Real G’s, stand up! These are 7 of the most influential gangsta rap tracks from the Philippines.
Like it or not, gangsta rap will forever be part of hip-hop culture. It’s a subgenre popularized by artists such as NWA, Ice-T, and Boogie Down Productions, and it focuses mainly on the harsh realities of living in the ghetto. The Philippines is no stranger to street life, so it’s inevitable that we get our own version of this controversial yet historical type of music.
Here are 7 Pinoy gangsta rap songs (in no particular order) that not only stood the test of time but also influenced the local scene as a whole. In order to make this a broader list, we decide to go through with one song per artist. Lastly, if you think we missed something, please share it in the comments section.
Death Threat - Gangsta foe Life
While their songs Gusto Kong Bumaet and Ilibing Ng Buhay are more famous, they both fall into the conscious and hardcore subgenre respectively. It’s Gangsta foe Life that truly captures the gangsta rap feel. The song, which is part of the group’s Kings of the Underground album, has elements of braggadocio, but it also aims to erase the negative stereotypes of gangstas. Death Threat showed in this track that despite their lifestyle, they’re still respectful and responsible individuals.
Kruzzada - Buhay G
Kruzzada’s Buhay G is a real-life horror story that takes place in the streets of Paranaque. It’s an uncensored look at the hood life from the eyes of a legit thug. Kruzzada didn’t hold back at describing various activities that will certainly shock parents and conservatives. It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s something that needs to be shown. Each emcee whispered their verses, which could pertain to them eluding authorities.
Chinese Mafia - Away Away
This is one of two songs in this list included in the soundtrack of Gangland, a 1998 criminally-underrated film by Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes. Away Away features the legendary Chinese Mafia painting vivid images of a violent gang war. While others glamorize the lifestyle, Chinese Mafia decided to show what really happens when you’re in the streets. It’s a constant battle that always ends up bloody.
Anak ni Bakuko - Gangland Theme
It’s another song from the Gangland soundtrack. Anak ni Bakuko’s Gangland Theme tells the story of a young man’s journey through the street gang lifestyle. Like most stories of this kind, it always escalates into violence, heartbreak, and loss. Anak ni Bakuko then presents a grim conclusion: there’s simply no turning back once you embrace this life. Leave before it’s too late.
Don G - Role Model
Role Model is a song from Don G’s debut mixtape Sa Pagsara ng Pinto. It’s a gangster-themed lyrical track that focuses on heavy metaphors and punchlines. Even before the rise of FlipTop and battle rap, Don G has already mastered the art of technical rhymes. Role Model is the type of banger that requires a few listens in order to understand every reference.
MastaPlann - Rollin' in the Ride
Bring Dat Booty and The Way of the Plann are Mastaplann’s biggest hits, but when it comes to the most gangsta, it’s definitely Rollin’ in the Ride. The group shares their encounters with “suckers” when they go to the clubs. MastaPlann also added a bit of braggadocio, claiming their legit status in the rap game. Another aspect that made Rollin’ in the Ride beloved is its West Coast-inspired beat.
Hukbalahap feat. Sacred One & Braduzz- Buhay ng Gangsta
Many would agree that this song revitalized the Philippine gangsta rap genre in the late 2000s. Buhay ng Gangsta is an accurate description of the dangerous streets of Tondo, Manila. The emcees describe the initiation process and the various fights between crews. Just like the previous entries, they didn’t sugarcoat the details. They also expressed their regrets and their desire to change for the better. It’s realistic and relatable, which is why it instantly became a hit upon release on YouTube.
Ask any of today’s biggest names in Pinoy hip-hop about their influences and there’s a big chance they’ll mention one or more songs in this list. Gangsta rap provided us with a much-needed alternative to the usual light-hearted vibes of popular hip-hop artists. It reminded us that the world is not always rainbows and butterflies. Cesar A. Cruz said it best: “art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”