DOCUMENTARY FILM 2
Ambagan sa Eksena
DIRECTED & WRITTEN BY:
Lara Katrina T. Mendoza
Ateneo de Manila University
University of the Philippines
EPAPC Scholar - Team Leader
First and foremost, Pinoy hip-hop is a culture of the young. Majority of my informants fall within ages 28 and 33, with no more than five who are 351 and above and no more than ten who are ages 20 and below.
Second, most of the informants recognise that hip-hop heads, aficionados, insiders, and fans need to contribute talent, skill, dedication, respect for the arts, and continual self-improvement into growing hip-hop music, which reflects a special, pulsating culture that belongs to those who understand its particular ethos and beats. Hip-hop artists must never forget to pay homage to a culture that has nurtured their dreams in what appears to be a redemptive arc from being misunderstood (as a thug, as a jeje, as a good for nothing) to being respected and emulated (as a genuine artisan with a meaningful message to share).
Third, what distinguishes Pinoy hip-hop from its American ascendants or predecessors is the Pinoy penchant for a wry self-effacing humor that masks a yearning for keeping the peace. Nowhere else is this more ironically revealed than in Mike Swift’s entreaty before the Sunugan: Bad Blood main rap battle draw between Price Tagg and Makagago happened. Hip-hop, Swift cried out to the fans, is all about love, harmony and unity.
Fourth, the elements of dissing, beef, and gangsterism in Pinoy hip-hop are fleshed out in degrees that can only sound truistic but remain true (pun unintended) to its intentions nonetheless. Pinoy hip-hop embraces the violence, the sex, the rebellion, but with the quirky, geeky, penchant for mirth ethos that makes us uniquely Pinoy, us, tayo, we. The best example that comes to mind right now is how Ex-B flexed their gangster muscles against Makagago by utilising their barkada/tropa networks and social media influence to bend people’s opinions and sympathies towards them (Skusta Clee’s post-Sunugan video showing him bragging inside a car that he had punched Makagago garnered 1 million votes while Makagago’s post video showing him pointing to the scratch given him by OG Sacred resulting from a punch garnered 400k likes). In real life, however, it was Makagago aka Jason Rodriguez who was more than willing to engage in face-to-face encounters and a squaring off, on his own, against Ex- B and their tropas, to determine who is the real gangster. In other words, the accouterments of “classic hip-hop” of the East-West coast origins have been appropriated by Pinoys who use hip-hop as a means of expression, (showing) solidarity with and fraternity among other disenfranchised and like-minded individuals/ka- tropa/friends, and salvation (because hip-hop saves lives, transforming useless, tambay existences into meaningful endeavors).
Fifth, it makes perfect sense (to me) why artists from the underground, or more specifically, how and why rappers (and deejays and dancers and producers of rap) from the underground culture) seek validation from fans, the rest of the world, from the industry, or “the mainstream”, via highly-sought-after recording label contracts, TV guestings, events, and the like. After all, money does make the world go ‘round. As Dello puts it, quite succinctly, “music gasses our art.” In his case, he meant that the money he makes from creating songs and performing at events helps him to do what he loves most in hip-hop, which is to write verses for rap battles, specifically in FlipTop. He stopped battling in FlipTop, it seems, because fans of the league criticized him for making what they considered to be shoddy music and instead urged him to just concentrate on battling and upholding his reputation as being the undisputed “Rebuttal King”.
Essentially, Klumcee ruminates hip-hop artists always come full circle (during our February 2019 interview): we can never forget our origins because that is the spirit of hip-hop and from where all creativity and passion come from. We can never turn our backs on who we are. To be Hip-hop is to be Underground.