Who do you think of when the words "Filipino rapper" are uttered? Chances are, if it's not the two golden-age legends Francis M. or Andrew E., it's a rapper by the name of Aristotle Pollisco, better known as Gloc-9. He is the emcee that originated the rapid tongue-twister flow that is now commonplace in the local underground, and is arguably the fastest rapper in the whole country. Not just that, Aris is also one of the most (if not the most) diverse and versatile emcees to ever hold a mic, having had his hand in everything from gritty underground tracks, to horrorcore tracks, to love songs, to even socio-political conscious tracks. As of 2009, it would be foolish to ignore Gloc's status as arguably the biggest Filipino rapper in the scene.
Gloc's beginnings were in the dark, grimey Hip-Hop underground in '97. When Death Threat's third album "Kings of Da Undaground" came to record bars, it was our first taste of Gloc-9's rapid fire delivery and poignant sincere lyricism. Spitting verses about everything from rape, to suicide, to crooked cops, Gloc, along with another Death Threat member Hi-Jakkk, crafted a filipino Hip-Hop classic. Without any mainstream promotion and by only word of mouth in the streets, the album achieved Platinum status. It wasn't long before the hard-hitting tracks were bumping on almost every street corner in Manila and Gloc dominated the Filipino Hip-Hop underground scene with two more albums alongside his partner Hi-Jakkk and ill guest verses in almost every underground Hip-Hop release at that time.
After having won over the underground crowd and a fall out/beef with Hi-Jakkk, Gloc surprised everyone with his solo album under Star Records, which showed off a more mainstream, 'masa'-friendly sound. Gloc's change of style showed growth as an artist, as he penned creative songs that departed from the typical street bravado and dark content that flooded the local Hip-Hop scene at that time. Gloc also showed off his vocal range, adding melody and song to his compositions and in many occasions also performing the choruses and hooks in his tracks. With relateable catchy hit singles like "Simpleng Tao," "Isang Araw" and "Bakit?" under his belt, it was a clear sign that Gloc had made it.
Coining his rap-name after the nine-milimetre glock fire-arm, it's not a surprise that this rapper spits with a velocity as fast and furious as the firing of a handgun. However, the speedy and infectious flow is only half of this emcee's success. Gloc's rap repertoire of tracks consists of an honesty and relatability that transcends Hip-Hop listeners, something that everyone from pedicab drivers to highschool students can relate to. Gloc has managed to cross-over to mainstream success by crafting an every-man story in his songs, and doing so without relinquishing any of the skill on the mic that won over the Hip-Hop Heads in his underground days.
Twelve years after his appearance on "Kings of da Undaground," Gloc has just released his fourth solo record, aptly titled "Matrikula." We sit down with him in this SOULSONIC EXCLUSIVE, to see what's in store for listeners in this new musical offering, where Gloc is right now in terms of life and his music, a look into the past, and a look into what might be in the future.
SOL: Firstly, salamat sa oportunidad na binigay niyo na makausap kayo for this Q&A.
Gloc-9: Salamat din for considering me for the interview!
SOL: First thing's first: you have a new album in the market called "Matrikula." It's been two years since the release of "Diploma." What has changed in your music, if anything, between that album and this one? How would you compare the feel of "Diploma" with the feel of "Matrikula"?
Gloc-9: A lot has changed in terms of my writing and with the production of the songs. I only worked with one producer this time around, the craazy, increedible Jonathan Ong (of Sonic State Productions).... While writing the songs on this album, I was exposed to the real drama of life since I study nursing, and I get assigned to hospital areas like the E.R. and in public hospitals. You get to see first hand how hard life is for a lot of our kababayans. That’s also why the feel of this album is quite heavy.
Upuan (Live) - Gloc-9 @ FMCC Souljahs Anniversary
SOL: I've already had the privilege to listen to the album and in my opinion it's your best solo work yet. It does feel a lot "heavier" and more "serious" in tone than your previous works. Even though you've always commented on the social inequalities sa Pinas, the theme seems to be especially central in this album.
Gloc-9: Yup, like I said, it’s the exposure to real hardships of the poor. Imagine witnessing a mother bringing his 10 year old son to the emergency room not knowing that he has “TB” for almost a year because they don’t have enough money to support medical needs. And for an hour, she tries to talk to her already dead son, trying to convince herself that her son is still alive.
SOL: That’s pretty heavy stuff…
Gloc-9: This album seemed like it had a mind of its own while we were recording it. The songs came one at a time until it was finally completed.
SOL: Why did you decide to call the album "Matrikula?" Why is it that the "Diploma" album come before the "Matrikula" album?
Gloc-9: “Diploma” is the paper that I use when writing my songs. “Matrikula” is actually not matrikula para sa pagaaral, but “matrikula ng buhay,” or the sacrifices in life that we need to do in order to live. (See track 4 on the album)
SOL: What was your vision for this album? Was there a resolute decision for a maturation in Gloc-9's music or did that simply come about coincidentally?
Gloc-9: The vision was very simple. I just wanted to create music with the inspiration and talent that was given to me.
SOL: Sino ang mga kacollab mo sa "Matrikula?" I know Jeazell of Zelle is featured in the carrier single. How did you two end up hooking up for "Upuan"? The track is very political. Why did you decide to release such a hard-hitting track as the first single?
Gloc-9: When I heard her single on the radio with Zelle, I already knew she was perfect for Upuan. That’s why when she agreed to do the track we went to the studio and finished the song in just one session. Maybe since the election in the Philippines is getting closer it’s most fitting, and despite its simple lyrics I think its one of the strongest messages that I’ve ever written in terms of lyrics and rhythmic construction. In the album, you’ll hear from Mike Swift, Letter Day Story, Gabby Alipe (of Urbandub), Allan Mitchel, Syke, Noel Cabangon, Loonie (of the Stick Figgas), The Hardware Syndrome, Sisa (of Crazy As Pinoy), Raymund Marasigan, Biboy of Queso, Moymoy Palaboy and more!
SOL: Did you ever dream when you first started out that you would get to the level where you are now? Sa palagay mo, what's the secret to success in the rap scene sa Pinas? Who do you think is the next up and coming rapper that we should watch out for?
Gloc-9: When I was 12, the only thing I asked God for was for me to be able to record my songs. Everything that he gave me after that was all bonus and I cannot ask for more.
I could stop now and still be very thankful. The secret to success in rap sa Pinas? It’s being real about everything, to people, and to your craft. Not trying to be all ‘pinoy’ when in fact you’re trying to be black. It doesn’t make sense. As for the next rapper we should look out for… Marlon “Loonie” Peroramas is the only rapper that makes me prepare everytime we do a collaboration.
SOL: The vibe of the song "Bayad Ko" reminded me of your earliest tracks na kasama ang Death Threat, na parang minumulat mo ang mga tao sa sad truth na nangyayare sa paligiran natin (tracks like "24 Oras" or "Hinalay" come to mind). Sadya ka bang bumalik sa vibe na yun, or coincidence lang?
Gloc-9: Nope, that wasn't a conscious decision. Sobrang daming pwedeng ikwento sa buhay ng mga kababayan natin kaya ko nasulat ang song na ito, but actually, it started with the concept of the jeepney being “life,” the passengers being “us,” and the driver being “God.” The message is simple. Whatever hardships we face, if we call on his name, we still get to our destinations no matter what.
SOL: Speaking of Bayad Ko, the production on that track is amazing... how it changes throughout the song. Actually, the production of the whole album is amazing. Tell us about Jonathon Ong and how you guys got together. The beats seem to have been infinitely improved from your last works.
Gloc-9: After doing “Lando,” “Torpedo” and “Sumayaw Ka,” I told myself it would be crazy if Jonathan Ong (the producer of those tracks) would produce the entirety of the next album. When we started working on Matrikula, we didn’t think of which label or what single to put out first. It was just purely making good/cool music with the help of really generous artists in recording the songs. That’s why I am very proud of this album. I can walk up to any artist and say "This is my album, listen to it!"
SOL: There's a song on the new album called "Bituwin." Napakaganda ng concept. However, what's interesting is, this track is completely sung, with no rap. We've heard you mix melodies and song into your raps before (such as in "Hinahanap ng Puso" and "Love Story Ko") but never a full song na kanta lang. Do you see yourself pursuing this more in the future? What's the difference and similarities between writing a rap song and writing a song that's meant to be sang?
Gloc-9: “Bituwin” is a melody that I came up with while on duty in the O.B. department and I was able to write the lyrics the same day. If you pay attention to the lyrics, it’s actually a lullaby being sung by a father to his daughter. I just tried to write a song about losing somebody really important in your life and someone you really treasure. I tried to look for somebody to sing the song but for some reason I couldn’t find one so I decided to sing it myself. But I’m not a singer haha!
SOL: It turned out really well in my opinion. Which links to the next question: What's your favorite track from the new album?
Gloc-9: I like them all but I think my favorite tracks are “Martilyo” and “The Bobo Song.”
SOL: How did you and Loonie get together to do the remix of "The Bobo Song" for your album? I was surprised when I heard it because I had thought it was supposed to be on his upcoming solo album!
Gloc-9: Loonie is an amazing rapper and lyricist. The first time that I heard “The Bobo Song” I went crazy! I thought that his work should be released and heard by a wider market, that’s why I asked him if I could do a remix of the song in Matrikula. I was very happy when he said yes because I know that The Bobo Song will definitely be one of the top faves in the album. Thank you Loonie!
SOL: Can you tell us about the LIMANGKANTALANG mixtape and how that came to be?
Gloc-9: After being released from Star Records, I wanted to record a mixtape just for the sake of making music, and that’s when I collaborated with DiCE and Klumcee (The Beatmonx) of 6000 Goonz and finished the mixtape in just two weeks.
SOL: Do you have any plans to do any more "mini-projects" or "mixtapes" in the future?
Gloc-9: I don’t know yet, but maybe if I’m finished with my school and have lots of free time hahaha!
SOL: "Ano Sa Tingin Mo" with Loonie is my favorite track from LIMANGKANTALANG. Do you two have any more collabos in store? Maybe for Loonie's upcoming solo project?
Gloc-9: Recording a track with Loonie is always exciting and I look forward to the songs that we’ll be recording in the future. Still confidential! Hehehe!
SOL: Haha, fair enough. I also noticed na walang love songs ang Matrikula. Is that a sign that the record label is giving you more creative control now as compared to past projects?
Gloc-9: With this album, yes, because we talked to the label after completing the album which I prefer. But anyway, Sony music isn’t the type of label that dictates what you need to record. They’ll suggest it, but they won’t force you. Thank you Sir Rudy and Sir Vic!
SOL: Before you, nobody in the local rap scene besides the occasional verse here and there (See Francis M.'s "The Mouth" or Beware's "Tikal") rapped in double-time speed. Now, pag napakinggan mo ang mga kanta ng karamihan ng underground up-and-coming rappers, most of them are rhyming fast. Why/how did you decide to pursue rapping in double-time?
Gloc-9: Back in ’96, everybody was doing gangsta rap and rapping at the same style and pace. Then I saw an interview of Christopher de Leon where he said that “If you want to be noticed at something, you need to be different and you need to be the best.” At that time, I was listening to rappers like Bone Thugs and Harmony and Twista and that’s when I decided to try rapping in double time.
SOL: What age did you decide you wanted to rap? Ano ang nagustohan mo sa rap music kung bakit yun ang napili mong genre? What artists/rappers did you grow up listening to and/or inspired you as you were growing up (both local and international)?
Gloc-9: I started rapping when I was 12. Gusto ko talagang maging singer nun. I always sang “Cold Summer Nights” and “Gotta Let You Know,” then napansin ko na mas keen ako when it comes to timing, so I decided to be a rapper hehe! Then a friend of mine gave me a tape of Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” album. Astig! I always listened to Sir Francis M. every Saturday from 6-9pm on 89.1 D.M.Z.’s “The Mouth” radio program. I basically grew up with a dream of becoming a rapper like Sir Francis and I never thought that I would be so blessed to not only become one but to also know and be a friend of Sir Francis.
SOL: With all the accolades at accomplishments na nareceive mo na, what keeps you motivated to release new material?
Gloc-9: I think what inspires me to continue making music is my love for the craft and the fact that I still feel nervous every time I’m about to perform.
SOL: Alam kong bumalik ka sa pagaaral. Why did you decide to go back to school? What is it like to balance being in the music industry with going to school?
Gloc-9: I stopped going to school because I wanted to be a rapper. Now that I was able to accomplish my goal, I think I owe it to myself to finish school. I also did it for my twins.
SOL: Even before you broke into the mainstream, underground Hiphop aficionados knew you as Gloc-9 from Death Threat. That group is legendary in its own right. How did you end up as a member? Are the stories true na si Beware ang nagbigay sayo ng rap name mo?
Gloc-9: I met them in a radio rap contest back in ’96. Yep, it’s true that Ron “Beware” Salanga gave me the name Gloc-9. There were actually three choices to pick from. Baril lahat haha. So I went with the Glock.
SOL: Your verse in "Kickin Lyrics 7" was dope. Are there any plans for any future reunions with Death Threat?
Gloc-9: We still haven’t talked about that yet. I also don’t think that will happen in the near future.
SOL: I see, man. Well, I can't pass up the opportunity I have to be able to ask you the question that I know almost every Hiphop-head in the Philippines wants to know. Maraming nakakaalala na sa mga pinaka-una mong kanta, you were in a rap duo with another member of Death Threat na si Hi-Jakkk. In my opinion, the chemistry you guys had were comparable to duos like Meth and Red or even Talib and Mos. But when the C-4 album came out, I'm sure a lot of people were surprised to find out you were missing from the group..... Can you shed some light on what exactly happened between you two and what caused the rift between Hi-Jakkk and Death Threat?
Gloc-9: That was a long time ago. When we were in the middle of finishing the “Domination 2” album in ’99, Mike decided to remove me from the group for his own "personal reasons." But like I said, that was a long time ago and I’ve learned to forget all the bad things that happened. Ok na siguro yun.
SOL:: That’s very good to hear. I remember when you first came into the scene there were talks of your rap alias being "Venom." Can you fill us in on that? Also, what became of your group with Gobas called "Creep Mobb?" Did you ever record any tracks for that project?
Gloc-9: Venom was actually my first rap name before Beware named me Gloc-9. And Gobas and I recorded some demo tracks as “Creep Mobb” but we weren’t able to put it out.
SOL:: Speaking of Gobas, will the "Treynucka-9" project with Mista Blaze, Gobas and Kane ever see the light of day?
Gloc-9: Actually maybe real soon…
SOL: Dope!....... you know, I remember especially nung bago ko lang narinig yung kantang "Simpleng Tao," I couldn't believe it was you at first. The track was ILL, but it was such a drastic departure from your previously hardcore/undeground rhyming style that I was kind of surprised. Was the decision to change the content of your songs a conscious one? How did that come about? What made you change styles?
Gloc-9: I know a lot of artists (especially song writers) that would agree that it’s much easier to write a commercially accepted song than to come up with a ‘matapang’ and ‘astig’ na hardcore rap. The “Simpleng Tao" track introduced me to a much wider market... the market that was the reason why I got signed by a major label and why I'm able to release albums. But when it comes down to it, I can still write the underground type of song… even better than before.
SOL: Nung underground ka pa, were you content with the hardcore underground rap you were releasing or did you already have the desire to make more mainstream friendly positive songs?
Gloc-9: I was very young back then and honestly it came to a point where I did feel that what we were putting out at that time was not the ideal message that we should provide to our listeners. That’s why I have a track in my Matrikula album called “Tinta” that has the line “Paano mo ginamit ang Tinta?” which basically means “How will you influence your listeners through the lyrics that you write? Positively or negatively?” To write a song is a blessing, how will you use it?
SOL: Ano ang pagkakaiba ng writing process mo before and now? How has writing changed for you as time went by? When you sit down to write a song, do you still go about it the same way as you did when the “Kings of Da Undaground" first came out?
Gloc-9: Nope, everything is different now. As far as my writing style, I always say and I admit that I don’t do freestyles. I write my rhymes every time and I’m at the point where I’m quite comfortable with my style now. Maybe that’s why I became “Rap Artist of the Year” for every year that the Philippine Hiphop Awards gave out that trophy. Thank you!
SOL: When people hear your songs, there's a certain degree of relatability. Even with such mainstream success, your songs are relatable and accessible to the common listener. How do you keep such a degree of sincerity and honesty in your songs?
Gloc-9: I tell myself that I’m not in the U.S… Nasa Pilipinas ako at lahat ng mga sasabihin ko sa kanta ay dapat walang dating ng ‘swagger,’ ‘dopeness,’ ‘wassup’ o kahit anong English slang na mga amboy or Hiphop listeners lang ang may alam. Mas masaklap nga yun kung ni hindi ka pa napunta ng Tate or wala ka talagang alam sa mga bagay na yun… yun ang sablay. Let’s face it, hindi yan naririnig ng mga batang ni wala ngang pang bili ng tsinelas.
SOL: Word, word. We've seen you succeed in the underground scene and in the mainstream scene. Do you feel that you could ever return to the underground hardcore style you started with at any time in the future, even if just for a few guest verses or a mixtape?
Gloc-9: At this point in my career, I feel that I can do that anytime. But just to let you know, I was able to shift from underground to mainstream, but I didn’t say it was easy. In my 12 years in the music industry, I needed at least 8 years to get people familiar with my name. Sa Amerika lang merong underground artist na tatangging maging mainstream. It’s because they still get paid kahit underground sila. Dito s’atin, malaking bola pag inalok ng isang record label ang isang diehard hardcore underground rapper sa recording contract at tumanggi ito na mag mainstream…
SOL: So the the idea of “Fuck the mainstream, I’m staying underground!”....?
Gloc-9: Yun ang B.S.! Halos sabay sabay kami naghahanap noon ng label na baka mabulag at isign kami! And last but not least, once established, it’s easier for an already mainstream artist to do underground rap than for an underground rapper to go mainstream.
SOL: In your album, there are cameos by Mike Swift and Syke. How did that come about? Are you a part of Mike's "To The Billboard" movement? What can you tell us about the status of Mike's still-unreleased solo album "Legendary"?
Gloc-9: Mike knows what he’s doing. I wish him all the best and isa ako sa matutuwa kapag nakita ko na sya sa billboard. Sama ako ha! Hehehe! I had them in my album because I respect their work and I feel that they will contribute well to the project. Thank you Mike and Syke!
SOL: Speaking of Syke, you’re both part of the 6000 Goonz crew. How did you and Mobbstarr hook up for that to happen?
Gloc-9: They are my friends and like DiCE said, “It just so happened that the best rappers are in our circle.” Ayus ba?! Hehe!
SOL: Haha, fair enough. A lot of local Hiphop heads also want to know the status of Syke and if he has a new album in the works. Since he has a cameo in your album, can you fill us in on what's keeping him busy right now?
Gloc-9: Oh, I’m sure Syke is up to something. Kahit kami excited na rin. *smirk*
SOL: Dope, dope... what about the overall state or local rap ngayon? Are you optimistic about its future? Having been in the game for more than twelve years now, what are the differences between the local rap scene from when you first started, and the local rap scene now?
Gloc-9: To be honest, I don’t really pay too much attention to what they call “Local Hiphop” or “Rap Scene.” I look at it as a whole. Rap, Rnb, Rock, ballads or whatever… It’s all music. What I’ve learned is not to take Hiphop in the Philippines too seriously or get too caught up in the hype. I just happen to make rap music. I don’t drive an empala, I don’t go to clubs, I don’t smoke weed, I don’t have flashy blings. The thing is, it’s just not me. I’m just a rapper from a third world country, that’s all.
SOL: Maraming nagsasabi na mahirap magsucceed as a rapper in this day and age sa Pinas. Do you agree?
Gloc-9: Yes. Fully.
SOL: Ano sa tingin mo ang kailangang magawa ng mga artists upang maangat ang rap sa Pinas?
Gloc-9: Medyo mali kasi ang notion na astig kang rapper kung matapang ka, or mayaman ka, or marami kang bataan or puro tattoo ang katawan mo. None of that matters… You just need to be a good rapper, that’s all.
SOL: What advice can you give sa lahat ng mga makatang nangangarap na maabot din ang kung ano man ang naabot mo?
Gloc-9: Love your craft… kahit pinagtatawanan ka na ng lahat.. Because in the end, if you’ve done everything you could and said all your prayers, things will fall into place.
SOL: There's a very touching track in the album featuring sir Francis M's band "The Hardware Syndrome." I won't get into the song itself (buy the album if you want to hear it!), but are there any more plans on working with the band for future projects? Can you see yourself ever doing a project like Francis M's "Freeman" that blurs the line between Hip-Hop and rock?
Gloc-9: I really would like to work with The Hardware Syndrome on a full length album! We were actually already talking about it and I’m excited!
SOL: "Matrikula" seems to be your magnum opus thus far. The effort and time put into this album really shows. After this album, can we expect to hear Gloc-9 again or will the shift into nursing become permanent? What's in store for Gloc after this?
Gloc-9: I also asked myself how to come up with my next album after finishing Matrikula. I guess we just have to wait. I ask myself how I was able to create this album… it really is a blessing for me. I’m very proud of it and I hope it inspires many Filipinos.
SOL: Salamat sa oras sir! Any last shoutouts or comments?
Gloc-9: Please get an original copy of “Matrikula..” You will learn alot more about Gloc-9 in this album. Much respect to Soulsonic TV!