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Get to Know: Illest Morena, Spotify RADAR Artist

Illest Morena - Spotify RADAR Artist
James Francisco

“It’s the Illest, baby.” Few have a better catchphrase to cap off a killer performance than Illest Morena. Angelica Layague oozes sensual charm, best captured by her string of releases that capture the love-drunk experience, like ‘LOML’, ‘Indigo Haze’, and ‘Pick-Up’

Her unabashed approach landed her in our list of “Best Female Rappers in the Game” and now, Spotify’s RADAR roster, which features 12 up-and-coming Filipino acts making waves in the local music scene. The program commits to amplifying local artists by introducing them to a global audience and providing tools that give insights into their fan bases. 

If we’re rooting for anyone to best represent the Filipinos’ knack for being hopeless romantics, we’re all for Illest Morena. Learn more about the Spotify RADAR artist in our exclusive interview below.

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Illest Morena

Who is Illest Morena?

She does the things Angelica (my real name) can’t. She’s a persona I made so I could conquer all my fears and do things I’ve been scared of doing.

Illest Morena started a long time ago pero I’ve executed the character recently lang. I was trapped inside the house during the pandemic. I was so sad that I wasn’t pursuing the career I’ve always wanted to do, so I channeled her, and she showed up.

What’s in the name?

I was bullied a lot for my skin color in high school. It was such a long journey for me. I spent five years using whitening soaps so I could get whiter. I would wear long sleeves all the time to hide from the sun. I had to unlearn a lot of [self-deprecating] habits.

I used [Illest Morena] to uplift and own up to all these “flaws” kasi I spent so many years hating myself. But then I realized [my skin color] is actually my asset. It’s what’s special and what I love most about myself. The world became more fun, and now, I love flexing my tan line on beaches.

How would you describe your music?

Aggressive but chill. Aggressive ‘cause the message is sorta in your face, telling you what I want you to do to me, but chill in a manner that can still be played as a lullaby.

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Illest Morena

How do you feel about the success of ‘Pick Up’?

That success overwhelmed me at first ‘cause I didn’t know where these people were coming from. I was so shocked! When I finally released the premiere of the lyric video, over a thousand people were waiting to watch it with me, and it was such an intimate moment and my newly-found fans, which I call [Illiliens]. 

[Pick Up] definitely set a high standard for my future releases and projects.

What is it like being a female MC in the Philippines?

Sometimes it’s difficult to take space as a woman ‘cause many people will discriminate against you for being in a male-dominated industry. 

But at the same time, it’s fun ‘cause I get to meet people, especially women on the same wavelength as me, and we’re all building an exciting community.

How’d you know you’d be a part of Spotify RADAR?

We were having a pre-production meeting for my MV launch a few weeks ago, and they asked me how comfortable I would be reading cue cards for an acknowledgment video for the party.

They broke the news [through the cue cards]. It didn’t sink in at first, thinking it was just a practice to test how comfortable I was speaking in front of the public. Kaya pala they were filming cause they wanted to see how I’d react.

What’s the importance of Spotify RADAR for artists like yourself?

It’s great for emerging artists because it helps us reach more people who enjoy what we put out. OPM has a lot of genres–there’s one for everyone. I’m also hoping to reach my fellow Filipinos abroad who might not be as familiar with OPM or would love to listen to music they can relate to.

Photography Wilmark Jolindon

Final Art James Francisco

Production Spotify Philippines

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