Hip-hop has always been more of an underground operation in the local music scene, with the masses and radios leaning more towards head-banging rock. But 2017 has been different, as more bands have been coming out with newer fusions of different genres. A particular standout, arguably one of the best of this year, is the recently disbanded rap trio Shadow Moses.
With their only album, Super Shadow Moses Turbo, they go where Filipino music has never gone before. A completely experimental project, they blend multisyllabic and clever rhymes with grittiness that are specific to the hustle of hip-hop and the streets of ‘90s Manila.
Super Shadow Moses Turbo builds a world of its own, a rare feat for a debut album. Rarer still is that the album does not rely on a creation of characters, but on the artists themselves. Whether or not the personas presented in the album are who they are in real life, each one feels like someone who any listener could genuinely jibe with. They almost make it seem as if they exist in this fantastically grimmy, yet vibrant niche of Manila. Unknown to us poor mainstream slaves, they reopen the gates to a familiar city that they have made uniquely theirs.
In every track, you get a feel of who they are. They aren’t Jay-Z or Eminem copycats or on-trend trap artists; rather, they are nerdy gamer boys who deal with Manila traffic and can rap smarter than anybody else on the scene. From the hilarious skits of Six the Northstar–their self-proclaimed beatmaster–doing impressions of popular cartoon characters to the intro song, with Chyrho and Ninno happening upon an arcade where they enter a ‘90’s gamer world, it is an album that peppers personality, skill, and video game references in every line.
It puts together two unlikely concepts: Video games and hip-hop. Seemingly worlds apart, with hip-hop belonging to the urban kids and video games to the players of Mineski and Co., these two are blended to create an astoundingly relatable record that challenges the norm.
With infectious jams such as “La La Land,” “Scott Hall,” “Service Unavailable,” and “Spyfall,” they tackle how to deal with adulthood, relationships at various ages, and Filipino wi-fi woes. Even with mundane and overdone song topics, such as the perennial forbidden love song, the trio still manages to inject their own flavour with their smooth flow and wicked rhymes.
While the shame lies in the fact that the group has split up, this album is a testament to the work that each of them can do. It is an album that is unpretentious, fun, and intelligent. The jazzy synths and the pounding beats are just the hook into this gem of an album.
It’s got spunk, smart rhymes, and references for the nostalgic ‘90s kid. Ambitious with a solid follow through, it is an album that more than deserves to called one of 2017’s best.