Francis Magalona was being interviewed about his early hiphop legacy in an NU 107 radio show. Francis M. never really put out any sort of gangsta persona and his songs were mostly cheesy imitations of whatever was in fashion in US hiphop radio at the time. Anyway, one question posed to him was, is there really a gangsta culture in the Philippines? He seemed miffed at the question, perhaps thinking the DJ was poking fun at him. He abruptly answered, of course not, everybody knows there isn't (wait, tell that to Mankillah and Glock 9), next question.
That got me thinking. Everyday I read in the tabloids about gangs and hardcore fraternities shivving each other in the ribs and bashing heads for territory or respect. Someone's always getting shot with an improvised pistol in Batasan Hills or Tondo. Guys with the same tats or ritual burn marks are arrested for peddling drugs. There is a thriving gang culture. It's the same game, same drugs, same bitches, only for the third world. Passenger tricycles and lowriding owner-type jeepneys instead of Impalas. But it's there nonetheless. There may not be a US gangsta culture in the Philippines, but there is a pinoy gangsta culture. And like their US counterparts, pinoy gangs and frats have their own strict code of conduct, the members tend to dress and talk the same way, there's always some level of criminality involved, and most importantly, conflicts are usually resolved through violence.
Later I heard an OPM song on the radio (on a defunct all-hiphop station) called "Valenzuela," basically a ripoff soundalike of Tupac's California Love that goes:
"Valenzuela, dating municipality
Ngayon ay city na, no doubt about it,
Ain't that the dumbest fucking thing. And then I was driving along Caloocan one day to run an errand, through a street where the only shops were alternating funeral parlors and saw-sharpeners ("naghahasa ng lagari"). This song started writing itself in my head. The narrative is patterned after Warren G and Nate Dogg's "Regulate" and the imagery is, well, part movies and part experience (I won't tell which is which).
It starts with the chords B, A#, A, G then when it drops to E all hell breaks loose, like a film that opens to a bloody gangwar, ala Gangs of New York, only its Gangs of
Musmos palang ako iba na ako umarte
Siga sa iskwela dyan sa amin sa Zabarte
Monumento, Valenzuela dyan ako lumalagare
Tanungin mo'ng mga Krishna ako lang ang Hare-hare
Kung sexy ka na chick pumasok ka sa'king tanggapan
Kung gulo ang hanap mo ding-hindi ka uurungan
Tama ang narinig sa 'bubulung-bulungan
Ang sinumang humarang huhukayin sa kangkungan
Sa Caloocan, sa Caloocan
'Yoko nang bumalik, huwag niyo 'kong ibalik
Sa Caloocan, sa Caloocan
Pagtapos ko ng high school palibhasa kumikita
Naparami ang inom naparami ang barkada
Nagkalat man ang gamit ay hindi ko tinitira
Negosyo lang sa akin para 'di ako masira
Saan man pumunta nakabuntot ang mga bata
Lahat kumakarga mapa-bote man o bala
Kung gusto mo ng away 'kaw narin ang bahala
Kami ay na Litex sa Select tayo magkita
Pumutok ang warning shot at nagdatingan ang PDEA
Tumakbo ang mga Runner, naglaro and mga Playah
Sa ilalim ng tulay doon kami lahat nagtago
Bumili ng kwatro-kantos naginuman mga gago
May humarurot owner-type na lowrider
Tumatawa ang busina may disenyo sa kurtina
Bumaba ang may-ari baka di ka maniwala
Naka-bonnet at alahas, Ilokano gangbanger!
Pagputok ng pillbox, kami ay kumaripas
Ako ay nadapa sumadsad ako sa burak
Akala ko buhangin puro bubog ang nakuha
Merong thumbtacks, merong pako ang mukha ay nangasugat
Nasan ang barkada? Wala man lang naiwan
Lumapit ang kalaban at ako ay inihian
Bumunot akong nuwebe tinutukan ko si loco
Makalipas 'lang minuto pinatawag na ang SOCO.
Mahirap mang malayo sa bayang tinubuan
Gusto kong umalis, lumihis sa kalokohan
Kapwa mandurukot ay nagdurukutan
Kapwa mandudurog ay nagdudurugan
Kapwa manginginom ay nag-iinuman
Yoko nang bumalik sa Caloocan!
Sa Caloocan (4x)