When art is done for art’s sake, it’s plain to see. Authenticity translates and a song written from the heart resonates much more than one simply passed on. And for young rapper Hev Abi, his unadulterated artistry has resonated with the millions who have gotten to know him with every track.
In the Filipino hiphop scene, Hev Abi is a rising name. The rapper, who has garnered more than two million monthly listeners on Spotify as of writing, showcases a string of successful releases including “Para Sa Streets,” “Lil Kasalanan Shortie,” and “WELCOME2DTQ.”
He has been featured on the streaming site’s “Bago Sa Rap” playlist cover and their flagship Pinoy Hip-Hop playlist “Kalye Hip-Hop.” He also recently appeared on the KALYE X Manila stage as a special guest last Oct. 28, alongside Gloc 9, Ramdiss, and Hero.
Delving into the inspiration and thought behind his latest release, Hev Abi explains that “Kung Alam Mo Lang” explores feelings and experiences he does not normally talk about—a probe into his inner workings, contrasting with the confidence and bravado his prior projects exude.
“Ang pinagkaiba sa ‘Kung Alam Mo Lang’ ay pinilit kong sabihin sa mga kanta ’yung mga bagay na hindi ako komportable o iniiwasan ko pag-usapan araw-araw: mga bagay na may lalim o may halong drama,” he further explains in a statement. “Kaya rin ‘Kung Alam Mo Lang’ ang title kasi laging napapadaan ’yung phrase na ‘yun sa mga sitwasyong ma-drama. Walang bago sa album na ‘to, nagkataon na mga drama na private these past few months ay ginawa kong mga kanta. Siguro masasabi ko rin na ginawa kong outlet ng mga nararamdaman ko ’tong album na ’to sa mga dumaan na buwan. Kung alam mo lang.”
(The difference with “Kung Alam Mo Lang” is that I forced myself to say the things I’m not comfortable saying or talking about everyday, in song: the things that are complex or that have drama. The reason why the title is “Kung Alam Mo Lang” is because that phrase is always uttered in dramatic situations. There’s nothing new in this album, it just so happens that a lot of dramatic things that I’ve been keeping private these past few months are put into song. I can also say that I used music as an outlet for my feelings these past few months. If only you knew.)
On Oct. 20, we were invited to the exclusive listening party commemorating the release of his latest album. Inside Cinema ’76 at Tomas Morato Avenue, we were treated to an intimate experience where music took center stage. The act of listening to music in its purest form, screens were turned off and lights were dimmed as seven of the 12 tracks from his album were played.
As each beat resounded throughout the theater and Hev Abi settled into his verse, his array of skills and musicality as an artist were on full display. A diverse performer to watch out for, he has shown to be capable of delivering his lines either aggressively or melodically—whether in rap or even singing. His roster of collaborations also include gins&melodies, Unotheone, LK, Simmo, and Kristina Dawn.
After the listening party event, we were able to sit down with Hev Abi for an exclusive interview to talk about his latest album and his aspirations as an artist. A self-produced artist and a masterful lyricist in his own right, it is evident that his meteoric rise is no mere fluke, but rather a sign of more to come.
This is your debut album and your grand introduction to the music industry and the public. What do you want Hev Abi to be known as?
Kahit [anong] gusto nila isipin sa ’kin, kasi ako ’di ko naman masyado iniisip kung paano ma-te-take ng tao ’yung mga ginagawa kong kanta. Ginagawa ko ito kasi gusto [ko] siya gawin, nag-e-enjoy akong gawin [siya], at gusto ko laging may pinapakinggan na bago. Kung ano ’yung gusto [kong] marinig, ayun din ’yung ginagawa ko at pinaparinig sa iba. Pero kung makikilala ako ng tao, siguro bilang tao at musician, hindi mga ibang bagay na nakikita nila sa akin.
(Anything they want to think about me, because I don’t really think about how others perceive the songs I make. I do this because I want to, I enjoy it, and I want to always hear something new. And what I love hearing, those are the things I create and make others listen to. However, if others were to get to know me, perhaps just as a person and a musician, and not the other things they can see in me.)
Where did you draw inspiration for this album?
Wala namang bago sa album na ito. Kung paano ako gumawa ng music dati, ganoon pa rin dito. Nagkataon lang na ang mga bagay na pinag-uusapan ay tungkol sa mga ’di ko [pa nababanggit] kahit kanino sa totoong buhay—mga bagay na may halong drama. ’Yung mga nauna kong kanta, puro kakulitan ko lang, kung paano ko ipakita ’yung sarili ko sa tao. Sa album naman na ito, ’yung kabila naman.
(There’s nothing new in this album. How I made music before, the same applies in this project. It just so happened that the things I discussed are the things I never talk about in real life—things that are dramatic. My previous songs were about how I presented myself to others. In this album, it’s the other side.)
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How is it being an independent artist?
Para sa akin, mas okay siya. Pero, ’di ko masabi nang totoo kasi ’di ko pa nasusubukan ’yung other side. Ngunit ngayon naman, wala akong ma-complain—nagagawa ko naman lahat ng gusto ko gawin—kung kailan, saan.
(It’s better for me. However, I can’t say so for certain because I haven’t experienced the other side. But for now, I have no complaints—I can do everything I want whenever and wherever.)
Who would you say are your inspirations as an artist?
(Kanye, Tyler the Creator, Pharrell, and the other producers here in the country such as NJ and pxyche.)
We saw your mother a while ago—she’s very supportive of you. What would you say is the impact of having the support of your family and friends on you as an artist?
Wala akong ibang bagay na natanggap sa career ko mula nung nag-umpisa ako—walang pangit na nagpakita sa ’kin, lahat laging support. Puro magagandang bagay naririnig ko mula sa pamilya at mga kaibigan ko. Thankful lang talaga ako na ganun ’yung nangyari sa ’kin.
(I never experienced or received any negativity in my career ever since I started—nothing ugly came my way, always support. I’ve only heard good things from my family and my friends. I’m just so thankful that I experienced that.)
Listen to Hev Abi’s debut album here.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Photos courtesy of TMP Productions Inc.
Banner art by Anna Flores