Scoring a viral hit with her song Serve, Zae is here to help bring Pinay rappers to the forefront of the local rap scene.
Despite the fact that it’s already 2022, misogyny is still an issue plaguing Philippine society. You don’t have to look far and wide to see that there are still people who look down on women or people who don’t act in a certain way. This is why it’s so refreshing to see an artist like Zae slowly but surely reach the peaks of stardom, especially in a field that is sometime notorious for being unfriendly towards people who aren’t straight males.
If the name Zae doesn’t ring any bells, then maybe you’ve heard of the young Pinay rapper through her song Serve, which has been making the rounds across social media, especially on TikTok. For the past few years now, Zae has been delivering songs and raps that warrant her a place in the local hip-hop scene. But more importantly, she also uses her music to clap back against haters and show that women can and will do well in Pinoy hip-hop.
FROM HOBBY TO CAREER
Zae Zacarias, or simply known as Zae, got her start in rapping like most rappers have. “I started with posting videos of myself rapping online. I really just enjoyed it as a hobby, I would look for free beats on YouTube to rap over to then post it on my socials,” she tells NYLON Manila. It was clear from these early demos that Zae had a talent for rap. And what started out as a hobby soon became something much more as people realized that she needed to release original songs.
She credits this thanks to one of her rap videos for her single Pantsu going viral on Twitter. “It gained traction quickly, thousands of strangers online told me I should pursue rap. It inspired me, so I did. I just kept going and growing from then on.” Zae describes her music as “music that I can vibe and dance to, ones that I can do my makeup to”. Even though Zae has only been active in the game for just a few years, the young rapper has already released a diverse body of work, one that she says goes from “Rap/Trap to R&B/TrapSoul.” This can be seen in hard-hitting raps like Edi Wag to more R&B and slowed done tones in songs like Xxxstasy and Wine.
And before the haters come for her, Zae does write her own lyrics. And like any inspired lyricists, she takes inspiration wherever she can. “I write in my room whenever an idea pops in my head. I get inspired by my experiences, the shows I watch, books I read, and my introspection.”
SHE’S SERVING, YOUR HONOR
In the world of Pinoy hip-hop and rap, more often than not, the most famous or talked about rappers are usually men. That isn’t to say though Pinoy rap has a shortage of female artists. But when you ask someone on the street to name five Pinay rappers, most people would probably not finish that list. So, seeing Zae and her song Serve, which is a collab with fellow rapper Paul N Ballin, do so well is a surprise, but a much welcome one at that.
And just like with the song’s surprise success, the making of the track was a bit spontaneous in itself. “Project Serve started when Mark Beats told me about his interest in creating a song collaboration between Paul N Ballin and I. We set a studio recording session, wrote lyrics on the spot then bam! It was his idea and it was a cool experience. The three of us had great chemistry working together on this song,” Zae shares.
Serve was released in January 24, 2022 and takes its name from the slang term of “serve.” With production from Mark Beats, Serve sees Paul N Ballin and Zae take turns deliver fire bars over an addicting beat. “It’s us showing the local rap scene how it’s done, or how to serve good music and quality content. The idea of it was to raise the bar on Pinoy Rap music/music videos, and basically just to sh*t on haters,” she says.
While the whole song is quite good, what truly stands out from the track and what has garnered most attention on social media is the chorus. It’s an earworm of a chorus you won’t forget anytime soon especially with how Zae pronounces the words or goes “lamona na lamona.” In fact, some people even thought that the chorus was taken from a K-pop song. But believe it or not, most if not all of the chorus was made on the spot by Zae. “I came up with the title Serve and thought it would be fun and witty to add ‘Say Ahh’ on the hook, like when you’re feeding a baby and you ask them to open their mouth. Then I just went on and freestyled the rest of the chorus part.”
@zaezacarias Ahhhh ?? #Serve #fyp #foryou #tiktok ♬ Serve – Zae
When Serve was initially released, you would be forgiven if you didn’t know of it. It didn’t exactly set the world on fire on release. But that all changed when it started picking up steam on TikTok, proving once again that the video sharing platform has the power to spotlight great yet under the radar tracks. Zae though had a big hand in helping with the song’s success as the TikTok she posted using the song went viral, garnering over 6 million views to date. “People started to do my transition trend, popular social media influencers were hopping on it too, saw multiple dance challenges and dance classes using the song.”
aaaaahkkkkk♬ Serve – Zae
To date, the song has been used in over 167,000 videos on TikTok, racking up millions of views, been streamed over 300,000 times on Spotify, and it’s accompanying music video having over 600,000 views. But for Zae, the best part about having Serve trend on TikTok was how it started a conversation of how people should start stanning Filipina rappers. And as a cherry on top of the proverbial cake, Mimiyuuuh starting following Zae on Instagram. “It’s insane and I’m just grateful for everyone’s support,” Zae shared on feeling the love for the song. “I just had fun with it and I’m glad people are having fun with the song, too.”
@zaezacarias Reply to @veehna gotchu ? #Serve #fyp #foryou #tiktok ♬ Serve – Zae
But the song’s success stands out even more because filming the music video was not easy. While she said working with the music video’s director, Louie Ong, was “a joy”, the process to completion was anything but. “The fact that we had to shoot the music video three times because of malas circumstances. Our files got corrupted on the second mv shoot & we needed to do re-shoot, double gastos. But we still managed to make it happen. When I think of it now, it’s a blessing in disguise, maybe it wasn’t time yet when we were about to release it. It makes it even more meaningful to me. We poured our hearts into this and I’m happy that it’s fruitful.”
MAKING MUSIC FOR BADDIES
As mentioned before, this isn’t the first time Zae has gone viral. And when she first went viral on Twitter the first time, it was for all the right reasons. In an industry that can sometimes be hostile towards women, Zae stands out as someone who is proud to rep Pinay rappers and fight back against negative stereotypes against women. This, in fact, is a big part of Zae’s identity as a rapper and musician. From when people first got to know of her in 2019 until now, she uses her music to celebrate women, be proud of her morena skin tone, call out misogynists, and flaunt her body, all while spitting bars and serving looks.
Take for example her single Pantsu released in 2020. The track is noted for being an unapologetically pro-women anthem and calling out Nik Makino and his controversial song, Neneng B. “It’s rare to find Filipino rappers talking about these important things, especially in a male-dominated industry where misogyny is still preached to young men. I feel like it’s part of my job to raise awareness on matters like these, not only to educate pinoy rap listeners, but to empower women to be queens of their own kingdoms in a society that tells them they’re ‘babae lang,’ Zae proudly exclaims. She then adds “I make music for baddies mostly. I like to think my music is some kind of baddie energy fuel for the girls and gays.”
It’s no surprise then to learn that she looks up to powerful women who have unapologetically lived their lives and helped changed the music industry. “I love Lady Gaga, Doja Cat, Nicki Minaj (OF COURSE), and Kehlani”. This isn’t to say though that all men are bad. It’s just that the music industry and society in general still has its ways to go treating women and minorities as equals. Serve’s viral success is also a hopeful sign that Pinay rappers should finally get their due in the Pinoy rap scene. “Though people have been welcoming and supportive [in the Pinoy rap scene], I feel like female MCs are still in the background and I believe we deserve a spotlight, too.”
RAPPER ON THE RISE
As Serve continues to attract more listeners, more and more people are starting to pay attention to what Zae has to offer, something the young rapper is extremely thankful for. “I want to say thank you to all of my new fans. As a rising rapper/singer, I’m grateful that you guys are allowing and supporting me to grow and discover my true form as an artist. YOU ALL KEEP ME GOING, I love you!”
Her success is also starting important conversations and opening the doors for more Pinay rappers to finally get their chance in the spotlight and prove that they too can serve just as hard, if not harder, than their male counterparts. If you’re interested in hearing more of Zae, she has three songs of hers she suggests you check out. Of course, there’s Serve. The second one is Edi Wag, and the last is her baddie anthem, Baddest MF (BMF).