were held in various dance-related programs on television including Dance 10, and in popular noon-time variety shows such as Eat Bulaga. Some of the most notable contestants were Jerry Dignum, Darwin Tuason and a young Francis Magalona who was a member of The Eclipse Breakers and would later become the most important icon of Pinoy Hip-Hop.
Many breaking crews were formed and would compete against each other in a friendly battle. Some of the most notable breaking crews in The Philippines back in the 1980s were The Infoclash Rockers, Ground Control, The Eclipse Breakers and many others.
Breakdancing would lose its popularity in the later years as new wave music and video games became more trendy among the local youth. Nevertheless the dance itself revived in the early 90s as with the emergence of The Pinoy Hip-Hop scene.
Making a Name in Hip-Hop. (late 80s)
The son of a popular movie celebrity from The Golden Age of Philippine Cinema, Francis Durango Magalona would become a popular teenage actor and appear in movies such as Bagets 2. But despite his career in television and cinema, Magalona continued to express himself through hip-hop shifting from breakdancing to rap music. He also showcased his rapping skills as an MC. in the now defunct variety show, Loveliness back in the late 80s.
Other than Magalona, other hip-hop crews have started to make a name during the same period such as Rock All Parties Crew which members are composed by Norman B., J. “Smooth” MC., Andy “Luv” MD., and it’s founder Andrew Espiritu more known as Andrew E. or “Rap Master Fordy”.
The crew started out as a Mobile DJ group mixing hip-hop music in various discothèques around Metro Manila and in other commercial parties. It’s members would later on become rap artists in their own right as record companies will soon discover and sign them under their respective labels.
With the 1990s coming and Francis Magalona, Andrew Espiritu and the rest of Rock All Parties crew signed under major record labels. Joining them are a new generation of rap artists and groups. The early years of the following decade will soon see a new urban revolution happening as Pinoy Rap music go mainstream.
This period will become known as The Golden Age of Pinoy Hip-Hop.
Part-2: The Golden Age (early 90s)
The early years of the 1990s saw an urban revolution in Pinoy Hip-Hop as the culture and it’s artists gain mainstream status plus wider exposure to the youth around Metro Manila and The Philippines.
Styles and Influence
Like any other hip-hop scene, New York City had always been the foundation for Pinoy Hip-Hop both in music and fashion but California has some influence as well.
Some of its early influences were The Sugarhill Gang and Kurtis Blow followed by Boogie Down Productions, RUN-D.M.C., Public Enemy, Ice-T, Big Daddy Kane, L.L. Cool J., Eric B. & Rakim plus J.J. Fad and Salt-N-Pepa.
The Rise of “The King” (1990)
After his MC stint at the now defunct variety show Loveliness, Francis Magalona (more known in Pinoy Hip-Hop as Francis M.) got signed to Octoarts (now Polyeast Records) and recorded the nationalistic themed track, “Mga Kababayan” which not only brought fame to Magalona’s career but exposed Pinoy Rap to a wider audience. The track was widely received due to its nationalistic theme, use of Tagalog language and strong positive message, shifting Magalona’s style to a mixture of commercial mainstream and conscious, spoken word.
“Mga Kababayan” became the featured track in Francis M.’s debut album Yo! released back in 1990. It was the first full length Pinoy Rap album but also featured pop tracks such as “Cold Summer Nights” which was popular in its own right. The album also includes the track “Loving You” which featured Magalona’s then girlfriend Pia Arroyo making her the first woman in The Philippines to record a rap track.
Overall, Yo! was a commercial success and made Francis Magalona a superstar earning him the title, King of Pinoy Rap and Master Rapper.
Battle Between Two Kings. Francis M. VS. Andrew E.
Francis M.’s supremacy and status would be challenged by a well respected contender who has been in the Pinoy Hip-Hop scene since the mid-1980s.
Andrew Espiritu, or more known in Pinoy Hip-Hop as Andrew E. has been active as an MC and a DJ in popular discothèques around Metro Manila along with his Rock All Parties Crew. He also hosted various Pinoy Rap competitions around Metro Manila including those organized by popular noontime variety shows on Philippine television.
His got signed to Viva Records back in 1990 and recorded his first hit track, “Humanap Ka ng Panget”
Despite it being Andrew E.’s version of Cash Money Marvelous’ track “Find an Ugly Woman”, it became popular in The Philippines and it even became a movie of the same title. Andrew E became an introductory star along with veteran actors in Philippine Cinema such as Jimmy Santos and Herbert Bautista. The movie gave Espiritu not only a music career but also a career in cinema and would star in his own films. It also featured a soundtrack which included the Sharon Cuneta sampled track, “Mr. DJ” with popular Filipina actress and comedian Gelli De Belen as guest. De Belen became the first woman to record a rap track in Tagalog.
Under Viva Records, “Humanap Ka ng Panget” was the showcase track of Andrew E.’s debut album, Rap + Andrew = Party. The album was well received and it included future hit tracks such as “Andrew Ford Medina” and “Ganyan”.
With a promising career in both music and cinema, Andrew E. rose to fame and became the main rival of Francis M., resulting to an unofficial rivalry on who deserved “king” status especially by the fans of the artists and in The Pinoy Hip-Hop Community as a whole.
Pinoy Rap Spreads (1991)
The Golden Age of Pinoy Hip-Hop saw the rise of a new generation of rap artists and groups back in 1991. Artists such as Michael V. who first became known through his hit track, “Maganda ang Piliin (Ayoko ng Panget)” which countered Andrew E.’s classic track, “Humanap Ka ng Panget”. Another artist was Denmark or Markie D. who recorded the hit track, “Louningning”.
Pinoy Rap groups started to emerge when members of Andrew E.’s Rock All Parties Crew formed Bass Rhyme Posse. The group was signed to Viva Records and released their premier self-titled album which included the hit tracks, “Let The Beat Flow” and “Buhay Estudyante”. Other than rap, they also introduced beatboxing to the scene. Due to their style, the group became The Philippine counterpart of RUN-D.M.C.
Another Pinoy Rap group that came out in 1991 was Rapi Boys who were known through the hit track, “Yan ang Bata”. The group was composed of The Lamberto Brothers and Russell Abrigande, a kid rapper.
With the rising popularity of Pinoy Rap, competitions were held on television notably Power Jam hosted by Andrew E.. The winners of the competition were composed of Brother BM., Ronski J. and Francis Magalona’s younger brother Martin “Bronx” Magalona. The three formed Rapasia and released their first album under Viva Records. The group became known for the track, “Hoy Tsismosa” and were the first in Pinoy Rap to blend Tagalog, English and The Chavacano language, native to Zamboanga.
Bass Rhyme Posse, Rapi Boys and Rapasia became the first known rap groups in The Philippines.
The year 1991 saw the emergence of female rap artists in The Philippines with Lady Diane and MC Lara being the first to get signed to major record labels. Lady Diane was Michael V.’s friend and rapping partner and under Octoarts Records, became known through the tracks “Sa-Sa-Sadam” and “Mario Sa Amerika”.
MC Lara on the other hand emerged to the scene with her crew, The Rap Busters. Under Ivory Records, she released her first album with tracks such as “Superquento” and “Gwapo Ba?” becoming instant hits.
Another known Pinoy Rap track back in the early 1990s was, “Eh Kasi Bata” rapped by Jayme “Baby” Magtoto, the daughter of known Filipino composer, Rey Magtoto. The track also became a popular comedy film of the same name.
Graffiti Art and Turntablism
Other elements of hip-hop started to represent during Pinoy Hip-Hop’s Golden Years. New York style graffiti art were being sprayed on Metro Manila’s walls and trains by both Flip-1 and Flow-1. The two would form Samahan Batang Aerosol in 1993 and became the premier graffiti crew in both Metro Manila and The Philippines.
Turntablism was also gaining recognition with the franchise of UK based Disco Mix Club under former radio DJ, Jessie Cambosa. The organization held The First Philippine DJ. Mixing Competition back in 1991 with various competitors such as DJ. Omar D’Animal, DJ. Bongskie and DJ. Ouch. DJ. Master of Disaster became the premier champion and Philippine contender at the DMC World Finals held in London the same year.
The Sophomore Years (1992)
After the success of Yo!, Francis M. came back to the studio and recorded his 2nd studio album, Rap is Francism. Released in 1992 under Octoarts Records, the album was a big leap from his debut album and displayed great diversity from The Master Rapper.
The album dealt with various social issues concerning The Philippines from drug addiction in the track “Mga Praning”, to the election drama of “Halalan”. It also displayed Magalona’s lyrical skills in “Wack” and of course, his sense of nationalism in “Tayo’y Mga Pinoy” and “Man from Manila”.
Overall, Rap is Francism. became commercially successful and earned positive reviews from both critics and listeners especially Magalona’s fans.
Andrew E. continued to create and star in his own movies notably Andrew Ford Medina which showcased a rap battle for the first time in Philippine Cinema. Other than being the star, he also composed soundtrack for this movies.
Francis Magalona also continued his acting career teaming up with Michael V. in movies such as Ano Ba Yan which starred popular Philippine comedy actor and former member of VST & Company, Vic Sotto.
Due to the success of Rapasia’s debut album, the group then released their second album Rapasia 2 which contained hit tracks such as “Do It Right” and “Searching For Love”. The album also became a commercial success.
Pinoy Hip-Hop’s Golden Age presented a commercial image of its early rap artists yet showcased innovation in both style and music. Not just rap but also in turntablism as The Megateam won the 1992 DMC Philippine DJ Mixing Competition and took 4th place at the world finals. Composed of ’91 Philippine Champion DJ M.O.D. (Master of Disaster) and DJs Sonny and Ouch, the three would later meet two Filipino-American rap artists from Southern California and would create a group that will change the image of Pinoy Hip-Hop and bring it to the modern age.
Part-3: The Modern Age (mid to late 90s)
The later years of the 1990s saw a dramatic evolution in Pinoy Hip-Hop as the scene continued to grow and diversify. Much of it was still concentrated in Metro Manila but local scenes have started to emerge in other parts of The Philippines especially The Vizmin Region.
With the next generation getting up and representing the culture, Pinoy Hip-Hop has entered The Modern Age as they layed the foundation for today’s artists both in music and lifestyle.
From Mainstream to The Streets
The Golden Age of Pinoy Hip-Hop has always been identified with the commercial / mainstream image that most of its artists portrayed especially Francis Magalona.
But when Mastaplann entered the scene back in 1992, the image of Pinoy Hip-Hop changed both in music and in fashion becoming the main source of inspiration for future rap artists / groups to follow, at least in The Philippines.
The group was composed of “Filipino-American” MCs, Johnny “Type” Luna and Butch “Tracer” Velez, both from The San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. In addition to the group were members of The Megateam mainly, DJ. Sonny, DJ. Master of Disaster and DJ. Ouch. The rest were members of their affiliated crew, The Tru Asiatik Tribe including b-boys and street dancers notably Johnny Luna’s younger brother, Mark.
A year later, Mastaplann got signed to Universal Records and released their English language, self titled debut album with the hit tracks, “Bring Dat Booty”, “Here Wee R” and “Is It Tyme”. They were also among the first in Pinoy Rap to create music videos since the airing of MTV Asia back in 1992.
Being managed by DMC Philippines director Jessie Cambosa, Mastaplann brought more exposure to Disco Mix Club and prominence to the groups DJs. This set the foundation for later Pinoy Rap groups in having disk jockeys or turntablists among it’s members.
Mastaplann also set the trend in hip-hop related fashion often imitated by both their fans and other artists / groups in the scene.
Old School Evolves
Despite Mastaplann’s influence during The Modern Age of Pinoy Hip-Hop, many artists from The Golden Age have evolved to meet the trends of that period. And the same time, expressed their opinions on various social issues The Philippines was facing during those years.
Denmark Repuyan, known for his classic track “Louningning” changed his commercial / mainstream image to a more “boom bap” style when he formed The New Jack Brotherhood back in 1993. The same year, he released his 2nd album Brownout under Viva Records. It included the hit track of the same title, expressing his concern on the power crisis that shocked the country that year.
The same issue was also expressed in Francis M.’s track, “Ayoko Sa Dilim” and through Andrew E.’s track, “Bwisit ang Mga Brownout” featured on his 1993 film, Row-4.
Andrew E. became more popular as a comedy actor but also produced the soundtracks of his film. At that time, much of Espiritu’s music were related to the movies he starred in and were compiled in several “greatest hits” albums. He also hosted various hip-hop events and competitions around Metro Manila including those on television. It was until 1996 when Andrew E. released his 2nd studio album, Alabanger.
Due to the Pinoy Band explosion that happened during the same period, legendary King of Pinoy Rap, Francis M. experimented with fusing hip-hop and rock music. He released his third album Meron Akong Ano! including the iconic track, “Ito ang Gusto Ko” which became the anthem for the young generation of that time.
It was also that time when Magalona’s dance crew, Spindicate Posse gained more exposure when they revived breakdancing with the “windmill” as one of their popular moves.
Nevertheless, the mainstream image of Pinoy Rap had a newcomer with hip-hop / dance group Boom led by Filipino-Canadian rap artist Lino “Boom” Dayupay. The group was formed in Vancouver, Canada back in 1992 and included Canadian singer Jeanie Oakman, Radha Cudrado, Dave “D.F.X” Yu and dancer Jhego Catabay. Boom released their self titled debut album back in 1993 with the hit tracks “Neighbour, Neighbour” and “Balikbayan”. Two years after, the group’s name was changed to Kulay and focused more on creating a mixture of electronic pop and r&b sounds.
Catabay on the other hand would team up with Carlito “Dash” Calzado and form Legit Misfitz. With production from Boom Dayupay and his newly established Boom Room studio, they released their first studio album, Sons of Flip-Hop back in 1994 under Octoarts Records. It scored several hit tracks such as “Jabongga”, “Air Chinelas” and “Trapik”.
The 1st Asian Dance Music Convention (1993)
Pinoy Hip-hop gained more exposure when Disco Mix Club Philippines hosted the 1st Asian Dance Music Convention held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) back in 1993. The convention was attended by hundreds of delegates from around The Philippines and other parts of the globe.
While it’s primary focus is on dance music, its organizers also held DJ workshops and seminars on Hip-Hop music including the use of sampling. Pinoy Rap icon Andrew E. was among its speakers as well as DMC World Director, Tony Prince.
In additional to the live performance of world class acts such as Apache Indian and Black Machine, The First Asian DJ. Mixing Championships was also held during the convention. Among it’s contenders were DJ Honda of Japan, DJ Suave of Malaysia and The Philippines’ very own DJ Dub Me Next who won this prestigious competition. Eventually, DJ Dub Me Next together with DJ Meeh and DJ Cramps competed in the 1993 Philippine DJ. Mixing Finals which they won and represented the country at The World Finals. With support from some of the big names in the entertainment industry, record labels and even The President of The Philippines at that time, Fidel V. Ramos, the convention was huge success.
Enter Pinoy Gangsta Rap!
Inspired by hardcore rap music popularized by Niggaz With Attitude in the US West Coast, Death Threat emerged to the scene back in 1994 with their hardcore / gangsta style of Pinoy Rap. Originally composed of Genezide and Beware, the group released their debut album, Gusto Kong Bumaet the same year under Viva’s sub label, Neo Records.
Through their music, Death Threat expressed the various social problems facing Metro Manila and other parts of The Philippines from crime and violence, to drugs and gangs. At the same time, tracks such as “Gusto Kong Bumaet” became an instant hit and was widely played in various popular radio stations around the country.
In addition, they pioneered the “posse cut” in which various Pinoy Rap artists and groups collaborate together in one single track.
The group would later on add additional members including O-Dogg, Hi-Jakkk, Radical MK. and Gloc-9 who will later become a well respected artist of his own right. Death Threat paved the way for later gangsta rap artists / groups in The Philippines.
The Pinoy Hip-Hop scene expanded further beginning of 1994 with more artists / groups getting signed to major record labels. In addition were the underground artists, mobile DJ groups and growing number of hip-hop heads.
Among the most prominent groups of that year were Legit Misfitz and 4 East Flava known for their track “Check Da Hood”. The group was part of Flava Unit, a hip-hop crew composed of MCs, DJs and b-boys.
Many hip-hop heads around Metro Manila became conscious on hip-hop related fashion, with US brands such as Cross Colours and Breakdown as the most popular. Philippine based concept stores such as American Boulevard or Cinderella were the place to buy such apparel and while they can be found in most major malls around Metro Manila, its branches at SM Megamall were the most visited.
SM Megamall was the largest mall in Metro Manila back in the 1990s. Located in Ortigas Centre, the mall had numerous shops that cater to hip-hop such as the former Megamixx which sold DJ equipment and rap albums both local and American.
The ice skating rink at the mall’s basement became the gathering place for Pinoy Hip-Hop heads especially during the weekends. One can find heads break dancing or busting rhymes, but all went there to exchange ideas, express themselves through hip-hop and of course have a good time.
Some of those who hanged out near the ice skating rink formed various rap groups, notably H-Bom in which they reminisced the experience in one of their tracks. The group formed a strong affiliation with John Rendez / Porter Jr. aka. Metal Dog who busted in the scene the same year with his hardcore style of Pinoy Rap.
Following Mastaplann’s footsteps was Sun Valley Crew composed of four MCs from the suburban Sun Valley subdivision in Parañaque, Southern Metro Manila. Also managed by DMC Philippines and under Universal Records Philippines, the group released their self titled debut album back in 1996 with a laid back “g-funk” style.
Bringing a more feminine feel to Pinoy Rap was Chill who released her self titled debut album back in 1997 and became known as The First Lady of Pinoy Rap. Other than being a rap artist, she was also a talented producer who made music for various rap groups around the country.
Another group that came out was Urban Flow, composed of MCs Sunny B., Wilzone G. and DJs Arbie and Flux. They were known for mixture of masa and street oriented hip-hop music, mixed with Pinoy funk / soul from the 1970s. The group was part of The Hukbala Hip-Hop crew but would later form Third Eye Infantry which included Pinoy Rap groups such as Pamilia Dimagiba and Down Earf.
Pinoy Hip-Hop also became popular in The VizMin region especially in Cebu with groups such as Anthill Mobb (later known as Mobbstarr) and Doggfellaz. Cebu became the 2nd centre for hip-hop next to Metro Manila.
The mid-90s was also the time when various radio stations from around Metro Manila played more hip-hop music both local and American. Notably Danze Music Zone (DZMZ 89.1 FM) which showcased hip-hop mobile groups from around The Metro. The station also featured The Word-Up Show hosted by Francis Magalona.
Andrew E.’s Drive By Show became one of the first local radio shows to cover hip-hop music from both The Philippines and The United States. The show was aired through popular Manila based radio station, Pinoy Radio DM 95.5 FM and showcased upcoming Pinoy Rap artists and groups.
Another was Rap-13 which became the first show on television to cover Pinoy Hip-Hop. Also hosted by Andrew E., it was aired on IBC-13 back in the mid 90s and became popular among the local heads.
Eventually, some of those featured on both programs became part of Andrew E.’s newly formed record label.
The Rise of Dongalo Wreckords
Dongalo Wreckords was created back in 1995 and became the first independent hip-hop label in The Philippines.
The label released their first compilation album, R.A.P – Rap Artists of The Philippines which featured it’s first roster of artists / groups such as Itim Pero Kayumanggi, Oblaxz, B.B. Clan, Madd Poets and Richie Rich also known as Anak Ni Bakuko.
In addition were Dirty Fuckin Teenagers (now Disciples From The Temple) who previously recorded an independent album under the name Dance Floor Terrorist, Chinese Mafia who became the first Chinese-Filipino rap group to enter the scene and Syke, winner of The Drive By Show freestyle competition.
These artists / groups would be part of the label’s newly formed super group, Ghetto Doggs led by it’s frontman Pooch. Their premier album, Born To Kill The Devil was released back in 1996.
The Hip-Hop vs. Rock Rivalry
Pinoy Hip-Hop’s popularity would be overshadowed by the more popular band explosion that happened during the early 90s.
Such caused tensions between the artists and fans of both genres. Various Pinoy Rap artists and groups released “diss tracks” to express their disgust towards the Pinoy Rock community especially those in the punk and heavy metal scene.
Death Threat was among the first to respond with the diss track, “Whoz Next?” in which the group also lyrically attacked both Legit Misfitz and Boom Dayupay.
Much came from the first generation of artists /groups under Dongalo Wreckords including the super group Ghetto Doggs with their track, “Banda Demonyo”. Other notable tracks would be “Bo Lan Chaw” (Chinese Mafia) and “Punk You” (DFT) . Madd Poets also responded with two related tracks, “Boloxx” and later on, “Lunod”.
From Print to Online
With the internet becoming widely available in The Philippines back in the mid-90s, numerous websites on hip-hop culture began to appear on cyberspace. Flip-Hop Online became the first website to cover Pinoy Hip-Hop when it went online back in 1996.
Many Pinoy Rap artists / groups began to use the internet as a way of promoting themselves such as Mastaplann in which their third album Mastaplann.com used the site’s url as it’s title.
Hip-Hop heads around Metro Manila created their own fanzines and were distributed for free in various hip-hop events. Most notably Soulsonic, a newsletter which covered hip-hop in both The Philippines and United States.
Throughout The 1990s
Independent albums and mixtapes became more common in the late 90s especially those produced by DJ Arbie Won. Most significantly United Freestyles which featured some of the most respected artists / groups in Pinoy Rap, freestyle rapping over popular beats.
Still in The Third Eye Infantry camp, Pamilia Dimagiba released their independent debut album, Broke-N-Unsigned back in 1998 and featured the underground track, “Duelo”. Two years later, group released their 2nd independent album, Dra-Manila which sampled clips from classical action films of the late Philippine action star, Fernando Poe Jr..
Inspired by some of popular hip-hop apparels coming out of The US such as Fubu, Phat Farm, Wu-Wear or Triple-5-Soul and more, many rap artists around Metro Manila created their own wear. One of the most notable was All in Together Wear (Ain’t) designed by members of Pamilia Dimagiba and sold in various skate shops around Metro Manila such as Melrose in Quezon City.
After making fusion albums of both rock and hip-hop, Francis Magalona went back to his hip-hop roots and released Oddventures of Mr. Cool back in 1998. The album had a laid back feel compared to his previous albums and included the hit track, “Whole Lotta Lovin”.
Many artists / groups from The Golden Age have left the industry or have switched to a new genre. Michael V. for example switched from hip-hop to making parody music in which he became very successful. Denmark on the other hand left the scene for the time being and worked in a large financial firm.
With support production from Chill’s Electric Chair Entertainment, many of the first artists / groups under Dongalo Wreckords released their premier studio albums. Other Dongalo artists such as Syke left the label and moved to Boom Dayupay’s Vibestation Entertainment. He released his self titled debut album back in 1999 which fused poetry and ethnic Filipino music into hip-hop.
Itim Pero Kayumanggi and Oblaxz also left Dongalo Wreckords and merged together to create their own independent hip-hop production. Both groups evolved to a more hardcore style, mixing it with avant-garde beats.
Despite that, the label had new members including Sakit Ng Sucat and Dugong Pasay (formerly known as Rapiboys). They would later be joined by a newer batch of artists / groups as some of them will make a name in The Pinoy Rap scene.
Other record labels have emerged. Pinoy Gangsta Rap pioneers, Death Threat formed Real Deal Entertainment and signed newly established artists / groups such as Apokalipsis. The label also included original Death Threat member, Genezide who released his debut album, Kasalanan after years of absence in Pinoy Rap scene.
Another successful label was Vibestation Entertainment founded by Boom Dayupay. Some of it’s first roster of artists / groups was Seven Shots of Wisdom known for their classy image and fusing r&b sounds into hip-hop.
Vibestation Entertainment would later produce a compilation album that set the quality of Pinoy Hip-Hop for the new millennium, into its Current Age.
Part-4: The Current Age (2000s-today)
Pinoy Hip-Hop entered the 21st century and at the same time, the culture continued to evolve and became more popular among The Filipno Youth.
The Ultimate Compilation
Vibestation Entertainment released it’s first studio compilation album, Recognize – Loob @ Labas back in mid 2000. The album featured a whole cast of some of the most respected artists / groups in Pinoy Rap. Representing Vibestation Entertainment was Legit Misfitz, Syke, Artstrong and Seven Shots of Wisdom. Other artists / groups include Madd Poets, Chinese Mafia, B.B. Clan, Pamilia Dimagiba and many others. In addition were Misteazas and Kristyles who both made their commercial debut in this album.
Recognize – Loob @ Labas brought quality into Pinoy Hip-Hop both in music and in production. The album became a success and was widely received by hip-hop heads around The Philippines.
New Music for The New Millennium
Pinoy Rap icon and Dongalo Wreckords founder Andrew E. released his third album, Wholesome the same year and included the hit track, “Banyo Queen”. The album also featured the posse cut, “Here We Go” which included the next generation of Dongalo artists / groups such as Ethno Hop Posse, Jawtee, Kruzzada, Salbakuta and many others.
A year later, these groups, released their debut albums with Salbakuta’s Ayoko ng Ganitong Life… being the most successful. The album included the hit tracks, “Jumbo Day” and “S2pidLuv” which became instant success and was popular among the masses.
Still within Dongalo Wreckords, super rap group Ghetto Doggs released their third album, Dear Critics… back in 2000. The album, which lyrically attacked various artists /groups, became the most explicit in the history of Pinoy Rap due to its heavy use of profanity.
On the other hand, some of the first generation of Dongalo artists / groups such as Madd Poets, B.B. Clan and Chinese Mafia left the label and formed Madd World Entertainment.
D-Coy, a member of Madd Poets went to a solo career and released his debut album, Plastic Age back in 2001. The album introduced D-Coy’s style of hardcore / boom bap beats and socially conscious lyrics used in many of his later tracks.
A year later, B.B. Clan released their second album, Bonafied Bastards defining the boom bap style that Madd World Entertainment was known for.
The same year, well respected Pinoy Rap group Legit Misfitz formed Phunky Juan Entertainment and released their fourth album, 100 Porsyento.
Power 108 and Pulp Flavor
Power 108 (107.9 FM) became the first radio station in The Philippines with hip-hop and r&b as it’s format. It went on air back in 2001 and was based in Tagaytay City.
The station played both local and US hip-hop music for 24 hours and 7 days in a week. It also featured programs such as The Dungeon Show (hosted by DJ. Decypher) which played underground hip-hop while Swisha House (hosted by DJ. H-Town) played gangsta rap.
Another popular program was Batokada Lokal (hosted by D-Coy and Lowkey Da Boy Wonder) which played Pinoy Hip-Hop music and also featured both underground and unsigned artists from around the country.
Unfortunately, the station went off-air back in 2004 due to mismanagement and the inability to address technical issues.
After Power 108, the next station to went on air with the same format was Blazin 105.9 FM back in 2005. It went off-air 3 years after due to the same problems it’s predecessor faced.
Danze Music Zone known for it’s format of dance music and hip-hop was replaced by Wave 89.1 (DWAV 89.1 FM) back in 2001 after being on air for over a decade. Wave 89.1 started out with a pop jazz / easy listening format and switched to r&b. Hip-Hop music was added back in 2008 and is currently the longest station on air with the hip-hop / r&b format.
Other popular mainstream stations such as Monster Radio 93.1 (DWRX 93.1 FM) started Hit 26. The show played American hip-hop and r&b music every Sunday for 26 hours but also featured some of the most popular mainstream artists in Pinoy Rap.
Pulp Magazine, which mostly covered the rock genre had several main articles on Pinoy Hip-Hop back in the early 2000s. One of the most distinctive was the 8th issue (September 2000) which featured Francis M. on the cover. Other artists / groups featured were Andrew E., Boom, Chill, Legit Misfitz and more.
Its sister magazine, Pulp Flavor was released back in 2003 and mostly covered hip-hop / r&b, both Filipino and American. The magazine ran for four issues because it ceased publication.
The Popularity of Hip-Hop Apparel
Popular American Hip-Hop apparel, FUBU opened branches around Metro Manila back in 2002 particularly in Glorietta and Powerplant Mall, both in Makati. The apparel was brought to The Philippines by it’s local partner Pacsports and formerly managed by Carlo Maniqiz.
FUBU was endorsed by several artists / groups in Pinoy Rap particularly Francis M., D-Coy, Legit Misfitz and more. The brand also organized various hip-hop events around Metro Manila and in other Philippine cities such as Cebu.
Local urban apparel brands such as JAG also entered the hip-hop market and endorsed various Pinoy Rap artists / groups with its JAG THUG shirt line.
The 22nd issue of Pulp Magazine featured an issue on some of the most popular and respected rap artists / groups in The Philippines. They were featured wearing either FUBU or JAG clothing.
Other popular urban apparel have opened branches around The Philippines such as Tribal Gear. The brand was brought by the same company that owns JAG.
Competing Through Hip-Hop
Pinoy Rap competitions became very popular during the early 2000s whether it was held in the streets or in television.
Minor competitions were held in various places around Metro Manila particularly the “inner city” barangays. Such were organized by local independent hip-hop groups or even the local city council.
Andrew E. and his Dongalo Wreckords label organized The First Philippine Rap Olympics held at Hard Rock Cafe back in 2002. Many different rap artists / groups from around Metro Manila and other parts of The Philippines joined and competed in this event. The competition was divided into two categories, the group showdown won by Innocentes and the individual freestyle won by Triggah.
Other rap competitions were held the same year, including Rappublic of the Philippines at the noontime variety TV show Eat Bulaga and hosted by Francis Magalona. A compilation album was released a year later under Magalona’s label, Red Egg Records and featured some of the finalists and winners including Stick Figgas, Marikina Clan, Crazy as Pinoy and many others.
The Clubbing Scene (early 2000s)
The early 2000s saw the popularity of both hip-hop and r&b and were widely played in the various clubs and discothèques around Metro Manila.
Many clubs became popular hangout for hip-hop heads around The Metro such as Culture Club located near Eastwood City in Libis, Quezon City. The scene was vibrant from 2001 up to 2003 when the club closed down that year. Other clubs became popular such as Giggers, also located in Libis.
Various hip-hop crews and related brands had also organized related events as a way of promoting their product and at the same time, provide entertainment.
A Major Comeback
After years of absence in Pinoy Rap, Denmark (known for his hit track “Luningning”) returned to the scene with his major comeback album, “Blind Rhyme” released back in 2004.
With production from Madd World Entertainment, the album became critically acclaimed due to its strong subject matter accompanied by hard / boom bap beats. It also included a newer version of the hit track, “Luningning” plus a sequel track “Anak ni Luningning”.
In addition were collaborations from various artists including those from Madd World Entertainment, Gloc-9 and Mista Blaze. And most especially both Francis M. and Michael V. who together collaborated with Denmark in the hit track, “Baknthaday”.
Junior Rap Artists Represent!
The early to mid 2000s saw the rise of junior rap artists or those who entered the scene during childhood.
One of the most prominent was Xylk, son of Death Threat co-founder and lead rapper, Beware. Also known as Lil’ B., his first major appearance was during The First Philippine Rap Olympics back in 2002 where he performed solo. Xylk was also featured of Pulp Magazine.
Another was Kid Rappah, composed of MC. Bilog and Lil’ Au-Au. Both under Dongalo Wreckords, the group was featured in popular documentary show, The Correspondents (ABS-CBN) which made a segment on Pinoy Hip-Hop and gangs. Also under Dongalo Wreckords was Lil’ Kix who freestyled in the various popular noontime variety shows on television.
Perhaps the most known among the junior rap artists was Aikee who came tox the scene back in 2003. Highly influenced by D-Coy, he was supported by Madd World Entertainment and released his debut album, Ang Bawat Bata back in 2004 which includes his hit track, “Kahit Bata Pa Ako”.
Various controversial issues happened during those years mainly between Dongalo Wreckords and that of other camps particularly Madd World Entertainment.
Tensions between various groups in Pinoy Rap have already been happening even back in the 1990s including tracks from the super group, Ghetto Doggs. But such issues intensified during the early 2000s.
One of the major issues started with a message written on The Dongalo Wreckords official website stating that there is no such thing as Pinoy Hip-Hop but only Pinoy Rap.
Among the first to respond was Denmark, with collaboration of various rap artists / groups under Madd World Entertainment. They released the track “Walang Hip-Hop sa Pinas” back in 2003 and was included in Denmark’s third album, Blind Rhyme. The track did not only justified Pinoy Hip-Hop but also lyrically attacked The Dongalo camp especially its founder, Andrew E.
Various Dongalo artists / groups responded when the label released the compilation album, Sino Me Sabing Hip-Hop Kayo??? and lyrically retaliated against both Madd World and Blind Rhyme Productions.
Another controversial issue was between Andrew E. and Syke. The latter released the track, “Dear Kuya” which lyrically attacked Andrew E. and his anomalies on some of the current and former artists under Dongalo Wreckords. Due to the severity of it’s lyrics including personal attacks against Andrew E. and his family, a criminal case was filed against Syke and sentenced with fines and jail term.
Through The Mid-2000s
Secondary record label, XAX Entertainment began to sign Pinoy Rap artists / groups both new and established such as Krazy Kyle and The Rapskallion Familia who have been active since the late 90s.
Another Pinoy Rap artist under this label was newcomer Earshot with his debut album, Listen released the same year.
Perhaps the most notable among all Pinoy Rap albums released under XAX was United Freestyles Vol. II by DJ Arbie Won. The album was released back in 2003 and featured various Pinoy Rap artists / groups such as Madd Poets, Mista Blaze and more. It also contained the hit tracks, “Taken In” (Ill-J, D-Coy and Tutay) and “The Light” which featured Loonie and The King of Pinoy Rap, Francis Magalona. United Freestyles Vol. II was the sequel of the 1999 underground mix tape, released under Tenement Records.
Various independent labels and groups have emerged in the scene particularly B-Roc’s Turbulence Productions with artists such as Nimbus-9.
Regional hip-hop scenes had started to develop in various parts of The Philippines since the mid-90s. But it was until the early 2000s when it took off.
Various Pinoy Rap artists / groups have emerged from all over Luzon such as Baguio’s Pride and Dagtang Lason from Olongapo City. The latter was known for their hit track, “Mag Mahal ng Bakla”.
Pinoy Hip-Hop also progressed in The VizMin Region with Cebu as its centre. The city also became the 2nd most important centre for hip-hop next to Manila.
Many artists / groups had come up notably Anthill Mobb, one of the pioneers in this region since the mid-90s. Originally composed of Dice and K-9, the two later met Hi-C and Trapp and formed Mobbstarr back in 2002. The group was one of the first from Cebu to reach mainstream status with hit tracks such as “Itsumo” and many others.
Other Cebu based artists / groups such as Brownian Method and Königs also achieved commercial success while maintaining their local identity by rapping in The Cebuano Language and dealing with regional subject matter.
Pinoy Rap artists / groups have emerged in other Visayas regions such as Pride of Bacolod and Southsyd Souljaz from Iloilo.
In Mindanao, Pinoy Rap groups such as Thavawenyoz achieved commercial success with their 2004 debut album, Hubag. Based in Davao, the group won various awards including “best hip-hop artist” at the 1st Mindanao Music Awards back 2007. They were also the first Pinoy Rap group to be recognized by the city government of Davao City.
One of the contestants at The First Philippine Rap Olympics, Zamboanga based Ghost 13 also earned success through their 2004 self titled debut album.
Discrimination & Language disputes
The hip-hop scene in The Philippines is one of the most diverse in Asia. Pinoy Rap music is expressed through the various national languages from Tagalog to Ilokano, Bisaya, Bikolano, Ilonggo, Chavacano and many others. Aside from local languages, English is widely used especially by those in the mainstream.
But despite the diversity of languages in Pinoy Rap, discrimination had always been an issue and tensions often flare up between artists / groups who either use Filipino or English.
As English is universal and widely spoken by the higher class, the majority of classy mainstream artists / groups prefer using it as the primary language for their music . Some of them have either lived or were born and raised abroad especially in The United States.
In addition, many popular event organizers and media groups favor English language Pinoy Rap artists / groups as acts for their respective hip-hop related events including concerts for popular acts.
Colonial mentality had always been an issue within The Philippine society as many Filipinos view anything foreign as more superior including music.
Because of this, many rap artists / groups that used Filipino felt discriminated. They believed that rapping in Filipino gives a sense of nationalism and a unique identity to Pinoy Rap.
Various Pinoy Rap artists / groups reacted to this issue such as Salbakuta with the track, “Ayoko ng Ganitong Life” back in 2001. The track’s second verse lyrically attacked various artists / groups that rapped in English. Another was D-Coy with the track, “Wika” recorded back in 2010.
Pinoy Rap Online
With the development of both the internet and digital music softwares, artists and musicians can create music with a computer and upload it to the growing number of music related sites online.
Such technology gave rise to the various Pinoy Rap artists / groups that upload their music through the internet and get recognition from the people browsing it.
Among the most notable would be the group, Gagong Rapper who first released their tracks online and were later signed to Dongalo Wreckords.
The popularity of hip-hop related apparel from The US had influenced many various Pinoy Rap artists / groups to produce their own local clothing line and sell it on a commercial level.
Most notable would be FrancisM Clothing Company, created by The King of Pinoy Rap, Francis Magalona. The brand is identified through its trademark logo featuring a silhouette image of Magalona’s upper body, posing with a mic on his right hand and a victory sign of his raised left arm. In the image is the distinctive 3 stars and the sun featured in The Philippine Flag.
Other known apparel brands are Andrew E.’s Dongalo Clothing, TURF Clothing by Paul “Pikaso” Sirate, Denmark’s Blind Rhyme Clothing Company and D-Coy’s WIKA Clothing.
Farewell to The King
After a long battle with acute leukemia, The King of Pinoy Rap, Francis Magalona passed away on March, 6 2009 due to septic shock. It was a great loss to the Philippine Hip-Hop Community but nevertheless, the local scene remained strong.
Magalona’s wake at Christ The King church in Quezon City was attended by his immediate family and friends, as well by thousands of his fans. He was cremated back in March, 11 2008 in Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina.
The passing of Francis M. was a major loss in Pinoy Hip-Hop but nevertheless, the scene continued to both grow and develop.
Balagtasan and hip-hop
Much of the cultural aspect of hip-hop had an easy relation to local Filipino culture.
Most notably Balagtasan, a poetic debate of spoken word where the participants expressed their opinion on a particular theme through a dramatic manner.
This form of expression strongly relate to freestyle rap battles that developed in The United States since the late 80s.
Freestyle rap competitions have also been common in The Philippines since the mid-90s but took off during the mid-2000s.
One of the most notable was FlipTop which was created by A.M.P.O.N member Anygma back in 2010. Held at various clubs around Metro Manila, this competition gained worldwide exposure where videos of various battles were recorded and uploaded to its Official YouTube channel.
Compared to most popular freestyle rap battles, competition is identified through a verbal joust by its participants, usually performed in a cappella. It has 3 rounds and is mainly about verbal attacks among its participants. Such mostly lead to insults and vulgarity is common.
Due to its popularity and resemblance to traditional Balagtasan, FlipTop is dubbed by many as its modern version with subtle differences.
Beatmakers and Producers
The early 2000s saw the popularity in the various beatmakers / producers making a name for themselves in The Pinoy Hip-Hop scene. Some of the most notable were Madd Poets member, Lowkey Da Boy Wonder who produced beats for various artists / groups within Madd World Entertainment such as BB. Clan or Chinese Mafia. Another was Chrizo who made beats for Turbulence Productions and other independent Pinoy Rap labels.
Beatmaking competitions were hosted in various clubs and discotheques around Metro Manila. The most popular was Battle of The Beats hosted by The First Lady of Pinoy Rap, Chill.
The rise of Gloc-9
Aristotle Polisco, more known in hip-hop as Gloc-9 started his career in Pinoy Rap as a member of the premier gangsta rap group in The Philippines, Death Threat.
After collaborating with fellow Death Threat member Hi-Jakkk back in the 90s, he then pursued a solo career and released his debut album, G9 under Star Records back in 2003.
Gloc-9’s independent career brought him great success and positive reception from the masses. Many of his tracks became instant chart-topping hits notably, “Simpleng Tao” and “Bakit”.
The same time, he changed his style from a hardcore / gangsta persona to commercial / wholesome image. Gloc-9 later on adapted a social / conscious spoken word due to the strong influence from The King of Pinoy Rap, Francis Magalona.
Many of his current tracks dealt with various social issues relevant to today’s time such as “Upuan”, “Lando” and “Sirena”.
Gloc-9 is currently the most successful of today’s generation of Pinoy Rap artists.
Pinoy Hip-Hop Today
Hip-Hop culture in The Philippines remains as the most active in South East Asia. More and more heads are getting up and representing the scene on the element they have chosen whether it is rap, turtablism, b-boying or graffiti art.
As of today, we be seeing more as Pinoy Hip-Hop evolves.