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Exploring Rap Beefs in the Philippines

With the Kendrick v Drake beef placing hip-hop in a chokehold, Complex PH explores if it has an equivalent in the local rap culture.
Rap Beefs
James Francisco

There has never been something like Kendrick Lamar versus Drake in terms of rap beef. Nothing from hip hop in recent memory has made international headlines, entered everyone’s For You pages, or roused both online and IRL discussions as much as this. 

Whenever someone asks me what I think of this battle between two international megastars, I’m reminded of rap’s position as an endless war to see who is king. It’s happened between Jay Z and Nas, 50 Cent and Ja Rule; their opposition towards one another will forever be a part of how we remember them individually. 

This will also be the case for both KDot and Drizzy: an indelible mark left on each of them that will affect their career trajectories for years to come. The same can be said in the Philippine context.

Finding a Philippine equivalent

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Via Complex

“The existence of beef has been pretty much synonymous with rap everywhere,” shares Johnny Paradox, artist and co-founder/leader of underground online hip-hop community Mumble Rap Tawi-Tawi. “Parang walang era ng rap kahit saan na walang beef lalo na't napakalaking part ng rap scene sa Pinas ang rap battles.” 

Paradox shares that pitting rap beefs to Kendrick Lamar vs. Drake is an unfair comparison. “It hasn't really reached that level of popularity sa pop culture where two megastars in rap are at war,” he adds.

Ang alam ko sa mga sumikat na rap beefs sa Philippines is yung may diss track,” shares Ne7in of Kartell’em, and host of the Dial Seven podcast. “Most of it shared sa social media. ‘Di man direct pero may patama. Tapos mag- rreact yung other side sa sinabi.”

‘Yung iba, may internal stuff na nangyayari bago nakapaglabas ng diss track,” he adds. 

The reason why the Kendrick Lamar and Drake beef penetrated the mainstream other than the sheer magnitude of two titans duking it out over a beat, is the speed and intensity of each jab (three songs in 36 hours is crazy), and how we witness it in real-time not just through YouTube uploads but through an active discourse in social media. 

Whether we’re watching through a Kai Cenat stream, sifting through the Genius annotations, or scrolling through a Facebook group’s comment section, they’ve held our collective attention at gunpoint. If Pusha T spoke with Joe Budden during the last great beef of Pusha T vs. Drake in 2018, now it’s DJ Akademiks dropping his jaw in disbelief while listening to “Meet the Grahams” live on Twitch. It’s too prevalent to just be a discussion between heads.

Andre Gee of the Rolling Stone succinctly points it out well: “Drake and Kendrick, however, are simply too different for either of them to stomach the masses saying they prefer the other. That will forever have them at odds.” Unfortunately, there isn’t any local equivalent that can match Drizzy vs. KDot under this definition. But the question remains: What are some of the more memorable Filipino rap beefs? 

Memorable local rap beefs

In this “era” of hip hop alone, There’s Flow G vs Sixth Threat (a career moment for Sixth Threat, but more a widespread realization that Flow G can be a rap god if he wants to), Bugoy Na Koykoy vs. Pricetagg (which allegedly started through a tweet), Jawtee vs. CLR (“Cain” still clears to today), Jawtee vs. J-Skeelz (Say what you want about Salbakuta, but their team knows how to rouse people up), and OLGang vs. O Side Mafia (and everyone else who pitched in). 

“O Side Mafia vs. OLGANG,” Ne7in says when asked about his most memorable local rap beef. “Naabutan ko kasi sila na hindi pa sila ganon kasikat. 10k-20k views pa lang sa YouTube. Nakakanood ako ng gig nila. Tapos nagulat na lang ako na may ganon na pala.”

For Johnny Paradox, it’s a toss-up. “Jawtee versus J-Skeelz and Loonie versus Badang are pillars of my childhood memory as a rap fan. But we all went through a really tough time during the pandemic, and despite being locked inside, MOB versus Salbakuta and Flow G versus Sixth Threat kept a lot of us on our toes.”

For Douglas Brocklehurst a.k.a. DougBrock, CEO of TMP Industries Inc. and a podcast host at DougBrock TV, he shares memories of the early 2000s and how representing your city puts you at odds with rappers from another. He recalls the rivalry between DC Clan and Las Pinas Finest as an example of memorable rap beef, but nothing truly iconic comes to mind. “Wala ako masiyadong paki diyan, noong bata palang ako nakita ko na yung drama ng mainstream showbiz eh,” he shares. 

Which begs the question: what good does any of these verbal attacks do? Drake and Kendrick Lamar’s lyrical attacks share spots at the top of the streaming charts. Metro Boomin’s Spotify monthly listeners have jumped from from 50 million to over 60 million in a month thanks to We Don’t Trust You, which started the entire feud.

Who wins in rap beefs?

Johnny Paradox believes rap culture is inherently competitive. “Whether it's in the form of sneak dissing, back and forth ng tracks, friendly rap-offs, or rap battle tournaments…  I honestly think the absence of competition would be rap culture’s downfall as it pushes everyone to prove that they’re the best.”

He adds a caveat, however: “Rap is just one part of hip hop culture, the latter being rooted in peace, unity, love and having fun.”

Ne7in shares the same sentiments regarding how beginning rap beefs can be tactical move: “Dami nyang jinumpstart na career. It’s about kung paano na lang i-utilize ng magkabilang panig para lalo lumaki yung career nila.” 

DougBrock compares to today’s rap beef as similar to reality TV, or a teleserye; it emphasizes the theatrical aspect of choosing sides as a way to engage audiences. “More people talk about it, people get more relevant…Excited ka kasi may ibang kwento versus the success of that person,” he says.

Ultimately, the way that rap beef is handled now – beyond music, more so through social media – it’s an undeniable treat for everyone who witnesses the moment in real time.  When asked who won between Drake and Kendrick Lamar, Ne7in shares that it’s “the fans.”

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