Take one look at the five guys who comprise PLAYERTWO, and you wouldn’t think that they make up one of the hottest hip-hop acts in the country right now.

Indeed, Ivo Impreso, Luke April, Wave P, DJ Puhken, and Ven Villariza look more like scrappy geeks than street-hardened MCs — mostly clean-shaven (save for Ivo), not too many tattoos, and bespectacled (at least two of them).

It can be argued that they’re all geeks, though — of music, that is. Rappers/producers Ivo, Luke, and Wave P share that they grew up listening to different kinds of music — through their parents and personal discoveries — but each of them can credit one or two artists for turning them into hip-hop heads.


Wave P, Ivo Impresso, and Luke April of Playertwo. Photographed by Everywhere We Shoot. Assisted by JV Rabano and Don Calopez.

“Around 2018, I did a deep dive [into] Kanye West and it changed my life,” narrates Luke April. “I realized that hip-hop is not just about heavy drums and rhymes; it’s the most complex genre that has ever existed.”

Wave P recalls seeing posters of Tyler, The Creator’s 2017 album Flower Boy during a trip to the US. “I [got] very curious about him and started digging into his life, songs, and fashion,” he says. “By that time, I knew that I wanted to be like him.”

For Ivo Impreso, it was J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar. “[Their discographies] gave me a new perspective to hip-hop,” relates the rapper. “The lyricism, the flows and cadences, the reading between the lines — that’s what I fell in love with.”

A cursory listen to PLAYERTWO’s discography may not reveal any overt homages to their aforementioned heroes, but if anything can be said about their music, it’s fun. “HDYF” is a party banger, while “Thinkin Of Love” features the trio rapping over a laid-back, neo-soul-ish groove. The viral hit “That’s My Baby” had the biggest hook of 2022, while my absolute favorite, “Tiktiktokin,” has a chaotic, almost Beastie Boys vibe to it.

“The goal is to make something that blends our different styles and influences — to make pieces of music greater than the sum of its parts,” explains Ivo. “We don’t want to be bound by restrictions of genre when we create songs.”


Ivo Impresso, Luke April, and Wave P of Playertwo. Photographed by Everywhere We Shoot. Assisted by JV Rabano and Don Calopez.

PLAYERTWO formed in 2021 in Davao City, originally consisting of just Ivo and Luke. Both were already seasoned musicians and producers by then, and decided to collaborate despite their varying backgrounds. The pair released their debut single “Talk Straight” in 2022, after which Wave P joined for subsequent single “HDYF” and officially became a member. He was also part of Davao art collective We Out Here with both Puhken and Villariza, and the latter two signed on as creative directors to complete PLAYERTWO as we know it today.

With three rappers-producers handling the music and two creatives looking after the group’s visuals and presentation, PLAYERTWO are practically a self-sustaining unit. A certain DIY charm pervades their music videos, which show them driving around the city, rapping in the streets, frolicking in the park, or goofing off in the studio. In 2023, they released their debut album HAPPY ACCIDENTS VOL. 1 and signed with Warner Music Philippines. While aligning with a major label may entail certain creative compromises in order to achieve commercial success, the boys of PLAYERTWO have been nothing but appreciative of the support they’ve received from their record company thus far.

“Before, we’ve been doing everything from A to Z,” relates Villariza. “But with our label’s help, we have people who can help us bring our creative ideas into fruition. But despite that, we still remain very hands-on with our art.”

“We understand that music, while it is our passion, is also a business,” adds Ivo. “We study and understand the patterns and dynamics of the industry along with them. We help each other win so that everybody eats.”


Wave P, Ivo Impresso, and Luke April of Playertwo. Photographed by Everywhere We Shoot. Assisted by JV Rabano and Don Calopez.

In any case, PLAYERTWO have reached a certain level of prominence in 2024, starting the year with two smash singles, “FLYYY” and “Pagdali,” both collaborations with fast-rising rapper Felip, a.k.a. Ken of SB19. “We became friends with Felip since [he did] his COMPLEX project and opened for him,” says Wave P. According to DJ Puhken, the show with Felip was actually PLAYERTWO’s first performance in Manila.

Now based in the capital for about a year now, PLAYERTWO are facing better prospects as they flourish creatively in the presence of a bigger and more receptive audience, as well as a strong hip-hop community. “It’s been a great journey,” reflects Luke. “Performing, recording, and meeting peers in the industry honestly felt like a dream.”

“Everyone felt nervous [about] moving and playing shows in Manila. But it’s been an amazing ride getting to know the scene, the artists, fans, and organizers that move the scene forward,” concurs Ivo. “It really inspires us to keep working because we feel so seen and heard in this environment. We only hope to grow from here.”

“2024 is going to be a magnificent and wild year for PLAYERTWO,” concludes Villariza. “Watch out.”

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. On Ivo Impresso: UNIQLO utility jacket and trousers, and ZARA varsity jacket and H&M hoodie jacket. On Wave P: D.D.DAILY utility jacket and ZARA cargo pants, and ZARA varsity jacket and UNIQLO button-down shirt. On Luke April: ZARA utility jacket, PULL & BEAR cargo trousers, H&M t-shirt, and ZARA varsity jacket, UNIQLO knitted vest and button-down shirt.

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