Everything is Permitted with Bawal Clan
Originally published on STATUS Magazine, June 2018.
Marching to the heavy bass of their own “Pomp and Circumstance,” hip-hop collective BAWAL CLAN is ready to join the ranks of Philippine hip-hop.
Bawal Clan is taking formation on local grounds and grinding towards hip-hop culture’s insurrection in the Philippines. This group of aficionados is spearheading the takeover of Filipino hip-hop’s new wave with the release of their upcoming album, Bawal Tapes Vol. 1.Growing up to the music of Mobb Deep, Andrew E., MF Doom, and the late Francis M. on repeat, each member of the group dishes out an unmatchable style that smoothly blends with everyone else’s.
“I guess you can say our sound is that music your parents won’t allow you to hear but also secretly love.”
“Each member has a different background and sound that they offer to the table, so it’s difficult to describe what the general sound is. It’s hip-hop to its core, but forever evolving,” Yung Bawal explains. “I guess you can say our sound is that music your parents won’t allow you to hear but also secretly love.”
With a roster currently comprised of Yung Bawal, Pope Fiction, Ankhten Brown, OJ River, Funktalyst, DZ SVG, Sneaky, Rjay Ty, Alex Omiunu, MNL$, Chef Eazy, Nuevo, Mic, Rahman, Buko Brown, and Krissy Cakes, the clan is determined to spit bars on P. Diddy’s yacht and collaborate with the likes of J.Cole, Higher Brothers, Joey Bada$$, The Internet, and fellow collective A$AP Mob. “There are tons of young talented artists and musicians making noise in the Philippines right now, and hip-hop is becoming a global force of expression.” Chef Eazy continues, “The rest of the world hasn’t heard enough of what the country has to offer, so we want to continue working with talented artists here in order to make our imprint on the international music scene.”
Tell us about your origin stories. How and why was Bawal Clan formed?
Yung Bawal: Bawal Clan started off as an inside joke between us and a friend from LA named Pete. ‘Bawal’ was the first word he learned, and we used to joke around saying it. We then started using the hashtag #BawalClanAintNothingToF***With, which was a flip on Wu-Tang. It wasn’t planned, but it worked. We kinda just went with it as it grew to the artist collective that it is today.
How would you describe your collective sound?
Rjay: A melting pot of Filipino hip-hop.
With hip-hop being historically turf-centric, how have the different locations you’ve all come from influence your music?
Ankhten Brown: I feel it definitely adds more sauce and flavor to our collective sound–different accents, languages, and cultural upbringings.
R: It takes our craft to a whole different level since we’ve all walked different paths before reaching a common ground. It definitely gives our crew and content more character.
“Forget about trends and do you. Knowing that you did it because you wanted to feels good, and it makes fighting the good fight worth it.”
Do you try to strike a balance between rap trends and the collective’s vision, or are your styles wholly dictated by yourself?
AB: I personally dictate my own style in everything I do, and I feel like everyone else in the clan dictates their own style too. I get inspired by trends but never fully copy or bite a trend.
R: Forget about trends and do you. Knowing that you did it because you wanted to feels good, and it makes fighting the good fight worth it.
With a large collective, how do you successfully team up while keeping each member’s personal style?
YB: We all give everyone a chance to speak and voice out their ideas or concerns. We also give each other turns to take the lead on songs. We just vibe out in the studio together and see what we can come up with.
R: We let each other do our own thing, but of course keep each other in check as well to make sure that everything is balanced. Communication is a major key.
“Hip-hop in the Philippines is stronger and more versatile than ever…Of course, the line between good and wack music is inevitable anywhere–you just have to tap into the right frequency that it best represents.”
What are the clan’s thoughts on the local hip-hop game?
Funkatalyst: Hip-hop in the Philippines is stronger and more versatile than ever. There are so many artists pursuing the craft with sturdy dedication, whether timeless boom bap or trap. A lot of OGs and new cats are pushing boundaries even more, helping the style and sound spread worldwide to get the recognition Filipino hip-hop artists deserve. Of course, the line between good and wack music is inevitable anywhere–you just have to tap into the right frequency that it best represents.
Sneaky: From an industry practitioner’s point of view, there’s hella room for improvement. There are still a lot of politics and cliquish BS. It’s still the dumbed down shit that gets commercial airplay. Only a few major companies and brands support local hip-hop acts compared to other artists from other genres. But the whole community has learned how to move and do things independently, so it’s only getting bigger and stronger.
What makes Filipino rap different from what the rest of the globe produces?
Pope Fiction: It’s more about the character. It’s not afraid to mix styles of hip-hop and isn’t bound to certain types of a subgenres. Being influenced by different cultures, society, and personal experiences play a key role in creating hip-hop that’s evolving, rather than hip-hop that’s restricted to the norms.
It’s mentioned that the crew’s artistic vision is to make an imprint on Manila’s music scene. What do you think is that imprint right now?
R: A reminder to express yourself to the fullest and f*ck what everyone else thinks. Be true to yourself.
After Bawal Tapes Vol. 1 drops, what’s next for Bawal Clan?
AB: More music, more videos, and more big things in general! Watch out, cuz we boutta pop off at all angles!
Written by Sophie Caraan
Photographed by Johnny Balbalosa
Makeup by Nanan Villalba