|ANYGMA (LEFT) ORCHESTRATING THE WORDWARPLAY|
Vim Nadera: Could you tell us the history of Philippine Flip Top?
Alaric Yuson: Basically, I’ve been into HipHop for as long as I can remember which would involve enjoying all of its elements and activities, and ultimately, battle rap. I try to stay as updated as possible when it comes to other leagues, other formats, and so on. After having watched it long enough, I figured, ‘Why not try it out here?’ And since I have had prior experience in organizing events and the old format battles, it was a matter of applying it to a much larger scale. This was during the last semester of my final year in college and despite my academic requirements and all sorts of personal setbacks, I just proceeded to plan and organize. The product was our very first event on 6 February 2010.
VN: So it's just a why-not-try-it-over-here kind of thing?
AY: Of course, it’s never really as simple a fancy as ‘why not try it over here?’ There are a lot of things regarding HipHop and the scene that I didn’t like and thus felt like I could fix with the movement. At the same time, I can’t just Rambo my way through with my plan and preferences. I then took the necessary measures to build FlipTop from the ground up without stepping on anyone else’s toes. As generic as it sounds, this involved having to be completely prepared for anything and everything. To give you an idea, here I am, in the middle of a sea of supercharged egos (yes, like it or not, ego in HipHop has its own flavor of unpredictability), I see that if these egos were to fight more than they already do or have, it’ll paradoxically lead to unity, if not order. And yes, it’s a lot, lot harder than it already sounds. A whole lot of diplomacy is involved, predicting certain things like preventing already existing animosity from escalating, how to deal with certain personalities, how to deal with personalities when more money is involved. In other words, imagine getting an insanely varied spectrum of people who don’t know each other, might even hate each other, and getting all of them to understand and believe your vision. It’s the same with politics or other institutions. Person has plan, thinks plan is really good, plan requires other people, people must then believe in the plan itself for it to work sans the possibility of the whole thing imploding (e.g. Dictatorship). I try my best to get people to trust me when it comes to doing what I do and I’d like to think I’ve been doing an okay job so far.
VN: Whose brilliant idea was it?
AY: The company/movement known as FlipTop was my idea. And I say that in relation to any possible assumption that battle rap is my or any one person’s idea.
VN: What made you decide to bring it here knowing that we are a country of onion skins? Why and how did you create a Pinoy version?
AY: This is connected to the next question on the list in that my general answer to both would be: because I believe the talent is there, it can and should be honed more, and if at all, it’s also worthy of exposure if not actual recognition.FlipTop is for HipHop. Call it my repayment to HipHop, contribution or whatever. The point is, it was made by HipHop or is a product of HipHop, for HipHop, for its betterment, all of that. That is what F.U.B.U. (the famous HipHop clothing line) originally means actually. It’s an acronym of “For Us, By Us.” So…Yeah, same thing. It’s ultimately for those in the local HipHop scene, more than anyone else. I don’t force anyone to watch it so it’s not my fault if anyone unfamiliar with HipHop gets balat-sibuyas over it. FlipTop and HipHop as a culture would still be alive – for us, at least – regardless of how many people get into it. That’s how it has been with many aspects of HipHop for the longest time – we just go out and do it and do it for as long as we can or want to. That’s how it carries on. We’ve always had rap battles albeit in different formats. It just so happens that now there are a lot more non-HipHop oriented people looking in. On creating a Filipino version of a rap battle league, it first requires the participants to be completely aware of the alternative format to the freestyle battle. The written battle has many more implications, much more accountability and other intricacies. Making its would-be participants completely aware of it is how I address any cases of balat sibuyas within the scene itself. Imagine the kind of disaster it would be if some Emcees joined without knowing that a lot of his very person is actually put on the line the moment the battle starts. Next application I had to consider was the segregation of language. Most local rap battles prior to FlipTop allowed Filipino-speaking Emcees to spar against their English-speaking counterparts. I wasn’t really a fan of that to begin with, but more so when I was imagining what kind of mess it would be if I followed that tradition. For convenience sake, I separated them and I believe that’s a big reason why FlipTop succeeds as a battle league. Both languages are represented and grow in their respective directions and people who speak either language now have the opportunity to look into the language they’re less familiar with. There are more applications I might not have mentioned but enumerating all would take too long to explain in an interview.