By Daryl Lim
The dream for a lot of Filipinos is to make it somewhere, but they never realize how hard it is until they get presented with the opportunity to sustain the hustle. This fact is especially true in Hip-Hop culture, seeing as not everyone really gets to make it to Jay-Z and Eminem levels of stardom. There are those who lose their drive and grind if they don’t make it big quick, but Manila MNL has truly made a mark by still continuing to get his share of the shine.
A couple of features on staple Bay Area website Thizzler means the man truly knows what he’s doing. Over dope beats and dope rhymes, Manila MNL has come to truly take what’s his and to put his stamp on the game, and he does this while holding down both The Philippines while also representing The Bay Area. We got a chance to talk to him and and ask about his goals, his life, and his mindstate.
Are you homegrown Filipino? Tell us how you came to the point of living as a Filipino in The Bay.
Manila MNL: I was born on November 16, 1988 in Makati City, Philippines. My mother used to work at the Department of Justice (DOJ) City Hall in Manila for more than 10 years, and my father used to work at the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). We went and applied for a US Visa as a family with my two older brothers as well. We got approved and got our visas. It just happened that we have some family that live in the Bay Area, and we immigrated to where everyone was.
How is it living in The Bay?
Manila MNL: I came to the US in March 2003 when I was 14 years old, and then I went to a public high school. A year passed, my parents decided to get a divorce. I lived on my own soon as I turned 18 years old, got a 9-5 job, lived & rented a small room, & so on. I learned a lot, like being responsible, doing all things on your own, and, especially, to get money.
Coming from an area where 2Pac grew to be an artist and where Too Short and E-40 have held it down for decades, how does it feel to be a Filipino holding down both Manila and The Bay Area?
Manila MNL: I listened to 2Pac even when I was in the Philippines. E-40 & Too Short are two of the most influencial individuals in the Bay Area. I grew up as well listening to underground artists from The Bay. The Bay Area is about slang terms, the pimp game, being a playa in the game, grindin’, hustlin’ & more. I learned a lot of similarities & differences in life & music. Especially as a Filipino, I learned how to stay in my lane.
Who are your biggest influences when it comes to rapping?
Manila MNL: My biggest influences when it comes to the music, I’ma say 2Pac, Eminem, Nas, just to name a few. Lyricism is what gets my attention.
We know it started in Detroit, so tell us, why do you think is it Manila Vs. Everybody?
Manila MNL: Detroit Vs. Everybody where it started, yes! In my mind, actually I was unsure at first to drop “Manila Vs Everybody” but it made me realize the picture of it, as an artist, seeing as my name is Manila, you know I’m from Manila, so I had to name myself Manila MnL (Manila). I want to represent it to the hardest I can, to put Manila on the map, even if I’m livin’ in the States. To me, Manila is not just a city, everytime I say Manila, especially in my music, I’m talking about all the Filipinos in the world. If I say Manila, in my mind, I am speakin’ for the country, my roots, my people. Manila Vs. Everybody is a self-made, makin’ it happen on your own, not worrying about other people’s business, a Filipino hustler, a go-getter, a mindful productive person.
Mobb Deep and Mos Def have made visits to the Philippines. Are you planning to come and make a visit?
Manila MNL: Of course, I will visit the Philippines, and not just for a vacation, but to work work work work. What I meant is to make music, shoot music videos, connect with some people in the music game & etc. It will happen when the time is right & timing is everything.
Do you feel any pressure living up to the standards set by fellow Fil-Ams who have hit it big in Hip-Hop?
Manila MNL: Not just in music but in life, in general. I don’t feel any pressure at all. I salute & respect all the Fil-Ams & OG’s who have been in the game long before me. I see it as motivation & an inspiration. To push myself, to grind harder than ever. Some of y’all might not believe me if I say, either I make it or not, it doesn’t really matter to me. I don’t care about the fame, as long as I can take care of my family & my loved ones are in great health, that is what matters to me.
Name three artists and three producers you’d love to work with on a collaboration.
Manila MNL: Three artists: J. Cole, Cyhi The Prynce, Pusha T. Three producers: The Alchemist, AraabMuzik, Dr. Dre.
Five albums that influenced you to become who you are today and why.
Manila MNL: The Chronic and All Eyez on Me are the first two albums that I listened to and got me into Hip-Hop/Rap music. Reasonable Doubt, Illmatic, and The Marshall Mathers LP, these are the albums that got my attention and helped me believe in myself to do things in my own way.
Lastly, Warriors in how many games?
Manila MNL: (Q+A was done before the start of the NBA Finals) I say the Warriors will get the W on Game 6! We’ll get the first 2 games + game 4 & 6! Yeeeeeeaaaahhhh! [Smiles.]