Emblazoned on his T-shirt was an image of the Big Dome with the words, “It was all a dream.” For the longest time, rap artist/entrepreneur Mike Swift had been raring to bring the hip-hop community to a huge venue—something deemed impossible by many, even by those in the scene that had remained largely underground.
In fact, when Swift intimated his plans to Gloc-9, the latter’s initial reaction was, “You must be crazy!”
It does take a certain level of madness to grab something out of reach. Through Swift’s hard work, determination and help from fans, friends and fellow advocates in Konektado World (a group he founded that organizes various hip-hop projects), the gritty rapper mustered enough resources to get things done.
Aptly titled “Araneta Dreams,” the event held at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Tuesday night was the culmination of the community’s efforts of three whole years. While many look down on, or summarily dismiss, the urban genre, the recent surge in hip-hop’s popularity is hard not to ignore, thanks to such stalwarts as Gloc-9, the viral spread of Fliptop online “battles,” and the emergence of new blood Abra, Loonie, Dello, and many more.
Mostly unheard in the mainstream, some of the country’s most talented hip-hop artists and upstarts gathered onstage and, for about five hours, spit out rapid-fire bars set in funky beats and chest-thumping bass.
The night opened with the announcement of 24 emcees participating in the Battle Royale freestyle rapping tilt. Five participants were nowhere in sight but the show, as they say, had to go on. The 19 contestants were assembled into five groups of three and a group of four. DJ Buddha dropped the beat as the participants were given two rounds to scorch one another with mouthfuls of diss. Rap battles are not for the fainthearted.
On cue, the emcees tried ripping each other apart—mocking and cussing and hurling insults that left the crowd in stitches or groaning in awe. Spittle flew every which way along with profanities.
More than half of what was said in the battles—including the viciously funniest lines—would never make it to print. These are some of the “harmless” ones.
Abra to Dhuskie and Pistolero, who made fun of his height: “…Ako ang bida dito at kayo’y ekstra lamang!” Crazy G to Ayeeman, who sported dreadlocks: “Ilang klaseng kuto meron ang buhok mo na ‘yan?” The wheelchair-bound Righteous One, mocked by Crazy G and Ayeeman for his disability: “Ako’y ‘di makatayo, parang inyong mga manoy!”
Being pros, these people took every insult in stride, laughing even. They recognize a good takedown when they hear one, and acknowledge it with high-fives and pats on the back.
Whether the lines were done purely freestyle or partly rehearsed, there’s no way of telling. Even so, you can’t help but be
Pistolero and Apekz battled it out for the championship. Pistolero defeated Gerald Bato and Badong in the semis; Apekz edged out Dello and Righteous One. In the end, Apekz, or Mark Anthony Cadiente, emerged victorious. Not only did he deliver kickass lines, the rhythm and flow of his delivery jived perfectly with the music of the Manila Symphony
Another anticipated portion was the sunugan, which pitted homegrown talents Batas and Loonie against American rappers Dizaster and Swave Sevah. The showdowns were hotly contested, but unlike Battle Royale, the winners will be judged by netizens (videos of the faceoffs will be uploaded on the Net).
But what really got the crowd going was the performances of some of the country’s most skilled and brightest hip-hop artists, mainstream and underground—Gloc-9, Abra, Young JV, Jay-R, Lyrically Deranged Poets, BnK and Pow Chavez, Q-York, Innocent One and Blingzy One, Ron Henley, Quest and Batas.
The concert was not limited to hip-hop acts. Greyhoundz front man Reg Rubio roared and growled about onstage. Freddie Aguilar and sons Jonan and Jeriko brought the house down with a dose of classic rock.
Swift realized yet another dream that night. Amid screaming and cheering, he emotionally, proposed marriage to his girlfriend Naz, then ended the night by having Francis M’s “Kaleidoscope World” played—a tribute to one of his heroes.
The Big Dome wasn’t exactly full, but there wasn’t a tinge of disappointment on Swift’s face. “The empty seats means room for improvement,” Swift told Inquirer.
“[But] this show was a statement that we can do [a lot] on our own if the hip-hop community sticks together. We’re a growing scene that needs much guidance and support.”