Rap up!-A A +A
Monday, August 26, 2013
The elements of modern hip hop music trace its roots from the towns of West Africa way back in the early 1900s. Skipping much detail, rapping (which then was really just a faster-paced version of spoken word and required the rapper to chant in rhythm) later blended with blues music; the latter’s lyrics and emotion greatly revolving around themes of everyday life and spirituality. According to blues musician and historian Elijah Wald, the blues were being rapped as early as the 1920s. He labeled hip hop as “the living blues.”
As experts suggest, the art form of rapping can be broken down into different components, like content, flow (rhythm and rhyme) and delivery. In the 90s, Andrew E. and Francis M., to each his own style, were considered one of the more popular rappers in the country. Today, Pinoy hip hop makes a wild revival thanks to the help of social media. Pinoy rappers and media sensations like Loonie and Abra, have become household names when it comes to rapping since appearing in video recorded impromptu “rap battles” that went viral online on video sharing sites. Even Cebuanos (Loonie is one), have their share of enjoying hip hop popularity. Back in 2002, Dice and K9/Mobbstarr enjoyed mainstream success with their hit single Itsumo.
Now, the art of rapping lives on and thrives on local ground. On the eve of the rallies organized in Manila and Cebu against the Pork Barrel scandal, “hacktivist group” Anonymous Philippines hacked government websites and used a song for the background entitled Barrio, a track from Cebu’s homegrown rap reggae rock group Powerspoonz. Interested about what goes on in the minds of rappers? Here’s what they have to say about their art and craft.
“I’ve been a fan of rap music ever since when old school rap was still underground from RUN DMC, Beastie Boys and the like. I was also into the “gansta” rap culture back in the day.I’ve always loved the hip hop culture—attitude, lifestyle, the flow—they would say hip hop was not meant to be in the Philippinesbut come to think of it, it’s actually more of a lifestyle, skills of courseand being real to this form of art.
“I never chose to be a rapper, but I guess it chose me. I’ve actually incorporated some of my hip hop influence to my band Powerspoonz. Hip hop is about freedom, in a different way of expression. We just got to make sure that we put some sense in the music we make. Even if you sing it fast, people would still get what you’re trying to express if you got something in the lyrics… just keeping it real.” Akit Po, Powerspoonz
“I first formed my first rap group around 1993-94. I liked the directness of rap. In other genres, you tend to hide messages in subtext. But in rap, if you hated something, you just spit obscenities and the message is clear. Writing rap is like two things: writing poetry and solving a puzzle. You’re dealing with subject matter, flow, rhymes, wordplay, metaphors, punchlines etc. For example, you want to say something in one line but you have to fit it in one bar. You want to make sure to fit the right amount of syllables in there. You have to pick the best flow, which words or where in the four beats you want to stress. And you can’t just say whatever. You have to write it creatively whether you employ metaphors or any literary device, or a really creative wordplay or a punchline—all in four beats. And it’s different everytime. Sometimes it works as a really intricate rapid-fire burst. Sometimes it’s just a simple punchline. And you have to make a whole verse out of that, usually at 16 bars. Multiply that by three verses and that’s when it gets really challenging because you have to be consistent. And after all of that, you have to make sure it fits your beat. That or you find a beat that works really well with it. And I haven’t even mentioned the part about writing in Bisaya. I think there’s so much unexplored territory when it comes to Cebuano music.
“Beyond writing raps, you have to be able to write an actual song, and that’s a different skill altogether. Anyone can write raps but not all rappers can write a rap song. And then you have to be able to perform it. In my case, I’ve been averaging five songs in my last few gigs. That’s about 240 bars each night.” Kristoffer ‘Pain-in-the-Neck’ Villarino
“It started back when I was 10 years old listening to some Eminem. I remember my classmate in the 5th grade spitting some lines from Without Me and it kind of inspired me to do the same thing. I was more inclined to Hip Hop Rock though. Dela-O would be my greatest inspiration. I do vocals for Dymphna for seven years now and I’ve realized that it’s something I really love doing more than anything else. It’s about the passion and the hard work that you put into something that makes you want to hold unto it for the rest of your life.
“For me, everything starts from God. Everything that fills our hearts comes from him. Speaking of which, one has to take heart. People might hate or love what you’re doing but it’s all part of the cycle. You just got to stand for it.” Carlo ‘Caloy’ Mesina, Dymphna
“I started to listen to rap music way back 4th grade and started imitating rappers on bands like Limp Bizkit and Rage Against The Machine. Then in high school I listened to some reggae dancehall. But even though I still listened to geek punk alternative and new wave rock and roll—and played as a drummer for a band—I still ended up rapping with my cover band in high school.
“For me writing rap is very hard, because sometimes you need to rhyme and sometimes not. You have to put short clever lines or punch lines, word plays. Also in performing, you need to practice your lyrics and verses because sometimes you get tongue tied with how fast you’re speaking and spitting out words. I know art speaks in different ways but for me rapping really gets me every time—different rappers different stories about their lives and the struggles they face every day.” Aikee Vestil, Drop Out Club
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 27, 2013.