On this week’s episode of Billboard Philippines Volumes, Illest Morena and her fellow Pinoy Hip-Hop Class of 2024 classmates Hev Abi, O Side Mafia, Zae, Tus Brothers, PLAYERTWO, Felip, and Hellmerry opened up about their personal stories as musicians and how to connect Filipino hip-hop to a global audience.

While O Side Mafia’s Costa Cashman had opened up about the need for more widespread support from Filipino listeners, Illest Morena shared her perspective about how the hate that Pinoy hip-hop gets may be rooted in the classism prevalent in the country.

Medyo nagstem din siya from classism, kasi pang masa ‘yung hip-hop. So more people na mas prefer nila yung international music, tingin nila sa Tagalog, basta may slang na Tagalog, ano siya, jejemon. Hindi parin nila maalis sa isip nila na kasi deep inside meron silang self hate sa sarili nilang lahi at sa sarili nilang language. Pero nakikinig parin sila. Patago, kasi ayaw nilang malaman ng mga tao na yun ‘yung music na pinapakinggan nila at nakakarelate sila dito,” she says.

[It kind of stems from classism, because hip-hop is for the masses. So more people who prefer international music, they see that if it’s Tagalog, if it uses Tagalog slang, it’s jejemon. They can’t accept the fact that deep inside, they have self-hate for their own race and their own language. But they listen (to us) in secret, because they don’t want other people to know that they actually listen to and relate to (Pinoy hip-hop).]

She also opened up about how it’s time for Filipino hip-hop artists to establish their own cultural sound and identity, away from Western influences.

“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…’”

Listen to Illest Morena together with Hev Abi, O Side Mafia, Zae, Tus Brothers, PLAYERTWO, Felip, and Hellmerry on this special episode of Billboard Philippines Volumes.