In recent years, hip-hop saw a rise in popularity and has become a staple in pop music. Once an obscure genre hidden in between niches and underground, it has now dominated international music charts with songs by artists like Drake, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and many more.
In the Philippines, artists like Shanti Dope, Ex-battalion, Allmo$t, and their contemporaries lead the new school of hip-hop when it comes to online following. These artists’ invasion of the music scene is but the tip of a massive iceberg whose reach go beyond the ‘Manila-centric’ industry and into the crevices of regional music.
In the city of Davao, the hip-hop movement is very much alive with artists such as Delinquent Society, Mac-T, Southbreed, Budvibes, and others leading the genre when it comes to fan engagement. Hip-hop and its various elements are evident throughout the city with events being held at local bars almost every weekend wherein fans of these artists and enthusiasts gather to collectively experience the spirit and energy of the culture.
In the city there is System Game of Rap (SGR). A rap battle league highly influenced by Flip-top that hosts battle tournaments which pits Emcee’s against each other à la Balagtasan. SGR’s events are usually held in bars, most frequently in 082 Lokal located in Torres St. However, there are occasions where these battles are taken back to their roots, which is in the streets in different barangays in the city. Live performances by rap acts are also present during these events.
As a part of the continuing movement, a monthly event is being conducted and organized by GRVTY Studios called, Kapaanay. In the said event local artists are invited to perform their original compositions in front of enthusiasts of the genre, showcasing their rhyming skills. Occasionally, rap acts from neighboring regions are invited to perform.
Aside from the reoccurring events mentioned above, the culture’s movement is kept alive by events conducted by various production groups such as: Moody Blues Productions, Asay Productions, Revere, Behindthescenes.ph who run in cooperation with each other. Other elements of the hip-hop culture are perpetuated in the form of live art (graffiti), DJ-ing (scratching of turntables), Beatboxing and Break dancing – all present during hip-hop events.
Hip-hop is evidently thriving, Delinquent Society (DS) is made up of students from the Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU); a hip-hop group now operating as a rap duo. The group has a more contemporary flavor akin to the new wave of Western hip-hop which effectively appeals to the millennial audience. DS’s fan-base is significant enough to have propelled them to the national music stage.
Acts like Ace Locos, Mac-T of Legisdados, Kalawakan Crew, and Sick Rhymes who have been operating in the local rap scene since its inception still continue to perform at local and out-of-town gigs showing that the message of the culture is timeless and the old-school rappers can still hold their own alongside the newcomers in the scene.
It becomes apparent how this culture is healthy and thriving due to numerous local artists, who use the genre as an avenue to preach street knowledge, social truths, and unfiltered angst of the layman. All of these are what make hip-hop ever relevant.
It is evident that local hip-hop is a culture adapted from the African-Americans in the ‘70s Harlem, thus many question its originality. Even though the public is now acquiring a taste for the music and is beginning to appreciate hip-hop as a culture, there are some who still criticize the genre for various reasons such as; the use of blunt language which is seen as crass and offensive, attack the artist, because of their ways of presenting their selves visually and those who simply label hip-hop as a ‘jeje’ culture without understanding its essence as an artistic social and political force.
Despite variations in style and approach, local artists managed to infuse their own brand into the genre. The essence of hip-hop remains fundamentally the same – empowering the marginalized, transforming negativity into art, and exercising freedom of expression.
With a wide range of variety in style, the casual listener may find something to enjoy in the catalogue of Davao rap. Our artists in the budding industry in Davao put in effort, their heart, and soul in their respective crafts which is reason enough for us to give them a listen. Support local. (Gregory Neil A. Dongiapon/USEP Intern)