The local hip-hop scene is bigger than passive observers may think; there are rappers out there who deserve big breaks.
If Gloc-9 is Filipino rap’s hottest star, this one is on his way to fame. His name is Loonie, and he was first noticed as a member of Stick Figgas, a group that finished second in the talent search “Rappublic of the Philippines” on the noontime TV show “Eat Bulaga” in 2002.
The country’s top rapper at the time (and the contest’s proponent), FrancisM, took Loonie under his wing, helping the upstart with performing and recording gigs, and recommending him to Sony Music Philippines.
In 2010, a year after FrancisM’s death, Sony Philippines signed up Loonie. Unfortunately, the record label folded up before his album was done, although it released a single, “From Saudi With Love” (featuring female rock singer K.A. Antonio).
Undeterred, Loonie went on to produce his debut CD, “The Ones Who Never Made It,” and gave away copies for free.
A music video of “From Saudi With Love”—which depicts the tragicomic plight of OFWs— was uploaded on YouTube, and people who had not heard his music got a first-hand look at Loonie’s incisive narrative skills and witty wordplay.
Now backed by Shadow Inc. Entertainment, an event management team that is promoting his music here and abroad, Loonie has become more visible. He met the press before he flew to the United States recently for a five-city tour with other Filipino acts.
His handlers produced Loonie’s second single, “Tao Lang” (featuring R&B/hip-hop artist Quest), with a video that dramatizes Loonie’s dilemma about pursuing his ambition.
The video has racked up almost 3 million hits on YouTube at press time.
Even if most of his influences are foreign hip-hop artists, Loonie singles out Gloc-9 as one of the few Filipino rappers he listens to. “I was his fan before he became famous,” Loonie told the Inquirer. “I’ve known him since his days in the underground rap scene, when he had this group, Death Threat.”
As a kid growing up in the 1990s, Loonie was turned on to rap groups Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Coolio, Naughty By Nature and NWA. But it was Alanis Morissette’s 1995 album, “Jagged Little Pill,” that inspired Loonie to write his own songs.
He listens to other artists regardless of genres. (“I also like reggae, metal …”), but Loonie believes he became well-versed in rap because he used to recite poetry as a child.
He credited his father for encouraging him. “Dad was like the grammar police,” Loonie recounted. “He was an editor of (corporate) reports; he was also strict with our English.”
Loonie, eldest of four siblings, said he loved crossword puzzles and Scrabble. “My father said we could survive anywhere if we had good oral and written communication skills.”
He wanted to take up Mass Communication in college since he was already fluent in English, but instead he majored in Information Technology.
Again, Looney said, it was his father’s advice he listened to: “Learn what you don’t know.”
He has since learned, too, that rap need not be predictable or plain novelty. “My style is to put a rhyme not just on the last syllable, but rather on the whole phrase. That makes it unique and hard to imitate,” he said.
(Loonie performs in the concert series, “Hip-rock Invasion: Live in New Zealand,” with Bamboo, Rivermaya and Gloc-9: Nov. 9 at South Island Theatre Royal, Timaru; Nov. 10 at North Harbour Stadium in Albany, Auckland; Nov. 11 at Hunter Lounge, Student Union Bldg., Victoria University, Wellington.)