Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Stick Figgas is a name that has quickly become synonymous with Pinoy Rap. The first nationwide taste of the duo was on Eat Bulaga's noontime Pinoy Idol-esque rap off competition, "Rap-Public of the Philippines". Hosted by Francis M. himself, the competition served as the stepping stone for many of the scene's now most active emcees. Amongst the notable competitors were Crazy As Pinoy, Kamandag ng Marikina, and of course, the Stick Figgas. Although not taking home the big win, Xplizit and Loonie would go on to take the local rap circuit by the horns (and pull very very forcefully).
The duo's guest spots on compilation albums and features showcased wordplay, flow, and multis that were, at the time, unheard of. Ridiculous shit! We're talking Rakim-esque multi-syllable rhyme-patterns, metaphors and similes that the local scene had not scene an emergence of since BB Clan's "Mabanges." If you were a local Hiphop head, you had a favourite Sticks line, whether it was Loonie's biting "Lumalabas sa TV, na parang si Sadako" on the Rap-Public's vol. 2 disc or Xplizit's "Kayang kaya mo ako pag-gamit-gamit mo baril, pero subukan mo ako gamit ng lapis at papel" on B-Sides/Turbulence compilation. Last year, their long overdue first album was released under 6000 Goonz & Red Egg Records, aptly entitled "Critical Condition."
After a successful album, Loonie has pushed local lyricism to new heights by recording verses in both English and Tagalog, gaining rep as a battle Emcee at numerous local battles, and all taking it in stride. Crowned as 2004's Power 108 Emcee Battle Champion, nominated for Rookie of the Year at the first Philippine Hiphop Awards and Rapper of the Year at consequent awardings and finally taking home his first "Boombox" at the third Awards Show as Co-Producer for Critical Condition (with DiCE of Mobbstarr), this Figga has had major hype leading up to the release of his first solo effort. Now, in 2008, Loonie gears up for his first solo album. Gloc-9 has praised him for his lyrical ability. Local Hiphop Heads have credited him as the "Allen Iverson" to Francis M's "Michael Jordan".
Now, with All Eyez on Him, SoulSonic sits down with the man of the hour to see exactly where the hype ends and Marlon Peroramas begins.
SOL: Alright, so here we are: Loonie. Waddap man? How's it going? Thanks for taking the time to sit with us here at Soulsonic.
Loonie: No problem man. I’m currently on a much-needed vacation right now so time is all I have.
SOL: So, lemme start off with a bit of a trip down memory lane. You guys, I mean you and your group, have been a part of the Rap-Public of the Philippines talent search, and the rest as they say, is history. How did that feel at the time? Anong mga nasa loob niyo nung pumasok kayo sa competition? Paano kayo nakapasok doon? May nag-scout ba sa inyo? How did you judge yourselves as compared to the other groups in the competition?
Loonie: A talent scout from Eat Bulaga took notice of us while we were performing during a rap contest in Sundance near Sta. Lucia. I still remember the title of the rap contest, it was called Rappenings and the guy from Eat Bulaga approached us, saying that our chemistry was perfect and later invited us to launch the maiden episode of Rappublic of the Philippines. We were ecstatic yet unsure of what we were going up against since most us were barely 16 at the time and it was our first nationwide TV appearance. We had to overcome a lot of things like stage fright, low confidence and other more experienced rap groups that were also competing. We rolled as a trio until the grand finals. No family or posse was with us in the studio and since the first episode was on such a short notice, we were literally writing our rhymes in the taxi cab on the way to TAPE Studios. It was a hell of an experience that I wished we had documented.
SOL: So a little background info. Anong ibigsabihin ng Stick Figgas? I heard alot of water-cooler talk. Naguusap mga Hiphop Heads, daming theory. Some say it's a play on words of "Stick Figures," others say "Figgas" is the N-Word with a Filipino twist. Shed some light.
Loonie: Stick Figgas is simply Stick Figures. Some people think it’s because of the way we look: tall, lanky and slim. But actually, in a deeper perspective you can say Stick Figgas refers to music for the simple listener as drawing stick figures is what people usually do when trying to illustrate something in an uncomplicated manner.
SOL: So what about Loonie? From past tracks, you made connections to your MC name as being synonymous with "crazy". But I also heard it's an acronym for something.
Loonie: Back in my senior high school years, peers would call me Marloonie which eventually became just Loonie in the long run. It was only recently that I accidentally came up with an acronym for it: "Lyrically One Of the Nation’s Illest Emcees". Corny but forgivable haha.
SOL: How did the Stick Figgas come to be? Why/how did you start rapping? Weren't there more members in the group before? Will we be hearing from Tuff from Rap-Public 1 in any new tracks?
Loonie: Stick Figgas was born during a boring Math class back in 2001. There were 4 members back then namely: Kannabis, Tuff, Xplizit and yours truly. We were the first students in the history of our school to ever perform a rap song during the morning ceremonies. Instead of notes, we would write diss songs to each other and incite rap battles during class. Then after school, we would go over to my place writing conceptual songs and recording them using an old cassette recorder, a couple of blank tapes, a cheap computer microphone and Cakewalk. We normally finish a dozen crappy songs a day and we would wrap every session up with some crazy freestyling that would drive my mom nuts. We even made use of our recorded songs when graduation came and our Music teacher required the entire class to compose and record an original song each. We made some money off of it and some became part of ex-deals to our classmates for other more difficult subject requirements such as Physics and Trigonometry. After the Rappublic era though Tuff had to quit rapping to concentrate on schooling and that’s where Xquisite came in. She did the choruses for Critical Condition and also had to leave after becoming a flight stewardess. But we’re planning to do a reunion track with the original Stick Figgas on our second album if time permits.
SOL: How does it feel being given props by Francis M.? I mean, you're the guy's hypeman. Idol siya ng marami. Were you star-strucked at all when you met him? What's he like in person? Is he like any other person now or is it still a little bit surreal to work with The Mouth?
Loonie: My first recording sessions with Francis M. were surreal as hell. I kept on messing up my vocal takes; my voice seemed to fail me, as he is very aloof at first. He would just keep a long stare at you, talking with his deep baritone voice, carefully reading your character as if you were a walking resume. Back then, I thought: I must be the luckiest rapper in the Philippines because here I am breaking bread with The King! We would talk about song structures, rhyme schemes, hip-hop in general, computer games, his fascination with Rakim and mine with Nas, religion, politics, and almost everything under the sun. He had given me a lot of useful advice in anger management, time management and showmanship. I also appreciate the fact that he listens to a lot of my suggestions and oftentimes he would consult me when it comes to rhyming. The day I became his official hypeman was one of the greatest highlights of my rap career. To this day, it’s still a bit surreal. I mean the guy is not just a rapper. He’s a multi-awarded actor, VJ, DJ, musician, artist, and one of the best up-and-coming photographers. So to sum it all up, yeah being given props by the Master Rapper would already be an accolade in itself if you ask me.
SOL: Do you think it's worth it to argue about if there's Hip-hop in the Philippines or not? Anong say mo doon?
Loonie: It’s a waste of valuable oxygen and web space. At least for me, I think. I mean, what’s the difference? If the music scene in general or the mainstream doesn’t recognize hip-hop I would still be doing this rap shit. I grew up on this art form. It has become both my hobby and my job at the same time. Whether I have a label backing me up or not, I know in my heart that the music that I do transcends genres, cultures, genders and all other stereotypes that make up this country. So arguing about it or even listening to heads argue about it is just boring small talk for me.
SOL: What can you say about the current state of affairs in the local Hip-Hop scene? May chance pa bang umangat ang rap industry? What do you think is the best possible route to take in the future for the whole movement? Nong pananaw mo sa industriya ng rap sa kasalukuyan?
Loonie: To be honest, I don’t really know. The markets are scattered and almost everyone wants to rap yet they don’t know how to be a fan. The underground scene is flourishing with talents but the majority of the radio jocks in the Philippines don’t really appreciate the local rap sound. I think a big part of it has something to do with marketing or packaging or like what Syke said: Filipinos hate Pinoys; a sad but true statement. The best route to take would be wherever as long as you mind your own business and make sure you always deliver an A-product.
SOL: What annoys you about the local Hiphop scene the most?
Loonie: Ignorance, immaturity and the green eyed monster. I’m not a role model for hip-hop but yeah it gets pretty annoying. Internet rappers who diss me trying to ride off my hype but end up sounding like me is just stupid. But I eventually shrug off those petty annoyances at the end of the day.
SOL: Do you believe a filipino rapper has a chance to go international? What do you think it would take?
Loonie: I’d like to believe that. I think it would take a truckload of money, a lot of guts and a network of big-time connections for that to happen. First of all, there’s always the race card and second of all, they won’t buy you unless you rap with a dance move nowadays.
SOL: Through an artists point of view, why do you think some albums have a hard time selling and others go platinum? Why do you think albums like Carlos Agassi's "AMIR" can sell in tremors while classics like D-Coy's "Plastic Age" barely even moved the Richter Scale.
Loonie: It depends on if the label is promoting you well. Promoting you well means giving you mall shows, TV appearances, music videos, radio airplay and at times buying your own records. The average Pinoy would rather spend 250 pesos on cellphone load than buying a pinoy rap cd which isn’t too famous because of the lack of promotion.
SOL: Is Critical Condition selling well?
Loonie: We’re already out of units so I guess it sold well. 3000 copies were manufactured, half of it was distributed nationwide and a lot of peeps are messaging me up saying the record stores are already out of stock for it.
SOL: Bakit kayo nagseperate ways ng Rapskallion? Are you and Kyle still cool? "Bitch Move" II maybe?
Loonie: Me and Kyle are cool. He just has his own way of doing rap music and I have mine. I honestly don’t wanna be a part of any camp other than Red Egg Records which was basically my launch pad. I just used to be affiliated with them like I was with 6000 Goonz. Maybe we’ll do a track again in the future if the beat is right and my mind feels like it.
SOL: Alot of people say that beef is played out or gas-gas na ang pagiging maangas. Anong tingin mo doon? Do you think it's a natural part of Hiphop's competitive nature or can rappers one day completely eliminate the diss-track? Give us a view into the mentality of a rapper that raps "Bakit ba mga kanta natin ay laging banatan? Magpakasaya tayo para maiba naman" on one verse and then goes on to write "Isang Bara Ka Lang" and "Ikaw Nga."
Loonie: Isang Bara Ka Lang and Ikaw Nga were another part of my creative being. It’s almost like a reflex action to me when one rapper disrespects me. My mouth just automatically spews out the verbal lashings to come. I don’t really sit and concentrate hard thinking on how to destroy a rapper’s self-esteem. I would rather channel my artistic vision into more thought-provoking tracks. Diss tracks are second nature to battle emcees. I’ve been doing them for years so it’s like a given for me. And I only strike for self-defense, lyrically or physically. I don’t waste studio time bullying wack rappers around. Isang Bara Ka Lang is almost like a life-line for Badang’s sorry-ass career. He was once a part of the Rappublic family, so why not help a brother out by making him a little bit noticed? Beef is cool if you know how to cook it. You know what I mean?
SOL: Speaking of beefs, the whole Hiphop scene is focused on Badang's recent diss track and reply to "Isang Bara Ka Lang." Have you heard it?
Loonie: Nope, and I don’t plan to. I hear it’s cornier than a Love Radio joke. He’s pathetically funny.
SOL: You wanna speak on the root of that beef? Cuz the streets are talking.
Loonie: I would call it beef cubes or fake beef because I don’t even have a problem with that little girl. It’s just the green eyed monster doing its work. The plastic bottle he threw on stage was the best shit he could come up with. He would’ve been dead by now if the bottle hit me.
SOL: Would you ever consider doing a pop track? Kasi, with you and Xplizit, personally, with what you did with Critical Condition, I see you guys like a new-age Simon/Ali or Hi-Jakkk/Gloc-9. With Gloc-9, nagsimula siya as a member of Death Threat and now he has songs with Rochelle of Sexbomb... sa palagay mo, through a rapper's point of view, would it be selling out to suddenly do a party track or club banger?
Loonie: Why not? If they pay me the right amount and respect I’ll do it. Things like that sort of like become a challenge for me. Selling out is inevitable if you’re just a manufactured artist.
SOL: Weve been hearing Rumors that you are no longer part of 6000 Goonz.. that you and dice have a beef going on ? is it true ? can you set this straight...
Loonie: Yes I am no longer part of 6000 Goonz. Let's just say that I outgrew that shit like what happened with Rapskallion. I am not in speaking terms with either Dice or Hi-C. They know what's up but Klumcee, Trapp and the rest of the gang are cool with me and vice versa. Like what I always say to myself before: I hate being a part of something where I have to follow orders or I have to take shit from "shot callers". I've got my own way of doing things and if they can't respect it then I'm out. That's all I have to say.
SOL: Who are your influences? Both locally and internationally. Who did you grow up listening to?
Loonie: Locally, I had the tapes of the original Ghetto Doggs: Born To Kill The Devil, The first Death Threat album, DFT, and FrancisM’s Happy Battle and Freeman. I grew up listening to a lot of N.W.A., Bone thugs n harmony, Jay-Z, Coolio, Cypress Hill and apart from rap I’m also a big fan of Alanis Morissette.
SOL: What's the process for you when writing a verse? Do you have any tips for wannabe rappers out there who have yet to put a pencil to paper?
Loonie: I don’t really have a process. The thoughts usually come to me when I’m riding a bus or a jeepney. Boredom kills my writer’s block. I would advise beginners to practice freestyling first. If you think it’s good, write it down. If it reads good, record it. If it sounds good, perform it. Most of the time that works for me.
SOL: Okay, so sino ang paborito mong local rapper right now, excluding the Sticks. Who has got your ear?
Loonie: There are a lot. Not in particular order: PKSO, Konflick, Klutch-B, Nimbus9, Mikerapphone, God’s Will, Klumcee, Gloc 9, and Mike Swift. Marami e. Off the top yun ang mga naisip ko.
SOL: Who do you want to someday collab with locally or internationally?
Loonie: I wanna do a track with Ian Tayao and just straight up open the gates of hell or do a fresh track with Ms. Cynthia Alexander or Aia De Leon. Internationally, I wanna work the boards with Dr. Dre or trade lyrical barbs with Lupe Fiasco.
SOL: So, your new album. It's called "I Am Normal" right? Or was it "The Ones That Were Left Behind"? Are there two seperate projects altogther or the same one? Give us a bit of an overview about the projects and what can we expect from each.
Loonie: Yes they are two different projects, "I Am Normal" is my first full-length LP as a solo artist and "The Ones Who Never Made It" is an EP to hype the listeners up before I release the first. The latter is actually a collection of loose songs I did post Critical Condition. You can expect the songs in the EP to be battle-oriented and I also did a bunch of collaborations up in there. I have a lot of guests up in there along with some surprise ones. Information about my LP is classified as of now haha. The LP will be more of a concept album and the only thing I can say is the first single off of it will be hot, hot, hot. It’s a collabo with Francis M. and Gloc 9 and the rest is a secret. The EP will be released soon as I get enough money for capital. The LP won’t be released till next year so just hold on tight.
SOL: Sino-sino mga ka-collab mo sa bagong mixtape? Sa bagong album?
Loonie: I’ve got Gloc 9, Klumcee, Nimbus9, God’s Will, Trapp and Ron Henley on the EP along with some surprise guests. My LP will have less guest appearances because I really want to direct the sound of the entire album with my own voice.
SOL: When can we expect a release date for either project?
Loonie: The EP will be out soon. I still don’t have a release date but I’m pretty sure it’s this year haha! The LP is still halfway thru its finishing stages so expect it to be released next year.
SOL: What's your favourite track from your new projects? What's gonna make people go "ASTICK!!!"
Loonie: The Bobo Song is one of my favorites on the EP. My favorite collabo track would be Ssinungaling with God’s Will and Ron Henley. All I can say is you can listen to it from start to end with no need for the next track button. It’s music for your headphones.
SOL: How is your solo effort different from your work with the Sticks in past projects? Can we expect any changes from your previous style and subject matters?
Loonie: It’s a lot different. My solo album has a darker, more sarcastic sound and some of the tracks are a little abstract in nature in contrast to Stick Figgas’ direct to the point approach. The signature flow and rhyming is still there with some improvements and you can expect the subject matters to be more diverse this time around.
SOL: I heard you were planning to enter the WRC (see http://www.jumpoff.tv for info). Is that true? Have you been following the worldwide battle circuit at all? Sino sinong mga idolo mo sa pagfreestyle? How do you think you stack up against peeps like Illmaculate or Thesaurus?
Loonie: I would really like a chance to spit against Iron Solomon. I’ll give him a lyrical ass-whuppin he’ll never forget haha! I’m a big fan though. Next year I’m planning to sign up under the Canada division with Klumcee if things go as planned. Illmaculate and Thesaurus are monsters. We’re gonna have to prepare well for the WRC if we’re gonna face those two. Right now we’re scheduling our spit-sparring sessions. We have more than a year to train and I think that’s more than enough.
SOL: Anong pagkakaiba sa process ng pagfreestyle at pagsulat ng kanta? What are the mental differences in those two fields? Sa palagay mo, can one be an ill freestyler, but a wack recording artist, or vice versa, an ill recording artist, but a wack freestyler? What skills or elements do you need to perfect each craft?
Loonie: Basically, freestyling is just improvised rap with no prior knowledge to the beat or to the subject matter. So it all comes down to impeccable rhythm, flawless timing and presence of mind. Loose portions of unrecorded lyrics can also be regarded as freestyle if you know how to act the part of a freestyler. To be a good recording artist though, you have to know your own voice and learn how to control it. Creativity is a must if you want to record. Mastering both skills will get you places.
SOL: Will there ba another Stick Figgas album in the future?
Loonie: Most definitely! Our second album will be entitled Take Two and we’re already writing the material for it as we speak. It’s gonna be a whole lot different and fresh so watch out for it.
SOL: Anong pangarap mo sa buhay?
Loonie: Magkaroon ng maraming maraming maraming pera dahil maraming maraming marami akong gustong gawin at tulungan. I don’t really expect to get rich off of hip-hop. I also have a separate life apart from the rapping that I’ve been doing for the past 7 years. Before, my dream was just to perform during our school’s flag ceremony. I’ve done it and more. One of my mottos is “One dream at a time.”
SOL: Any last words for the local Hiphop community? Shout outs? Messages? You have the floor tol.
Loonie: Shout outs to all the fans and supporters. We’ll never stop making music for you. Thanks for all the love. To the local Hip-hop community tuloy tuloy lang! Dapat ganado pa rin! Shouts to Ron Henley, Tuff, Don Pacundo, Klumcee, Cat Cat, Chano, Matt at siyempre kay Lianne. Sa lahat ng tropa, abangan ang pagbabalik! Watch out for these future releases:
Loonie – The Ones Who Never Made It
Xplizit – Telling Stories To The Sky
Loonie – I Am Normal
Stick Figgas – Take Two
Thanks SoulSonic. More power! Peace!