Cebu-based collective Mobbstarr has been described as “hip hop royalty” in the Bisaya hip hop scene. When they geared up to release the carrier single for their self-titled sophomore album in 2003, no one was prepared for the impact that “Itsumo” would eventually make on the country as a whole.
While “Itsumo” may first come off as your run-of-the-mill hip hop love song, what set the song apart was their Japanese chorus sung by Sashi. The accompanying music video — shot in a Japanese convenience store — made rounds on Philippine music TV channels such as Myx and MTV Philippines.
In a 2004 column in Philippine Star, journalist Baby A. Gil shared that the pair’s partnership first started when Dice Rosaroso wanted to record with Miguel Salinas — better known as K-9 — for his label, 6000 Goonz. Their first collaboration was “Bounce,” which became a local hit in Cebu. The group released a series of hits and were finally signed by Warner Music Philippines. While Mobbstarr was already a prominent figure in the Cebu hip hop scene, “Itsumo” solidified their presence as a nationwide and even internationally-awarded hip hop group. They were considered one of the first Bisaya hip hop acts to reach mainstream status.
Mobbstarr is far from a one-hit wonder. In the years that followed “Itsumo,” they continued to release award-winning hits. In 2005, the group was nominated for Favorite Artist in the Philippines at the MTV Asia Awards. In 2010, Mobbstarr were the first and so far, only hip hop group to be awarded the National Commission for Culture and the Arts’ Ani ng Dangal award for their contribution to representing Filipino art and culture on the international stage.
In 2023, a social media post by Japanese content creator group SkyGarden went viral after they attempted to translate the chorus. According to them, the lyrics in the famous chorus are grammatically incorrect in Japanese. One of the mistakes pointed out is the use of “eroi” which actually translates to “erotic,” instead of the love angle the group aimed to capture. In a comment by Rodfil Obeso, a member of the comedic duo Moymoy Palaboy, alleged that the hip hop duo are aware that the Japanese lyrics are wrong. Regardless of this, the use of Japanese set them apart from other musicians at the time.
On their social media pages, Mobbstarr continually revisits their hits over the past 20 years. Regardless, no one can doubt the impact that Dice and K-9 made on Filipino hip hop, especially in bringing Cebuano music to the mainstream at a time where regional representation in the music industry was scant.