88rising has become synonymous with Asian hip-hop and R&B. The record label counts acts like Joji, Higher Brothers, Rich Brian, and NIKI as talents, young musicians from Japan, China, and Indonesia who are equal parts musicians and social media influencers. And now they’ve dropped semilucent, a quarantine mixtape of sorts under the new label Paradise Rising, made up entirely of Filipino artists.
“The Philippines and music go hand in hand, and there is such a vibrancy in the way talented young artists are emerging, and such a massive audience in love with music,” 88rising founder Sean Miyashiro said in a statement. “We want to support their voices, help them be heard, and bring music from the Philippines to a global audience.”
Most of the tracks on the mixtape were written during the pandemic, as most of the Philippines remains under quarantine. Despite these limitations, the artists still found ways to showcase their unique sound and visuals.
Made up of five musicians in genres like hip-hop, pop, indie, and R&B, the new crop of talents brings the new Filipino sound to the world stage. VICE caught up with them to talk music, quarantine, local influences, and what it felt like to team up with 88rising.
The 22-year-old pop singer began her career in 2018 after she moved to the Philippines from Australia, releasing singles every year and finally the EP Better Weather earlier this year. Although Alcasid’s career has reached new heights, the girl behind the sweet vocals and self-aware lyrics shared that she had a slow start.
“I was still figuring out what my sound [was], the way I wanted to express myself. In hindsight, it felt like a premature entry into the industry, and I really only came into my own around mid-2019,” she told VICE.
Her track on the semilucent mixtape “Clouds,” written by her and mixed by Moophs, shares the same bare emotions she unravelled on her previous EP.
“It’s almost a follow-through track from my EP because it features a lot of the same imagery that I used in that project. I basically took how I was feeling — and how probably everyone’s been feeling at the moment — and thought about the most honest way I could express what I needed, and ‘Clouds’ happened. It’s wanting someone to weather the storm with you, and still be there when things get better.”
Much like her previous releases, the soothing track delves into the singer’s distinct emotional experiences, resonating with fans who connected with the lyrics during isolation.
“Most of the feedback I saw online was positive which was heartwarming and also calming since I really just wanted to see people connect with the track,” she said.
Alcasid is now working on her next release, where she hopes to show her range as an artist. She wants to collaborate with more Filipino producers such as crwn, Thrones, and LUSTBASS.
Massiah, 26, started rapping in high school when he regularly joined freestyle rap showdowns in Dumaguete City. He landed a gig in Cebu City and from there realized his love for performing, which eventually led him to join Manila-based collective Careless Music.
His track on semilucent, “On God,” is a deeply introspective song about his then-girlfriend.
“Find us a place so we can both relax / Move far away from those who don't speak facts / We both thriving, living the goal / Feel like I'll pick dying over living alone.”
“I'm just happy people appreciate what I made. [It] makes me want to improve upon what I make next,” Massiah told VICE. “I was just myself, that's all I wanted to bring and share with the listeners and my fellow artists on the mix.”
He said his music is reflective of who he is as a Filipino, exploring his roots and adventures in the country in the process.
“Being featured on Paradise Rising made me proud that an outside entity felt that the Philippines had a sound that was tasteful enough to be pushed internationally,” the rapper said.
He one day hopes to collaborate with fellow 88rising acts such as the Higher Brothers and “bring in more acceptance, understanding, tolerance, and collaboration in the music scenes that need those things the most.”
The 19-year-old R&B artist has been making music since he was 15, growing up in Oman before moving to the Philippines in 2017. He wrote and recorded his first song in a small home studio that belonged to his friend’s dad. He fell in love with the process and hasn’t stopped since. Dhakal went from making music in his bedroom and releasing it through Soundcloud, to now receiving support from an international label.
“I honestly have no vision when it comes to where my music could take me since my only goal is being able to make music as a living, evolving my art as I grow, and having the resources to completely express myself,” he told VICE.
He wrote his mixtape single “Endlessly + Tenderly,” produced by fellow Filipino LUSTBASS, as a way to appreciate and remember intimate moments amid all the isolation brought about by the pandemic.
He wrote the song at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak and already had a demo by the time 88rising approached him.
“After finding out that they liked it, I made sure that I was going [to] put my all in it vocally since it's a pretty big deal to just be noticed by them, LUSTBASS delivered as always in his productions. I just wanted to provide the mixtape with my love of R&B [and] soul, honestly,” he said.
He sent LUSTBASS a playlist of songs with atmospheres that inspired him at the time, saying, “I definitely wanted to make something slow and serene since the world felt so overwhelming at the time.”
The track tackles that rare, tender moment of submission to a lover, asking for a pause on the emotions that may be hindering the other person from giving themselves fully.
“This bed's an oasis from a world so heartless, loveless,” he sings. transcending both physical and emotional intimacy while in isolation with another person.
20-year-old singer-songwriter Fern released his first EP on Soundcloud in 2017 under the name Kiindred and eventually signed with Filpino label Universal Records.
His single on semilucent “Kaori” was inspired by an anime he binged during quarantine.
“I was so invested in this anime called Your Lie in April and the song was actually about the main character of that show,” he told VICE. “To me, it was just all about creating the song and how I can successfully share a piece of my mind to the listeners through the song.”
Your Lie in April is a romantic-drama about musical prodigies. The song tries to capture what protagonists Kousei Arima and Kaori Miyazono felt for each other — perhaps even a continuation to the tragic love story.
“Heaven is in reach, does your heart skip a beat when I'm gone?” Fern sings on the track.
He’s now working on a full album, with music still inspired by anime and film, promising to stay true to himself and the things in life that inspire him.
Kiana V, 27, grew up surrounded by music. The daughter of Filipino singer Gary Valenciano, she loved to sing growing up but pursuing her passion wasn’t an easy decision. She put a lot of energy into finding a path that was different from what people expected, but eventually found her way to music anyway.
“I was writing all these songs and keeping them to myself and it just didn’t feel right. I found solace in the process of creating and the more I tried to avoid jumping into a career as a musician, the more apparent it became that it was my calling,” she told VICE.
She started by experimenting with friends, recording songs for fun and without the pressure from people’s expectations, and eventually released her first song in 2016.
“I don’t see myself doing anything else,” she told VICE.
Her single on the mixtape, “Safe Place,” reflects feelings she pushed aside when a past relationship was coming to an end.
“I feel like we’ve all struggled with vulnerability at some point in our lives,” she said. “It’s about that little bit of reality that comes when you least expect it — the ‘shoulda, coulda, wouldas’ and ‘what ifs’.”
She worked on the song with artists Harv and Felisha King, ending up with an intimate track of longing, reminiscing what could have been with someone she found solace in — realizations that only arrive once the party was over and she’s by herself.
“It's funny how I told ya I'd rather be alone / When you’re my safe place,” she sings of her internal battle with emotions, doing the best she can to process the multiple outcomes of her relationship. It is a beautifully honest track backed by a relaxing beat and light guitar strumming that help push Kiana’s smooth vocals towards the spotlight.
Working on the song with Paradise Rising was a dream for her, one that came just in time as she felt increasingly anxious about the pandemic.
“[I] must have screamed for over 20 minutes [when I found out]. This opportunity was a wake-up call for me to trust the process. I am so honored to be on a mixtape with artists I admire and look up to,” she said.
Listen to the full mixtape here: