Nothing else makes you feel more self-aware about the world when handing over the mic to a woman.
Making it known that they’re here to stay, Filipina rappers are slowly raising the bar in a male-centric industry. It’s already hard enough to penetrate the walls of hip-hop, let alone being taken seriously as a female artist by many. Femcees, or a woman who raps and freestyles as what they call it, have been around in the Philippines for a while now and they’re not slowing down for anybody. It’s up to us now to pick up the pace and start listening to what they have to say. From social issues, women empowerment to sex positivity, here are 15 Filipina to add to your playlist ASAP.
“Island woman rise, walang makakatigil. Brown, brown woman, rise, alamin ang ‘yong ugat.” No Filipino rap line has ever sparked pride as much as the opening hook of Ruby Ibarra’s Us. Her powerful flow makes her tracks sound like an anthem, packed with a lot of identity, resistance, and the diaspora as a Filipina who migrated to the US. By day, Ruby is a vaccine scientist and co-founder of Pinay Rising scholarship program, and a free-flowing rapper at night.
This 15-year old rapper hailing from Batangas has been making music since the age of five. For someone as young as Alex Bruce, she’s already talking about female empowerment, social justice, and knowing who to trust within her circles. With music influences spanning from Missy Elliott to Nicki Minaj, this Filipina rapper’s sound has been making enough waves as she’s already been performing in different parts of Asia. On Dime Girls, Alex says, “Kami naman, kami naman ngayon sa unahan. Kami naman, kami naman ang dapat n’yong tingnan,” which roughly translates to, “watch out, we’re here to stay.”
Get you a girl who dresses like a Bratz doll, but spits feisty bars and is self-aware with what she brings to the table. Welcome to Zae’s world. While most of us first heard Serve, her “feelin’ myself” type of viral track on TikTok, this 20-year old rapper isn’t afraid to talk about hard-hitting topics like misogyny, too. On her song Pantsu, Zae fearlessly disses the infamous Neneng B rap song by Nik Makino (which highly sexualizes females BTW) and says, “Our body, its majestic, hypnotizing, we know. This power ain’t from your attention.” Can we get an amen up in here?
DB THA GIRL
If you’re feeling a little lost and existential, you definitely have to give Filipina rapper DB Tha Girl (aka Dess Banaag) a listen. Her music will make you feel free as a bird all while treading the different hurdles of life—like a hiking trip to be exact. She’s a part of hip-hop collective Baryo Berde and has amassed almost a million plays on Soundcloud alone. Aside from being a femcee, DB Tha Girl is also an all around artist and graphic designer. On Progress, she raps, “Am I a slave of my body? Am I a slave of my mind? Am I a part of reality? An illusion like time?” Word.
Illest Morena, a.k.a Angelica Pola Layague is a Filipina rapper and R&B artist that only started making music a few years ago. Her moniker itself is a clapback against colorists, admitting that she was bullied for her skin color as a young girl, while she got “illest” from the undisputed queen of rap, Nicki Minaj. If you’re into chill, brooding type of slow jams, her music will make you feel like your head is in the clouds even if it ends in unrequited love.
It’s a hard knock life and rapper Tiffany Lhei knows she has to grind to survive. Also known as Jaja Cabero, the young Filipina rapper’s bars are heavy on social and political issues but she also doesn’t forget the fact that she’s still in the process of growing up. (Alexa, play Sorbetes by Tiffany Lhei.) On Bakal Na Pader, she raps, “Delikado mang laro to handang mapunit ang balat. Tumayo at lumaban ng malaman mo kung pano ba manindigan sa buhay na pinasok.” Kendrick Lamar would be proud.
QUEEN MANICA MONEY
Ever heard of female rage? Yup, it’s real and raw AF. Add some 808 beats, a cool music video, and you have Queen Manica Money, a.k.a Nica Pauline Llamelo’s discography. Her breath control is insane, with lyrics and flow that almost feels like a dagger. It’s a challenge keeping up with the Nueva Ecija native, because when she wants something, she’ll almost always find a way to get it no matter what the cost.
SHNTI, a.k.a Ashanti Bulanadi has music that feels hypnotic at best. Rapping through jazzy, lo-fi loops, the Filipina artist’s music talks about self-preservation, sexism, and healing. On her track Free, she raps about women owning their power in support of decriminalizing abortion here in the Philippines, a controversial topic that’s timely and relevant. She even digs on a former country leader on her first ever track, OH NO PH! and says, “Mabangis, pero binebenta us like langis. Joke lang po, wag kayong makulit. Baka makaabot ito sa pulis.” At the end of the song, she challenges her listeners and asks, “it’s better to be socially aware, do you care?”
If you feel the need to talk to your inner child, SLIZ a.k.a Mhicaela Marbella’s songs will help. The Filipina rapper’s slow, almost child-like vocals feel like plucking prickly thorns from a rose that you just want to protect at all costs. Her songs make you want to take slow, deep breaths from all the chaos, as heard on tracks like Rapmabu, Sige, and Wala Sa Sarili.
Peaceful Gemini’s music is one that resonates with those who’ve found their Nirvana. Operating on a higher sense of self, the Filipina rapper known as Nicole M. Leonar tells us to wake TF up and read between the lines, literally. In Gising Na Gising she says, “contented with the peace that I’ve reached in this entity, connected ’cause I see you in me. I feel empathy.” Tending to your wounds is one thing, but achieving inner peace puts everything else in perspective.
Bisaya trap set in the female gaze may be unheard of by many, but Dhyana Mitta gives it to us real good. The Cebuana rapper’s music is a gift to all the women who’ve been kicked to the curb, a reminder that we’re all tied by a common thread rooted in a machismo society, but still coming out stronger as a pack. Dhyana talks about sex positivity, elevating and supporting women, and reminding them of their place in the universe.
LA-raised Filipina rapper Klassy’s music is nostalgic of the golden age of hip-hop. With the boom bap as her weapon, a sprinkle of jazz in between lines of “they treat the hood like it’s a zoo where brown folks roam, they tell us go back where you came from while they take our homes,” Klassy is unhinged with her sharp lyricism. Aside from making music, she’s also working as a tattoo artist.
Born and raised in Baguio, Nicole Anjela first gained popularity for her hip-hop song covers. Of lines like “kumot at unan lang ang nasa isip” and “kalaban ay antok dahil sa lamig,” instantly transports you to the chilly City of Pines with her songs. Nicole has also lent her lyrical prowess to local artists like Rjay Ty and fellow femcee DB Tha Girl.
Rapper and activist Rocky Rivera is one that walks the talk. Music’s been one of her avenues in making the world know what she stands for, whether it’s social justice, community empowerment or colorism. Imagine all of that laid out in bass-heavy beats, lines delivered in a nostalgic, almost smooth as honey type of way. Perfectly wrapped in a bow if you ask us.
Filipina rapper Faith Santilla makes it clear that she’s not playing around. The intro to one of her songs When Women and Grrrls Are Killed will make your heart race, thinking twice whether the sound of the drums are eerily similar to that of gun shots. This double-entendre dynamic not only works in Faith Santilla’s lyricism, but reflects also in the production of her music. She’s also an award-winning poet and was even was featured in the 1997 documentary, Beats, Rhymes and Resistance: Filipinos and hip-hop in Los Angeles.
BONUS: LADY DIANE
Put some respect on the First Lady of Rap’s name. Dyan Villavicencio, known for her moniker Lady Diane is the OG Filipina rapper that paved the way for local hip-hop alongside icons like Francis M, Andrew E and Michael V. In fact, THE only female of that time. Most 90s babies would recognize her song Saddam, a word play on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the tagalog phrase, “sa dami.” The hit song with political puns, talks about the same struggle that Filipinos have been facing more than 30 years ago until today. It skyrocketed Lady Diane to fame and led her to pursuing a degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies, a MBA and a career in advertising. And oh, years later, she also came out in a reality show as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Mic drop.
CONTINUE READING: The Tables Have Turned: 16 Filipina DJs That Are Killing The Game