Trigger Warning: This article has mentions of suicide, depression, and substance abuse.

If you told Jerald Mallari years ago that he would end up collaborating with his idols Loonie and Gloc-9, he probably would think you were crazy.

Fast forward to 2022, Mallari — who performs under the artist name JRLDM — would finally end up working with the two of them.

JRLDM in article 1

Warner Music Philippines

When he first got confirmation that Gloc-9 would feature on his track, “Lagi Na Lang” (Always), he tells Billboard Philippines that he couldn’t even believe that it was real. “Ang hirap ipaliwanag! Ewan ko kung naramdaman mo yung feeling na yung imposible tapos naging posible” (It’s so hard to describe! I don’t know if you’ve felt the feeling that the impossible was made possible).

On the other hand, JRLDM joined Loonie on HipHopDX Asia‘s The Regionals: Philippines alongside Jon Protege, Arkho of Midnasty, and Mhot. He recalls that when he met Loonie on the set of the video, it was like he was a kid again just learning how to rap. “Sinabi ko sa kanya, ‘Habambuhay master kita.’ [Noong sinabi ko ‘yan sa kanya] Tinatawanan lang niya ako kasi akala niya na nagloloko ako. Sabi ko kanya, ‘Maniwala ka o hindi, pero sa’yo ako natuto. Noong bata ako hinihimay ko pa yung mga spinit mo; paano ka mag-multi, rhyming, lahat.'”

(I told him that I’ve considered him as my idol my entire life. When I told him that, he just laughed at me because he thought I was joking. I told him, ‘Whether you believe it or not, I learned [everything I know about rap] through you. When I was a kid, I dissected everything that you [rapped]; how you made [multi-syllabic rhymes], rhyming, everything.’)

However, to get to this point in his career, JRLDM had to start completely from scratch. He grew up in a conservative part of Bataan, where the hip-hop scene was — and is, he says — still in its growing stages. When he gravitated towards hip-hop, he didn’t exactly know where to start. He didn’t know how to record songs, much less produce them. It was also particularly difficult for him given that in his area, band culture was more prominent.

At the time, there was a stark divide between the hip-hop heads and the bands. JRLDM recalls that even if he loved rock bands as well, he was always turned down from joining them because he was a hip-hop fan.

Naisip ko, ‘ba’t di ko na lang maging [sarili kong] banda?'” (I thought, why don’t I just become my own band?) he says. It was at that point that he threw himself into learning everything there was to know about being a hip-hop artist — from learning and then practicing how to make beats to writing bars. It was under the mentorship of King Promdi (rapper and producer from VVS Collective) that he learned the ropes. He was now fully committed to becoming a rapper.

JRLDM in article 2

Warner Music Philippines

JRLDM has set himself apart from the rest with his brand of brutally honest melodic rap. He’s not afraid to delve into the darkest places of his life, writing lyrics that tackle substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and more. His breakout single “Patiwakal” (Suicide) from his debut EP Look MOM I’m Flying, is a somber and explicit track about struggling with addiction and suicidal ideation.

His frankness with difficult topics continues well into his discography, such as his 2021 release, “Lason” (Poison). The song and its accompanying music video are a haunting rendition of fighting one’s inner demons and trying to break out of addiction.

JRLDM isn’t afraid to make music about the highs and lows of everyday life. It’s precisely the reason why his fans call him one of the most relatable rappers today, whether he raps about struggles or the hope that comes with choosing to live despite it all. In “Bahala Na Bukas” (Leave It Up For Tomorrow), he raps, “May sarili kang saya, ‘wag kang pakain sa lungkot” (You have your own happiness, don’t be consumed by your demons).

JRLDM has become the voice of many, making the soundtrack for everyone struggling with the harsher realities of life. More than this, he also shows that there is hope, and that there is at least one person who knows exactly what you’re going through. As he gears up for his upcoming sophomore album — “Di ko alam kung pwede kong sabihin pero andaming features!” (I don’t know if I’m allowed to say, but there a lot of featured artists!) — what is constant is that he will continue making music that is honest not only to his life, but also to everyone else’s.