Thursday, July 22, 2010

Guerilla Style: FlipTop gives you raw Philippine rap

Nothingelse battles Abra at FlipTop in Pasig City in May

Check out this interview in the Philippines' FHM magazine highlighting the first Filipino rap battle league, FlipTop:

Interview by Gelo Gonzales and Lola Abrera

The authors give some background of the event, which is inspired by the popular U.S. battle circle, Grind Time: “Fliptop is a rap battle league that puts two people in a match to have them insult each other with the cleverest punch lines and sharpest rhymes.”

"Basically, anything that’s hiphop-related, but still done sort of like guerilla style."- Anygma, FlipTop organizer. Photo and quote from FHM article.

I had the pleasure of attending the latest FlipTop battle in Quezon City at Freedom Bar. Aside from being oppressively crowded and hot, the event was incredibly successful, fueled by the eager energy from a mostly young male crowd. In other pieces I’ve written that Philippine hip hop is not popular and its fans are a small but loyal circle. The magnitude of the intimacy and passion for the culture among the hip hop heads at FlipTop demonstrates that Philippine hip hop is actually more thriving and self-sufficient than I initially gave it credit for.

The FlipTop crowd keeps it hot at Freedom Bar. Photo from FHM article.

And its energy is proving to be contagious. Like Grind Time, FlipTop garners an alternate audience in the cyberworld. “You can say it's one of the biggest youtube sensations of 2010 because it has gone viral with several of their videos hitting a million views in just a couple months,” notes FHM.

Aklas performers before the battle begins. Photo from FHM article.

Hip hop in the Philippines takes on many faces: from the plush and exclusive clubs in Makati to the slums of Tondo, and everywhere in between. A crowd dotted with Pinoys rockin gear ranging from grillz to backpacks, FlipTop represents a space for the raw and grime of Philippine hip hop. There is no material gain at stake here. The winners take with them the pride in their skill (and maybe a t-shirt or a tattoo!). There are no flashy commercial sponsors. Just two emcees, the host, the judges, and the crowd. There isn’t even a mic (I think it’s for recorded audio purposes). This is on some guerilla-style shit, 4real.

The battle reminds me of Balagtasan, the Filipino poetic debates. Like Grind Time, FlipTop doesn’t utilize a beat. It’s completely a cappella and it doesn’t have to conform to a strict rhythm. It’s like Balagtasan cipherin with yo momma joke sessions (and, like any other dozens, toasting, or ciphering session, this space is not immune to homophobic, sexist, or racial punchlines). The cadence and alliteration of the Tagalog language all the more enhances the poetic versatility of the battle.

A young fan requests an autograph from FlipTop heavy-hitter Batas. Photo from FHM article.

All in all, FlipTop offers a space for emcees to build skills, build community, and define themselves. Furthermore, its a place from hip hop fans to geek out. Between battles, local emcees performed songs, many which the crowd knew. One group, Squatter House, commanded the crowd with very-familiar lyrics. FlipTop proves that Philippine hip hop heads are tight fans of one another and offer each other the respect and loyalty needed for a community to grow.

Click here for the FlipTop Facebook page. Become a fan!


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