MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Hip-hop is thriving worldwide as it turns 50, and in the Philippines, Spotify is championing the genre with its newest destination: Kalye X.
The New York born and bred genre has grown in local popularity in recent years. From one hit by Ex-Batalion in 2018, streams for Pinoy hip-hop has gone a hundred fold. According to a report by Spotify, local streams grew by 700% since then.
Prior to that, there have been little but steady influence with the likes of Gloc-9 and Abra as the few dominant artists, then came the rise of rap battle contest FlipTop forming a tight knit community in the underground scene.
“The term kalye really best represents hip-hop because it means the street so it represents the energy, and the organic art form,” shared Kossy Ng, Head of Music at Spotify Asia, during the launch of Kalye X where hip-hop artists from all over the country showed up for a night of raw talent, community, and love for the music.
Among the artists were Al James, Cookie$, Midnasty, and collective Morobeats who performed tracks that reflect their roots. On this, Kossy shared how kalye is thematic of the genre’s essence and foremost in understanding where the artists are coming from, and listening to their stories. A point driven throughout the night by carrying the audience though the artists’ words spliced through chest-thumping beats.
In 2001, Kelefa Sanneh wrote at the New Yorker that “A rapper’s most important instrument is language.” The more colloquial it is, the further the reach and the deeper the resonance. Thus, the strong upsurge of hip-hop when it was decentralized.
Cookie$ shared, “When I started rapping in Bisaya, I found my niche, and it made me stand out. My language has a very distinct sound and tends to be very passionate. It is important to put Bisaya culture on the map and inspire others looking to follow their passion. Spotify has been continuing to help me and other artists elevate Filipino talent while remaining true to our roots and distinct artistries.”
To celebrate hip-hop’ golden year, Spotify is also releasing singles for artists and a pop-up concert in the coming months: Midnasty and Cookie$ in Cebu in August, Morobeats in Davao this September, and Gloc 9, Hero, and Ramdiss in Manila in October.
“Kalye X is about bringing artist, fans, and the community together and pushing the boundaries of creativity,” Kossy added.
Currently, there are over 48,000 hip-hop playlists by Filipino users on Spotify excluding the platform-generated Bago Sa Rap, Dugong Hip-Hop, Pinas Vibes, and the fresh off the street: Kalye Hip-hop.
Spotify is set to show that hip-hop encompasses rap, style, and attitude to embody its own culture. For a genre relatively young, hip-hop has a unique perspective that needs expression and more so for Pinoy hip-hop which needs recognition beyond the immediate graffiti-laden ratchet reputation. With our rising homegrown talents and Spotify as its champion, the space for Pinoy hip-hop on the global stage is long overdue — Iba’t-ibang daan. Isang tagpuan. (Different roads. One destination.)