Welcome to Beat Street: A Hip-Hop Playlist

Hip-hop is a culture, a way of life. In my opinion, it is the freest form of expression: uncensored, lyrical wordplay. Born out of the streets, the underrated genre is teeming with stories: realizing rags-to-riches type of dreams, bragging about possessions and skills, dissing enemies, championing an absence of chivalry, propagating hate, airing out family problems—anything and everything. It is not exactly innocent; its hands are often bloodied with violence, crime, and even death. One thing is certain, though: a love for hip-hop is rooted in the innermost core of one’s individuality, which is why some hip-hop artists and enthusiasts end up being larger than life itself. Each verse and beat is deeply personal. Each person who has dedicated his or her life to the craft is committed to probably the greatest cause all of them are fighting for in this lifetime: staying relevant.

I am a huge fan of hip-hop. I was born in 1990, the start of the decade when Nas and Jay-Z started making names for themselves. Crews were big at that time. Locally, the late Francis Magalona was one of the prominent names that led a relatively small rap following. Admittedly, years of exposure to American hip-hop and watching MTV Jams religiously made me a rabid fan of the genre, though it left me with little knowledge of our own local scene. But good music is good music, regardless of where it’s from.

Here are few gems I found in the Amplify.ph music library, arranged as a playlist—which doubles as a form of local urban music education for me, as well.

Start this playlist in full swing, I say. The opening verse from wordsmith and rap luminary Gloc-9 alone packs a punch, and the beats are on point. Q-York is the Filipino-American rap duo from Queens, New York responsible for “Mainit,” which enjoyed massive airplay on Myx Philippines and now-defunct MTV Pilipinas upon its release. Their sound has stayed radio-friendly, dance floor-ready, and lyrics remain appealing both to the club and the streets. It’s timely, too—with the recent win of Manny Pacquiao. Might as well dedicate this to the nation he represents: ours.

Also check out: “Same Ol’ Dream,” “For What We Love,” “Stop, Look, Listen

The Out Of Body Special is a name I’m familiar with. Back in 2006, I read a feature about them on PULP magazine; but it was only late last year that I became acquainted with their music. It’s a shameful oversight, I know. These guys know their funk, groove, and everything in between; and their sound is full of vigor—even more so amplified with their band setup. The best thing about the band is that their music gets soulful beneath its exuberant exterior. You can listen to them any time of the day, and be ready to bust a move. Uninhibited music—truly an out-of-body special.

Also check out: “What Everybody Said

Just because hip-hop was born out of the streets doesn’t mean it lacks sophistication. That’s exactly what this track is about. A Problem Like Maria has the flair to combine sharp lyricism with lush melodies and smooth beats, showing off her fierce feminism through and through.

Also check out: “Gossamer Wings,” “Lutang (feat. B-Roc)

Hip-hop artist aero.’s monicker means All-day Everyday Rocking Out period, which he intends to maintain as part of his daily grind. This Bacolod native’s style, on first listen, is a mix of retro (radio clips and samples) and contemporary influences. His rapping is smooth and well-paced with the laidback beats. This is a great stress-buster when you’re out and stuck in traffic on your way to work.

Also check out: “Soulfiesta,” “Pasikat Posse Cut

The title alone begs for attention. More often than not, when artists do this, the song sucks—but hey, it got your attention, right? Kwizyne’s song is the opposite, of course. Filled with old school beats and mid-tempo rap, in this often overlooked track he covers the basics and puts his own spin on things.

The members of Miscellaneous have been making music together for ten years now. Composed of seasoned producers and DJs, Miscellaneous’ influences—good old 90’s hip-hop in particular—is evident in this track. The song reminds me of a jazzy LL Cool J, with deft beats and infectious melodies.

The strength of “2000Shine” lies in its production. The violin loop keeping up with the fast-paced beats provides a nice contrast, and is aided with big bass bumps. It’s the track of choice to keep the party going.

Also check out: “Caught Up (Soulfiesta Remix)

It would be a shame to stay still when this is blaring from speakers. Friends have spoken highly of Dash Calzado and it’s hard to argue—especially after hearing “Return Of The Phunky Juan.” There is a certain charm exuding from every single thing about this track. Best of all, it is a mighty comeback. Palakpakan, everyone, for the Phunky Juan.

This track celebrates faith, gratitude, and hope—that for as long as we believe that we are not alone, there will always be a fire that never goes out. This is for our brothers and sisters hit by Typhoon Yolanda.

Cross-published on Amplify.ph

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