At a time when the world has halted to an (almost) complete stop, hip-hop artist Waiian is blazing through our playlists with his latest album, Good Problems, and it is every kind of vibe we need during these crazy, unpredictable times.
Waiian (pronounced like 'Hawaiian', but without the 'ha'), is Philippine hip-hop's best kept secret. Starting off a career as a rapper in the group Kartell'em, and currently on the rise as a solo artist, lyricist, and an all-in-all rap powerhouse, he is the rapper you should be listening to right now.
We caught up with Waiian to talk about his origin story, his influences, and of course, the music.
We know you grew up amongst creative minds. Your dad's a photographer. Your mom's a fashion designer. How important was your creative upbringing to your artistry now?
“Growing up, I saw art as just play and a true form of individuality. Most of my childhood, I grew up around art exhibits—I've seen a ton of exhibits and performance art that only made sense when I was starting to really grow up and understand the world. There I knew that without art, life will be plain. So I must say, ART IS LIFE.”
You yourself have stepped into different creative outlets (photography and film production) before becoming a professional rapper. With all that you could have made into a career, what made you pursue becoming a rapper?
“Since I was in elementary school, I only liked writing essays, reaction papers, and poems. The only line-of-9 grades I ever had were for English. Everything else was a mess to me. The first song I ever made was for my crush back in college. I never had a shot with her but when she heard the song, she cried. There I saw the potential and power I have in writing that could trigger emotion and the senses, like it really touches people. My friends believed in me as well so, I thought I’d give it a shot since I'm the type who'd try any hobby and really get into it. So I did, and this is where it led to.”
In the last 10 years, the underground hip-hop industry in the Philippines has been steadily rising to mainstream appreciation. Was it a challenge trying to make a name for yourself in an industry that's only just started earning respect from the Philippine music industry at large?
“I never really, really believed that there was a ‘scene.’ I believe that if you’re good, you’re good! I didn't grow up listening to Philippine rap at all, other than Bugoy Na Kuykoy, LDP, and Loonie. I preferred American hip-hop ‘coz I'm an English-speaking kid, so it resonated better with me. I don't need anybody's respect other than mine and my loved ones. I'm good with that.”
You were first introduced to your fans through the group Kartell'em. What were the obstacles you had to overcome as you made the leap to becoming a solo artist?
“Most of the obstacles were really just mental and it only took a strong mindset to get through it. Before Kartell’em was Kartell’em, I already had a vision to fuck up the rap game with or without them. Either way, I always try to do my best when writing music.”
You have a completely new style and approach to your music. Your latest album, Good Problems, is a great example of this. What was the inspiration behind this album?
“The real inspiration of the album is from my experiences and life around me. I think the best way to become a good artist is to become YOU as much as you can. I make the music I'd want to hear and make it my way. Brutally honest, but smooth. So much to say, but feels like a breath of fresh air.”
This one's for all the future artists and creative minds who are listening to you. What are the top 3 pieces of advice that you want to share to other creators like you?
“Drink water. Be yourself. You’re gonna die someday; do something about it.”