It’s been two weeks since SB19’s Ken—who opted to go by his mononym FELIP for his solo project—astounded Filipino audiences with the debut of his hip hop-driven EP, COM•PLEX. This marked a new chapter in the artist’s career, which was something he was nervous about when HipHopDX Asia sat down with him during the COM•PLEX launch party.
“I’m well aware na hindi lahat magugustuhan ng EP ko, so gaya ng sinasabi ko, I just wanna be experimental” (I’m well aware that not everyone will like my EP, so just like what I said before, I just wanna be experimental [with my EP]). To his credit, the experimentation paid off.
The six-track release is a clear departure from the P-pop sound FELIP was initially known—as one-fifth of SB19. As someone who has a reputation for being reserved, the public can finally get a taste of who the artist is really like with COM•PLEX. It’s dark, punk, and unapologetically FELIP.
The crossover from pop to hip hop is significant within the context of the Filipino music industry. As HipHopDX Asia editor MC Galang wrote in her editorial launching FELIP as HipHopDX Asia’s inaugural Artist of the Month, “[The EP’s] first single, ‘ROCKSTA,’ has already shattered any preconceived notions about what kind of artist FELIP is, or what kind of music he makes, especially within the context of how he first achieved his fame. There is no set precedent in the local music industry when it comes to pop stars (in this case, P-pop, specifically) successfully crossing over to a completely different genre, particularly hip hop.”
With that, FELIP takes us on a deeper dive behind each track of the COM•PLEX EP, where he talks about his roots as a Bisaya artist, asserting himself, and making everyone know that he is not one to be taken lightly.
The track’s first single and opening track was the public’s first peek into what kind of hip hop artist FELIP wants to be. In a statement given to HipHopDX Asia, “ROCKSTA” symbolizes the artist leaving “all pretensions at the door as he ushers [in] a new era.”
“Rockstars are known for their no-nonsense attitude and a laser-kind of focus and control on the music they create.” A fitting description for a chest-thumping anthem like “ROCKSTA.”
“‘SUPERIORITY’ talks about being superior to your weaknesses,” the artist shared during the EP’s launch party.
The track was inspired by the line “the only one who can beat me is me” by Aomine Daike, a character from the anime Kuroko No Basket. It makes sense, given that this is the first song from COM•PLEX that’s written solely by FELIP. It’s also the first track in the EP to feature the Bisaya language (a language spoken in the southern parts of the country), which serves as a nod to the artist’s own heritage.
“Ayaw ko ikumpara sa imoha kid / Do you understand? / Di ta pareha / Wa ko’y kapareha / Ako usa ra” (Don’t compare me to you, kid / Do you understand? / We’re not the same / There’s no one like me / There’s only one of me).
“Actually, ginawa ko siya kasi gusto kong gumawa ng something new. Jersey Club [beat] siya, which is really famous in the US now. I tried to incorporate Bisaya language sa kanta” (Actually, I made [the song] because I really wanted to try something new. [It’s a] Jersey club [beat], which is really famous in the US now. I tried to incorporate Bisaya language in the song.)
“Proud ako sa language ko, and I think that Bisaya is really cool. I’m really proud to be one. So, gusto ko na hindi mawala [yung Bisaya]. And syempre yung roots ko…gusto ko siya ilagay (sa kanta). So sa lahat ng mga ginagawa talaga namin, wag kalimutan ang roots.” (I’m proud of my language, and I think that Bisaya is really cool. I’m really proud to be one. So, I don’t want to let go of that [Bisaya]. And of course, my roots…I wanted to put that in the song. So, with everything that we do, don’t forget your roots.)
“Just because someone drinks and smokes…na-ju-judge siya agad ng mga tao (people are quick to judge) but they don’t know may pinagdaanan yung tao (he’s going through something)…that’s why he does that as a way to escape reality even for a brief moment…that’s why I wrote it.”
“DRINKSMOKE” is a melodic rap song that tells about what goes through one’s mind at their lowest point.”
“As a person, as a human being, meron tayong mga negative thoughts…gusto kong i-send ng message na ‘wag silang makinig sa mga negative thoughts nila.” (As a person, as a human being, we all have negative thoughts…I want to send a message to listeners to not listen to their negative thoughts).
“[The track uses] two vocal characters to tell the story of “CRIMINAL”…[with] seemingly two personas, one of which is a stronger force, talking to each other in English and Bisaya. It is human to have negative thoughts and feelings and it is through the process of self-awareness that one is empowered to accept one’s self.”
“May mga tao na hindi magugustuhan sa’yo, so whatever people throw at you, ‘wag mong pansinin kasi nasisira yung best version [of yourself] mo. Just be yourself.” (There will be people who don’t like you, so whatever people throw at you, just brush it off because it will ruin the best version of yourself that you can be. Just be yourself).
“Whenever STRAYDOGS would bark, do not be affected by it. Go do what you gotta do.”
Listen to FELIP’s COM•PLEX below: