Ever since his impassioned live performance of Panalo (Trap Carinosa) went viral in 2021, Filipino-American Ezekiel Miller has been compared to Eminem, widely considered as one of the greatest rappers of all time.
The performance, uploaded by Filipino radio station Wish 107.5 FM on YouTube, has since been viewed more than 79 million times. And it was only a matter of time before Eminem himself took notice.
Last week, Miller, who is also known as Ez Mil, became the first Asian artist to be signed by Eminem's Shady Records, Dr Dre's Aftermath Entertainment and Interscope Records, which also counts Eminem on its roster of artists.
"Me and Dre back at it… Check Ezekiel Miller aka Ez Mil out," Eminem posted on Instagram, along with a photo of himself, Dre and Miller.
“We’ve never been out there signing a lot of artists, and one of the great things about how we built Shady is how selective we’ve been,” Eminem said of the signing.
“And it’s even rarer that Dre and I sign something together – but I heard Ez’s music and was like, ‘this is really special,' so I took it to Dre. We both agreed it would be a great fit and we wanted to work with him right on the spot.”
Dre, whose Aftermath Entertainment lineup includes acclaimed Grammy award-winning artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Anderson .Paak, said he was looking for something that sounded "different from anything else going on out there".
"Em played me Ez and I had that feeling... that thing that happens when we both know we've found something special. And that was it....let's get to work," he said.
Miller, 25, was born in Olongapo City in the Philippines to musician parents. His father, Paul Sapiera, was a popular singer in the 80s and 90s, while his mother, Hazel Miller, also worked in the same industry.
Like all aspiring musicians, he began by recording music in his bedroom. But it was only after dropping out of college, where he was studying architecture, and moving to the US that he started taking music seriously, often filming his own videos while also working at Burger King.
“I would look for people to give a helping hand,” he told music magazine NME. “I told them, ‘Yo, bro, can you get my phone and hold it like this?’. The people who were there to hold the camera were the real ones who saw something in me.”
By 2019, he'd amassed quite an online following, leading to that viral performance on Wish in 2021.
Flitting between Tagalog, English and Ilocano, another major language in the Philippines, Miller sings about being proudly Filipino in the fiery single Panalo (Trap Carinosa), blending elements of hip-hop and trap.
“We are Filipino, no matter the colour of our skin, we will take it to heart. No matter our Filipino dialect, no one can beat the ferocity of our blood," he raps.
The single, which samples Carinosa or the tune for a traditional Filipino folk dance, was also hugely controversial upon its release, with many calling out Miller for historical inaccuracies in his lyrics.
Still, Miller's immense talent seems to have overshadowed the controversy, and he signed his first major recording label, Virgin Music, in 2021.
Last month, Eminem teased about the impending recording deal.
"This is why we signed him," he said, sharing a video of Miller's song Up Down (Step & Walk) on X, formerly known as Twitter.
On Friday, Miller released his latest single, Realest, which features Eminem.
"Big thanks to sir Eminem for hopping on this track with me. It’s an honour (for real)! No one realer!," Miller shared on Instagram.