In this week’s episode of Billboard Philippines Volumes, the cover stars of Billboard Philippines’ hip-hop issue — O Side Mafia, Tus Brothers, Hev Abi, Zae, Illest Morena, Felip, PLAYERTWO, and Hellmerry — sat down with Dougbrock to talk about their journey as artists and the different challenges that face the current state of Filipino hip-hop.

Despite being one of the biggest genres in the country, many still perceive Pinoy hip-hop as a low-brow art form. “Kasi ‘di ba, nasanay sila sa dating soundtrip eh. ‘Yung mga soundtrip ngayon, ‘di nila ma gets ba [You know, they’re used to what music used to sound like before. What people are listening to now, they don’t understand it],” says Costa Cashman of O Side Mafia, when talking about how there’s a disconnect between conservative, older generations and the music of today.

Iba na ‘yung palo, iba na ‘yung tempo. Iba na ‘yung sinasabi [The beats are different, the tempos are different. Our lyrics are different].”

However, it’s not just hip-hop’s approach to tackling today’s taboo topics that may push potential listeners the other way. Illest Morena cites classism as a major factor as to why Pinoy hip-hop is perceived as a genre that’s “beneath” others. Zae and Felip hop on, saying that colonial mentality — thinking that international music is superior to homegrown — continues to be another challenge that Pinoy hip-hop artists face today.

When it comes to what it takes to bring Filipino talent to the global hip-hop industry, Al Tus and Rudyrude affirm that despite the challenges for the genre here at home, Pinoy hip-hop is already at par with the caliber of talents abroad. “Kahit ‘di mo naman naiintindihan ‘yung lyrics, pag tumatak sa’yo ‘yung song na yun, kahit hindi mo naiintindihan, papakinggan mo ‘yun, eh (Even if you don’t understand the lyrics, when the song sticks to you, even if you don’t understand it, you’re going to listen to it),” Rudyrude says.

“I think we should try be more unique and hanapin talaga natin ‘yung identity natin (find our own identity). As of now – guilty ako dito [I’m guilty of this] – marami parin sa atin may influences parin from the West, so siyempre paano natin madidifferentiate ‘yun [we’re influenced by the West a lot, so of course, how are we going to differentiate ourselves], aside from the language being different, ‘di ba?,” says Illest Morena. “I think kailangan natin maging [we need to be] unique and find our own identity para mag [so that we can] stand out talaga tayo na ‘oh, this is Filipino hip-hop.’ Hindi ‘yung parang [And not just] ‘this sounds like…'”

To close, Cashman argues, “Siguro, kailangan pa ng mas madaming suporta. Bawasan ‘yung hate. Kasi gaya ng sabi kanina, kung Pilipino, kung hine-hate siya ng kapwa niya Pilipino, kumbaga paano tayo makakapuntang international kung hine-hate mo ako? Dito palang hate mo na ako eh, paano kung pupunta tayong international niyan ‘di ba?

Hindi naman tayo magkakalaban sa Pilipinas, eh. Ibang bansa kalaban natin. Kaya ayun, suporta lang. Sa madaling salita, kaya na nating sumabay sa international, wala lang suporta. Kulang lang sa suporta.”

[I think, we need more support. Stop the hate. Like what was said earlier, if it comes from a Filipino, and you hate your own fellow Filipino, how are we going to go international if you keep on hating? Even here in the country, you already hate me eh, how are we going to go international with that attitude, right? Here in the Philippines, we shouldn’t see each other as enemies. At this point, we’re up against other countries. That’s why, just support each other. In other words, we’re already at par with the international music industry, we just don’t have enough support.]

Watch the full episode of Billboard Philippines Volumes featuring O Side Mafia, Tus Brothers, Hev Abi, Zae, Illest Morena, Felip, PLAYERTWO, and Hellmerry below.