On some online media, including their Spotify artist page and the artwork of their releases, Rizal hip-hop duo Tus Brothers spell their name as “Tu$ Brother$,” like Ma$e, A$AP Rocky, and many others before them. Interestingly, money played a large part in their start as rappers — coins, to be exact.

“Nag-soundtrip kami non sa pisonet [We researched new music through the pisonet],” recalls Al Tus, one half of the Tus Brothers. For the unaware, a pisonet is practically an internet vending machine that allows a person to surf the web for five minutes at a time whenever a one-peso coin is dropped into its slot. Al Tus played drums for a band with future Tus Brother RudyRude on bass, and the pair was in search of a new musical endeavor. “Nung may narinig akong duo na nagra-rap, tinawagan ko sya at sabi ko, ‘G, tara, kaya natin mag-rap tapos duo tayo.’ Kasi parang ganun ‘yung style namin — may pagka-hardcore na rap. [When I heard this duo that rapped, I called him and said, ‘Let’s do this.’ Our preferred style was the same — a hardcore style of rap.]”


Al Tus of Tus Brothers. Photographed by Everywhere We Shoot. Assisted by JV Rabano and Don Calopez.

Whatever it was, RudyRude liked what he heard; it was dark and grimy — not far from the heavy hardcore music their band played. “Rap siya pero hindi parang hip-hop na the usual. Parang may touch siya ng metal eh, na parang new-school [It’s not the usual style of hip-hop. It has a touch of metal that’s a bit new-school],” he recalls.

“Naisip ko rin kasi na wala pang duo na ganito ‘yung tunog sa ‘Pinas [We realized that there wasn’t a duo in the Philippines with that sound],” continues Al Tus. “’Bakit ‘di natin i-try,’ sabi ko sa kanya. [I told him, ‘Why don’t we try it?’]” And thus, the Tus Brothers were born.

Since then, the duo has released two EPs (2019’s Fatality and D.O.T.$) and an assortment of singles between 2019 and 2021. The Tus Brothers’ brand of hip-hop mostly follows the blueprint of trap, with its jittery, programmed hi-hat patterns and deep, sustaining bass beats giving it an unsettling, almost dreadful flavor, especially with lyrics that allude to drugs, guns, and gang violence.

“Iba ‘yung energy [It’s a different energy],” says RudyRude on their preferred style. “Since nasa banda kami, instruments ang hawak namin, gusto naming sound ‘yung may bounce, may energy… parang rakrakan. Kasi ‘di ba sa rakrakan may mga moshpit. Gusto namin sa rap, ganoon. Hip-hop naman, pero may moshpit. [Since we played instruments in a band, we wanted a sound with a bounce and energy, like rock. Rock has moshpits. We wanted to do hip-hop with a moshpit.]”


Photographed by Everywhere We Shoot. Assisted by JV Rabano and Don Calopez.

As popular as trap has become in the US since the early 2000s, it’s still considered an underground sound here in the Philippines, but that didn’t stop Tus Brothers from producing music the way they wanted to. In 2022, the duo signed with then-emerging creative collective and record label WAYBETTR, whose roster included then-up-and-coming R&B stars DENȲ and Jae K, among others. “When we started the label thing, we really wanted to have a very diverse type of roster,” explains producer and WAYBETTR co-founder Naki. “So we have a bunch of R&B artists and hip-hop artists, but we wanted someone who has grit and tenacity, and we really saw that in Tus Brothers.”


Photographed by Everywhere We Shoot. Assisted by JV Rabano and Don Calopez.

“Nung time na ‘yon [At that time], it was a big risk, because this type of sound wasn’t really a mainstream thing — it was more of an underground type of thing,” he continues. “But eventually, through collaboration and refinement, their sound and their vision ultimately aligned with ours.”

Indeed, Tus Brothers’ 2022 EP, 808 & Amats, their first recording under WAYBETTR, shows a marked improvement in production, with a slicker sound and bigger beats. “Nagkaroon kami ng [We had access to] equipment, [a] proper studio,” says Rudyrude. “Tapos meron din silang mga producers na talagang nakatulong din sa quality ng sound namin [They also had producers who helped improve the quality of our sound].”


RudyR of Tus Brothers. Photographed by Everywhere We Shoot. Assisted by JV Rabano and Don Calopez.

2023 was a banner year for Tus Brothers, having released the acclaimed Bawal Tus EP, a collaboration with Yung Bawal of Bawal Clan, as well as guesting on two successful singles (“Crashing” and “Drugs In Tha Club”) by O Side Mafia. The Brothers’ latest single, “Lulong” (Addicted), even displays a certain level of melodicism and maturity — a song that talks about love in the context of addiction. “It’s a really nice perspective to see [with] Tus Brothers, [that] they’re not just one-sided,” says Naki. “They’re very versatile.”

With a triumphant 2023, the Tus Brothers have the momentum to go further this year, as they hope to release their first full-length album “siguro bago mag-’ber’ months [before the ‘-ber’ months],” according to RudyRude. “‘Yung mga collab na ‘Sana mag-collab si ganito at si ganyan,’ nangyari na ‘yon. Ilalabas na lang namin [All the collabs you wished we would do already happened. We’ll just put them out.]”

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

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