Ten Filipino musicians who pioneered the country's vibrant hip-hop scene

The history of the genre stretches back to the 1980s

Bass Rhyme Posse have been described as the Filipino version of US hip-hop group the Beastie Boys. Photo: Bass Rhyme Posse
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The rich and diverse hip-hop scene in the Philippines is being discovered by a new generation of fans courtesy of new break-out star Ez Mill.

The Filipino-American rapper, full name Ezekiel Miller, recently rose to fame after being signed by Eminem's Shady Records, Dr Dre's Aftermath Entertainment and Interscope Records.

While the rapper’s lyrical prowess and production skills are undeniable, Ez Mill stands on the shoulders of a generation of Filipino artists who have helped spawn the scene since the late 1980s.

One of whom is Warren Vera, who under the name 8th Messenger was part of hip-hop group Pamilia Dimagiba.

Known for their gritty sonics and dexterous word play, the nine-piece emerged in the mid-nineties and their popularity led to them being described as the Philippines' answer to US hip-hop crew the Wu-Tang Clan.

Speaking to The National from Manila, Vera lists 10 other pioneering artists who helped develop the sound of Filipino hip-hop.

1. Francis Magalona

“Also known as Francis M, he is really one of the godfathers of the whole scene here in the Philippines,” Vera says.

“His 1989 debut album Francis M has been very influential in showing rappers like myself who came after him how to do this hip-hop thing properly.

“He rapped in English and Tagalog and spoke about socially conscious topics like the love for family, culture and justice.

“His music is really positive which, to me, is really what hip-hop is all about.”

2. Rapasia

“Back in the mid-nineties there was no such thing as a commercial or underground scene when it came to hip-hop in the Philippines.

“The scene was still growing and you basically listened to what was available. This really started to change with the influence of the Wu-Tang Clan.

“This is when the hip-hop scene over here started going in different directions.

“Rapasia, a good group who are now working in the US, are interesting because their sound was right in the middle.

“It was kind of commercial and clubby, but they also rapped about some serious things at times.”

3. Andrew E

“He has a certain colourful style that people like.

“He reminds me a little bit of [American hip-hop group] 2 Live Crew, which is fun and with a little naughty side to it.”

4. Bass Rhyme Posse

“I describe this group as our version of [US hip-hop duo] the Beastie Boys.

“They are dope and cover a wide range of everyday subjects.

“These guys have a rap about everything – from what it feels like to be in school, to saving the environment and the importance of recycling."

5. 4 East Flava

“4 East Flava are interesting because the group raps in English, which in the nineties was very rare in big cities like Manila.

“I am not saying that it wasn't done, as some artists sprinkled in English while rapping in Tagalog, but 4 East Flava really embraced English and they still sounded cool and authentic.

“I think it's because they always approached hip-hop with the right mentality and people respected that.”

6. Lady Diane

“She is one of the few women hip-hop artists on the scene and she also made a big impact.

“When the Gulf War started in 1991, she released a song that spoke, in her own way, about how the war affected gas prices around the world, including the Philippines.

“That song became a hit because it was catchy, and it was playing everywhere during that time.”

7. Masta Plann

“Masta Plann are a group that live in the US and primarily rap in English with a few Tagalog words in the mix.

“I remember they became popular around 1992 because they had this really polished sound that was a hit on the radio and in the clubs.

“Because they grew up abroad, when we heard them they had a foreign accent that the audience in the Philippines found amazing.

“But their lyrics and skills were good, so the scene embraced them."

8. Down Ta Erf

“An influential hip-hop duo that really showed how the sound of Filipino hip-hop changed towards the late 1990s.

“One of the members grew up in New York while the other was raised here in the Philippines.

“Together, they really brought that tough New York sound to Filipino hip-hop and gave it an extra edge.”

9. Legit Misfitz

“Another cool duo with a big fan base because they appealed to everyone.

“They have songs that can be hard or soft when it comes to style and lyrics. Not everyone can do that.”

10. Death Threat

“Probably one of our most controversial groups and they really started gangster rap in the Philippines.

“They were ferocious on the mic and they rapped about social issues and street tales.

“They can definitely be viewed as pioneers of the scene.

Updated: August 26, 2023, 6:58 AM