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Morobeats Embraces Hip-Hop’s Past and Future

James Francisco

Spotify’s KalyeX campaign is built on promoting the local hip-hop scene, but it also coincides with celebrating 50 years of hip-hop as a genre. It’s only fitting then that Spotify continues KalyeX in Davao by tapping Morobeats: a rising collective from Zamboanga that embraces the old and new to influence its sound.

Under Spotify, Morobeats has released “Kendeng”, a fiery single that looks to represent the rich Mindanaoan culture and the group’s unrelenting chase for hip-hop glory, while asking listeners to keep faith in their own paths.

Leading Morobeats is the group’s founder and producer DJ Medmessiah. DJ Med traces his career roots to the ‘80s, starting out as a B-Boy when breakdancing’s popularity introduced hip-hop to the Philippines. He later became a rapper and then a producer, a transition he says was borne out of necessity.

“I accidentally became a producer because we couldn’t find beats in the ‘90s. Mahirap maghanap. I started with a refrigerator, nag-ppukpok, and then recorded that on tape. We’d use toys for piano [and other sounds],” he fondly recalls.

While producing nowadays is less cumbersome, DJ Med still carries his influences of the period, which includes Lord Finesse, Dr. Dre, DJ Premier, and Kulay’s Boom Dayupay. The boom-bap is alive and well in most Morobeats outings like “Wit Tha Funk” and “Back 2 These Streets”.

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DJ Medmessiah, Morobeats – Spotify

Combined with his familiarity with the business side of the industry (“‘Di kasi pwedeng puro music lang”), DJ Med imparts this wealth of knowledge to the rest of Morobeats, composed of new bloods that he recruited, led by his daughters/femcees, Miss A and Fateeha.

While femcees aren’t novel to the Philippine rap scene, they aren’t a constant presence as their Western counterparts like Queen Latifah, Missy Elliott, and Cardi B. But with today’s golden age of OPM, the sister duo hopes to ride the new wave of female acts making their mark.

Also in Morobeats is the spirited JMara, who has made a name for “Mahal Kong Pilipinas”, “Wala”, and similar tracks that touch on social issues; a sample of a generation that is more aware of their surroundings.

It's these progressive elements that endears Morobeats to their Day 1s while capturing the interest of those lucky enough to see them perform for the first time. The inspirations of yesteryear are given new life to be appreciated by today's listeners; the cyclical nature of music that fuels Morobeats' journey to hip-hop royalty.

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JMara, Morobeats – Spotify

Complex Philippines talked to the Morobeats crew about being a rising act, the push for femcees, and what the latest collab with Spotify means for local hip-hop.

[TO DJ MEDMESSIAH] What makes a young talent promising?

First is etiquette. Ang rap madali lang ituro eh. Everyone can rap. Everyone knows nursery rhymes. Kaya una ugali. 

Work ethic din, kung gaano sila ka-desidido sa ginagawa nila. Kasi maraming gusto sumali [sa amin] or magpa-produce, pero it’s more of, gusto ko ikaw mag-produce kasi isa ka sa mainit na producers ngayon. It’s not like gusto talaga nila kung paano kami gumalaw.

With your daughters, was there an expectation that they’d be femcees?

Di ko naman in-enforce [ang hip-hop]. Siyempre paglaki nila, yung mga plaka nandyan, kinukulit nila, hanggang yung iba nagpapabili na ng sobrang mahal pa.

[Fateeha interjects: “Hala!”]

But is there a sense of pride that they took after you?

Oh yeah, of course. [Fateeha: “Dito napaamin!”] [Miss A: “Please elaborate!”]

They stand out as female emcees. They don’t need to show [skin]. They’re more on talent. 

Do you have a wishlist for local hip-hop?

For the local industry, sana mag-grow pa, not in a music sense, but in achievements. If we have Pacquiao [for boxing], sana meron din sa music industry. Like someone based in the Philippines who can win Grammys.

As of now, everyone is up and coming, so sa tingin ko within the next five years, Filipino music, not only hip-hop, would be on the big stage – with [the help of] Spotify and Complex. It’s about to become bigger than what it is right now.

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Fateeha, Morobeats – Spotify

[TO MISS A and FATEEHA] What’s it like being the front of a male-dominated group?

Fateeha: The advantage is that it’s cool AF. It’s like a small posse and we’re leading it.

The disadvantage is that other people think it’s like a dick-riding thing. Sometimes, people don’t know that DJ Med is our dad and that we’re an actual part of the group. It makes me very uncomfortable, like “Ah, because we’re women, we can’t do it on our own? Di namin kaya?”

Miss A: Pro is that [the group] is able to channel their individuality. The con is that sometimes we just don’t understand each other. There are quirks that just annoy us.

Such as?

Fateeha: Like, bakit sila umuutot sa loob ng van? [*laughs from the group]

Miss A: During the gig, nag-sspace out, picking their nose. Like, wtf bro?

How do you deal with the differences?

Miss A: We just do us.

Fateeha: Yes, but sometimes I’m a bit vocal about it. don’t know when to shut up [*laughs]

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Miss A, Morobeats – Spotify

Filipino hip-hop still has some catching up to do when it comes to repping femcees. What’s your tip to other aspiring acts?

Miss A: Be your most unfuckable self. You don’t need to strip your clothes off or do anything that makes you uncomfortable as an artist. Do your craft, focus on what you’re making, and what you’re trying to say, and I swear you’ll get there.

Fateeha: There are already a lot of people who shake their asses and tits. Be a boss b*tch. Don’t let people dictate what they want for you; there’s a lot of that, even in life. Just be f*cking untouchable and that’s it.

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