Experience can truly mold great artists, and that heavily applies to O SIDE MAFIA – the rising Filipino hip-hop unit proving that enough pressure does create diamonds.

One good listen to their discography and you’ll feel a tangible air of authenticity surrounding this young group. What they have cannot be merely replicated by just anyone: an undeniable artistry borne from shared blood, sweat, and tears.

Hailing from the mean streets of Malate, Costa Cashman, Gee Exclsv, and Madman Stan have never shied away from acknowledging their roots. One could even say it’s in their very identity, with the three having always been vocal about it. This is evident in tracks like “GO GETTA” and its sequel “MY THANG (GO GETTA 2),” whilst never sugarcoating its realities as in the case of their 2021 track “BUHAY NA MAHIRAP (METRO MALATE).”

While some might chalk up much of their lyricism as “bragging” and the cheekiness and aggression in their delivery as “arrogance,” a deeper listen can show who O SIDE MAFIA truly are. They are a seasoned brotherhood who know how to look back in humility yet rightfully move forward with pride — a trio who, thanks to their hard work and sticking to their truth, now find themselves at great heights they only once dreamed of.

Gee Exclsv, Costa Cashman, and Madman Stan of O SIDE MAFIA. Photographed by Everywhere We Shoot. Assisted by JV Rabano and Don Calopez.

The environment they grew up in is what shaped them. For artists like them, their environment plays a major role because it’s where they operate, even if it might be harsh and unforgiving — their way of moving in relation to the world being affected by what they have grown accustomed to, or how people around them have been doing things.

However, don’t get it twisted. It’s not something they glamorize. Madman Stan emphasizes that if you grew up in a messy environment, it will really reflect on you. “Nandun ‘yung mahihirapan ka gawin ‘yung mga bagay na gusto mo kasi ‘di sang-ayon ‘yung kapaligiran mo…

[“You’ll find it difficult to do the things you want to do because your environment is not conducive to it”]

Nevertheless, while these not-so-ideal conditions are sometimes unavoidable, O SIDE MAFIA are living proof that this won’t stop tried-and-tested “go gettas” like them from pursuing their goals as one tight-knit unit  — most especially in 2024, as they aim towards more growth, development, and quality improvement in every track, as well as “more and more bangers.”

All these, of course, while enjoying it all along the way.

Gee Exclsv, Costa Cashman, and Madman Stan of O SIDE MAFIA. Photographed by Everywhere We Shoot. Assisted by JV Rabano and Don Calopez.

In fact, when asked how they’d describe their journey so far, Madman Stan encapsulates it all into a single word — fun. “…Lalo na hanggang ngayon solid pa rin ‘yung pagsasamahan, hindi lang sa music kundi sa totoong buhay kung sino talaga kaming magkakaibigan.

[“…Especially until now, our brotherhood is still solid, not just in music but in real life where it’s really us friends.”]

If you need any further evidence, then just go to one of their shows, something that Madman Stan playfully describes as “WILD” and as an avenue to positively let out some pent-up aggression, as he reminds everyone to bring towels, an extra shirt, and water. “Kasi masaya talaga. Makikita mo ‘yung mga tao na naglalabas ng rage lalo na sa mga kanta namin na pasigaw. Kumbaga, damang dama nila ‘yung kanta.

[“Because it’s really fun. You’ll see the people let out their rage especially with our songs that make you want to shout. They definitely feel the songs, so to speak.”]

And true enough, with close to four million monthly listeners on Spotify alone at the time of writing, the trio and their music are clearly resonating with many. To say that they are simply “popular” at this point is already an understatement when they’ve become the first ever Filipino hip-hop act to top Billboard’s Philippines Songs Chart with their viral hit “Get Low”, a collaboration with producer BRGR. As artists fittingly taking great delight in their hard work, this is a feat that Madman Stan states O SIDE MAFIA are happy about, proud of, and, most importantly, thankful for. “In-expect ko nang banger ‘yung song pero ‘di ko in-expect na aabot sa ganung point…”

[“I already expected the song would be a banger but I didn’t expect it to reach that point…”]

Gee Exclsv, Costa Cashman, and Madman Stan of O SIDE MAFIA. Photographed by Everywhere We Shoot. Assisted by JV Rabano and Don Calopez.

This momentous achievement is not simply a testament to O SIDE MAFIA’s influential artistry in modern Filipino hip-hop, but, all the more, it is also concrete proof of our people’s inherent love for the genre they operate in — a love that is undeniable and further backed by the amount of talented new hip-hop virtuosos, including the trio themselves, popping up in the last few years.

Having made this historic milestone not just for themselves but for all of hip-hop in the Philippines, it is clear that O SIDE MAFIA are on track (or perhaps, already there) to becoming one of this generation’s inspirational figures for aspiring young artists. And yet, when posed with the question of what they hope to inspire in those who might be looking up to them, Madman Stan stresses that while he hopes that the trio can inspire other people to create music that is “natural” or true to who they are, he asks others to not aspire to be exactly like them. Instead, he wants them to be even better. “Hangaan siguro pwede, pero mangarap maging kami, hindi siguro, kasi kaya pa nilang maging mas magaling sa ‘min.”

[“To look up to us is okay. But to aspire to be us? I don’t think so, because they can become even better than us.”]

A version of this story appeared on Billboard Philippines’ Hip-Hop Issue, dated April 15.

Photographed by Everywhere We Shoot. Assisted by JV Rabano and Don Calopez. Styling by Daryl Chang, assisted by Kurt Abonal and Maria Paz Gamus. Creative and Fashion Direction by Daryl Chang. Art Direction by Nicole Almero. Hair by Nix Institute of Beauty. Makeup by Estee Lauder PH. Shoot Coordination by Mikaela Cruz.

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