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» » » » » » » » » » » Fliptop Battles: The Return of Filipino Hip Hop

JR Lopez Gonzales 5:56 AM 0

Let's trace the Pinoy hip hop history.

Dyords Javier’s spoof of Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” became the first hip-hop song to hit the waves. Breakdancing on the other hand, gained grounds in 1984 at Makati City. Six years later, the breakdancer Francis Magalona (Francis M.) released Yo! which finally hit the mainstream. Those were the glory days of the Filipino hip hop scene.

After a couple of years, the movement had a hard time finding its footing due to self-aggrandizement that made hip hoppers turn on each other. Hatred in the small community forced the music to fade in the airwaves as sappy ballads and novelty continues to rule the mainstream.

As we leave 2010, most people do agree that it has been remarkable year for Filipino hip hop. Being a hip hop music aficionado myself, I have to say that a rebirth of sort is taking place which started on the Internet. It is no other than: FLIPTOP.

“Fliptop is a rap battle league that puts two people in a match to have them insult each other with the cleverest punch lines and sharpest rhymes” notes Anygma. Rap battle is a form of emcee-ing (which is one of the four elements of hip hop together with DJ-ing, breakdancing and graffiti art).

Never did Alaric Riam Yuson (a.k.a. "Anygma"), imagine that FlipTop is going to be one of the world’s most viewed battle league. It first started on February 6 with primarily only four emcees: Fuego versus Protégé; and Datu versus Cameltoe. It took place on the Grain Assault Event at Quantum Café in Makati City then, the rest was history.

The inspiration for the battle rhyming came from Grind Time of the US. The format and all are like replicas of the earlier American videos. But to the surprise of many (like Grind Time MC Dirtbag Dan), the views of FlipTop surpassed all other rap battle videos on the net. Flip Top Battle views are millions way more than America’s Grind Time, Got Beef?, or Canada’s King of the Dot combined.

FlipTop rappers don’t do it for money as there’s no monetary reward after the matches. “It’s been a tattoo, and we’re looking at the shirts. Monetary, so far, not yet. People haven’t stepped forward yet with the money down or whatever”, quotes Anygma in an FHM interview. Because of the videos’ success, boundaries were crossed by different crews just for the show. Alaric, son of a writer, and representing the well-to-do Ampon, was able to invite other rap cliques even from Tondo to battle. FlipTop, it seems, was able to connect everything, regardless of genre, age, or clique.

A typical battle goes like this:

At the outset of the videos, is a little epitaph, “Dedicated to the Memory of “Miguel ‘DJ Lamok’ Agoncillo” Rest In Peace (Sept. 29, 1984 – March 27, 2010); or “In Loving Memory of Eyedea Rest In Peace”.

“FlipTop: First Filipino Rap Battle League “logo will be shown followed by ads of some sponsors:, 82 Specks, and more.

Anygma, the sole organizer of FlipTop opens up the matches as he introduces the two battling emcees. There are three rounds consist of one minute per emcee to speak up his acappella rhymes. No bars held, all-out, raw, explicit lines can be thrown at the opponent with lines that are either freestyle or written.

The battle is done within the cipher (the crowd that forms around the battle). After the rounds, the judges gives their decision for the win. The emcee that has the most number of votes wins the battle. But in case of a tie, the judges may ask for one OT (overtime). In the end, one has to win the match judging on the wordsmiths’ punch lines, delivery, flow, rhyme scheme, cadence, swag, or timing.

Videos are taken by cameraman Kev and after the matches, edited by DJ Umph from Miscellaneous then finally uploaded to their YouTube channel.

Right now, the two most watched videos are Dello versus Target and Loonie versus Zaito. Both of the videos have more than 8,000,000 views as of this posting. In an ABS-CBN interview, Loonie believes that the reason for the battle rhymings’ success is due to the nature of the heated verbal exchanges captured on a tight video shot. Real action and emcees’ witticism can be observed as most of the lines are delivered off the top.

Nevertheless, FlipTop reminds us of our old-school, Filipino-style flyting called, “balagtasan”. As noted by Dr. Juvy Peregrino in a “Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho” interview that it is a high form of the Filipino poetry. It seemed like battle rhyming was long part of Filipino culture which can also be traced in the Ilonggos' romantic “binalaybay”, the Tagalogs' "balagtasan", and the Cebuanos’ “balak”.

Due to its success, various cities in the Philippines also had their own version of FlipTop in their dialects. Left and right TV guestings of the FlipTop emcees are proofs to their ever-growing popularity.

Eventhough filled with risqué and flagrant language; it seems that the videos were successful in educating the masses both on a hip-hop-cultural level and on a commonsensical level. Anygma and the FlipTop crew were basically able to achieve their goals of improving skills and hip hop community, hands down. After the heavy punch lines and bombardments of words, astonishingly, emcees remain friends...that is respect.

This entry was originally posted on 17 December 2010 on my old blog.

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