You’ve likely already heard about Kolateral, the 12-track rap album, free to download and stream on a number of platforms, that tackles, narrates, and illustrates the effects of the current State-sponsored war on drugs.
The LP is a concerted effort by activist and artist collective Sandata, led by Filipino rappers BLKD and Calix, and supported by playwright and screenwriter Mixkaela Villalon, and researchers Nastassja Quijano, Abbey Pangilinan, and Ica Fernandez.
Far from simply being a reactionary knee-jerk creative endeavor on the Philippine situation with regards to the effects of the drug war, what sets Sandata’s album apart is that it contains hard data, the product of research spanning two years gathered from media reports and key informant interviews, that were then distilled and dramatized by the power and drama of hip-hop, rap, and urban, and spoken word.
Continuing the tradition of using rhymes to tackle social ills, from 2Pac to Public Enemy, NWA to Common, Saul Williams to Kendrick Lamar, Sandata doesn’t skimp on the quality and meat of its musicality either, with production muscle courtesy of Serena D.C. of NoFace Records.
Here’s our best picks from this album.
This powerful ballad sung by Tao Aves is from the point of view of two young, ill-fated lovers Jerico and Angel, declaring that their youth would not be a hindrance to either sustained protest or awakened social consciousness. They’re shot dead on the street, a Barbie doll flying off from Angel’s back pocket, and while Aves layers on the emotiveness like thick butter, her almost wailing high notes are apt for the keening and tragedy.
The closer track on the album, like a sheer, machine gun outburst of rage and frustration collaborated on jam-style by 9 of the artists on the LP. Disposing of subtlety for the two-by-four of utter mayhem, each artist does imbue the track with a unique flavor and all of them get a few seconds to shine, never tripping over each other or deviating from their mission statement: “Sistema na bulok / Gigibain.” Sounds like Armageddon, if the end were graced by skilled rhyming.
Laconic West Coast flavored delivery with gangsta rap inflections by BLDK and Kartell’em. This is just a delicious stew of clear rap influences marinated in the local spice of the death of minors, set up by: “Kapit sa patalim, galaw pailalim” and tongue-in-cheek summarized by the deadly caveat of victim-blaming by gunmen “Sabi ko sa’yo huwag kang pakalat kalat dyan.”
GIYERA NA BULAG
“Ano bang pangalan ko?” the song asks over and over and in this case just the repeated mantra is enough to illustrate how blindness is contagious. One of my personal favorites for its straightforward, minimalist approach to sonic craft.
Menacing synth lines snake through the verses of BLKD as he raps about the dystopian, seemingly fictional, scenario of street killings going for cheap. “Sapul sa pagtugis,” he declares and takes on the point of view of the street assassin who confusingly, yet aptly, declares he’s also a victim of the vicious system. BLKD’s voice (and by that I mean his physical, rapping voice, not artistic voice) increasingly to me sounds like the every-man Pinoy trying to make sense of a FUBAR situation; his practiced, careful enunciation, like he wants to be understood and heard, over those of other rappers who just speed their way through rhymes, is something I appreciate.
A thorough warning and paean to the dangers of loafing: “Pwede na bang ebidensya ang hinala?” With three MCs collaborating, things can get sticky sometimes, but the rewards are great when they do jive together set against the orchestral doom that’s reminiscent of similar vintage tracks by Puff Daddy, DMX, and Nas.
“Papag” refers to the thin pallet that many urban poor use to bed down on, often on the floor. This song includes the found audio of a child talking about the death of his father at the hands of the police and Calix delivers this in his rhyming flair, at a quick but clearly fluid pace, like storytelling on speed.
This track likely tackles the most tragic storyline and thus is hard not to get hit where you live when you listen to it, especially since Muro-Ami and 霏 bring it to life so well with R&B and urban vocals smooth as a switchblade. Struggling OFW, Luzviminda Siapo, was based in Kuwait when she heard that her sick son was shot dead after being named a drug dealer. She begged her Saudi employer, saying that she needed to go home, but her boss didn’t want any of it so she kissed his feet while she prostrated herself. Upon returning home the OFW mother saw her young son’s coffin, embraced it, and said “Andito na si nanay.”
Sandata hit the nail on the head with the opening track, simply the most complex and well-crafted of the 12 songs on the album.
The central rhyme delivers the credo that sets the pace and tone of the rest of the songs: “Isasabuhay, mga salitang pumapaslang / Nakatago sa mata ng publiko ang makinarya ng pagtokhang.”
Done in four movements, where the rappers take on different verses and various points of view, following the movement of how the “War on Drugs” coalesces from policy, to implementation, to streets. Ingeniously prepared and meticulously planned from an aesthetic and songwriting point of view, there’s hooks to spare against what sounds like a literal mallet sounding a four-beat tying it all together.
We also must note that it’s the sheer force and time required to track down and sort through the technicalities and paperwork of the Drug War (scope and authority of state departments, budget and jurisdiction, legalese, memorandums and circulars) that is simply impressive.
On the outro the found audio of a wailing woman fades in, an actual clip of a widow weeping over her husband’s coffin. Bravo, Sandata.
“Kolateral” is available for streaming and downloads on the following platforms:
Mediafire – http://bit.ly/KolateralMEDIAFIRE
Google Drive – http://bit.ly/KolateralGDRIVE
Dropbox – http://bit.ly/KolateralDROPBOX2