Spotify’s KALYE X concert series blazed a trail in Cebu and Davao before igniting its path to Manila for the finale run last October 28 at Makati’s Globe Circuit Event Grounds.

Spotify introduced Kalye X in August. The initiative spotlights Filipino hip-hop in collaboration with artists and fans by releasing a series of Spotify Singles throughout the Philippines to showcase the best of the genre.

Gloc 9 at Spotify Kalye X Manila

Gloc 9/Spotify Philippines

Its Cebu run hosted Bisaya bosses Midnasty and Cookie$, while Davao took pride in homegrown hip-hop collective Morobeats. These were indeed tough acts to follow and big shoes to fill. Notwithstanding, KALYE X Manila managed to shape up with heavyweight headliners keeping the entire finale in tow.

Here’s what happened during the KALYE X Manila.

Setting the stage

A sudden downpour at first threatened to dampen the open-air venue in the hours leading up to the big concert event. The rain would only succeed in pushing back the event slightly behind schedule, as the prepared lineup pushed back even harder to make up for the short-lived showers.

From there, it was all fire. Early attendees got to watch a Wishclusive rendition of Gloc-9, Ramdiss, and Hero performing their Spotify single, “Umaga”. The trio was aboard live at the Wish Bus, which was parked on one side of the Globe Circuit Event Grounds. Though totally inaudible from outside, the crowd gathering nearby was just hyped to see all their faves together.

Spotify Kalye X Wish Bus

Wish Bus/Spotify Philippines

The rest of the scene helped to make the mood before the concert formally kicked off. Fortunately, the ground didn’t cave in from the preceding rains, serving as a solid foundation for the night’s activities. Self-taught multidisciplinary artist Trip63 did live graffiti that came out as an on-ground street art installation on one side of the venue. Participating vendors also sold street food and palamig (sweet refreshments) to complete the KALYE X-perience.

All hits, bar none

Finally, the night began with drill rap group Trifluoride (consisting of $trict, Yung Youz, and BL DA menace) declaring “WAR”. This appropriately set the stage for the rap battle that ensued shortly after. Rekta Sa Kalye hosted the 16-bar challenge with an intense lineup of emcees from KALYE City Xypher.

These talented rising artists included JMakata, Jeez of NorthGvng Philippines, EYLUKE, EKIM – ONE of Mositivo Records, YHP REEZY of GhostWorldwide, Spank of UTAK BERDE, Matteyo of Greenhouse Records, Kxle of SV Squad, E-Kove, Kidd Razcal of Gusimann, CRHYME AYE’DEHART, Anghell of ALL G, Almarix of Blazing Skull Records, and Saint Bino of DTTS.

Spotify Kalye X Manila_Rekta Sa Kalye

Rekta Sa Kalye/Spotify Philippines

All of the acts came in guns blazing with rapid-fire rhythm and rhymes. While there were a bunch of misfires with emcees occasionally sputtering out of breath or out of beat, the crowd was still supportive as ever to hype the performers or cheer them on when they had trouble getting back in tune. The genre’s difficulty was definitely evident, even the evening’s best skipped beats but of course, never without bouncing back with a killer verse to compensate.

The standouts were clear. The night’s host, emcee Dash Calzado, asked the crowd who its picks were among the very capable lineup, to which they responded with a number of talented names. These mostly corresponded with the judges’ choices, who then duked it out in a climactic finish. The eventual champion was JMakata, whom the judges noted for his rhyme scheme and stage presence.

Repping for rap game

All of that was only the first part. KALYE X Manila would truly come to life when the towering figures in Filipino hip-hop performed one after the other.

Hev Abi ushered in the second act with back-to-back performances of “WELCOME2DTQ” and “Para Sa Streets”. This was followed up by O SIDE MAFIA’s “SMD”, “CRASHING”, and “20 Deep”.

Hev Abi at Spotify Kalye X Manila

Hev Abi/Spotify Philippines

The audience was as attentive and as impressive as the star lineup. Whenever the performers would pause to catch their breath, one could observe the crowd not missing a beat when they rapped all their memorized verses.

Then, the crowd erupted into uproar when the headliners took to the stage. Ramdiss went all out with “Underdawg” and “Buod”, as followed up with “Sumpa” and “Ipakita Mo”. Gloc-9 then had the entire audience singing along to his greatest songs like “Upuan” and “Sumayaw Ka”, among others.

Gloc 9 at Spotify Kalye X Manila

Gloc 9/Spotify Philippines

The three artists then performed “Umaga” live for the first time after watching the trio at the Wish Bus earlier that night. Now, everyone could both see and hear the new song in its full glory.

Radmiss and Hero at Spotify Kalye X Manila

Radmiss and Hero/Spotify Philippines

Go with the flow

The appeal of KALYE X Manila lied neither in polish nor perfection. Rather, it was the grit of each performance that got the crowd to stay along. Like live theatre, there were no safety nets other than such a great crowd to keep as company.

Each miss was clearly that, but every hit definitely hit right on the mark. The hip-hop scene is not just in the performances, after all, but with the live interaction from the crowd who would ultimately crown the victors. The champion who laid waste to all their opponents goes home with all the spoils, but they are all on good terms at the end of the day.

O SIDE MAFIA Spotify Kalye X Manila

O SIDE MAFIA/Spotify Philippines

When the night ended, KALYE X Manila succeeded as a music festival in the same way that rap remains relevant — it’s all about having a good time. For all who attended KALYE X Manila, it was all good, all the time.