Text and photos by Bernard Testa
“Ma’ kung saan ka man ngayon,
ok lang ako, huwag kang mag-alala,
mag-aaral ako. Huwag kang malulungkot
dahil hindi ako sumasama sa masasamang
barkada, kakanta lang ako…
[Ma, wherever you may be, I’m okay. Don’t worry. I am going to study.
Don’t be sad. I won’t go hang out with bad influence friends. I’ll just sing]”
Seventeen-year-old Vin Andrei Laxamana Montañez is an underground rapper. A resident of Sitio Lower Lucban, Barangay Dela Paz in Antipolo, Rizal, he started writing songs after his mother died of pneumonia in 2016.
The eldest of two boys, Vin was in Grade 9 when he stopped going to school. Depression hit him hard. He missed his mother Cecilia who died at the age of 38.
Interviewed by the Philippines Graphic, Vin said that loneliness led him to writing verses. He started composing essays in Grade 3 and poetry in Grade 6.
What he remembered most at school, according to Vin, were the discussions on the works of the greats in Philippine literature.
“I was moved and influenced greatly by Francisco Balagtas and his ‘Florante at Laura,’ including ‘Ibong Adarna’ by Jose de la Cruz,” he said.
Ang Alamat ng Piña [The legend of the pineapple] also left a mark on his psyche, inadvertently mouthing: “Naku, Pinang, sana’y magkaroon ka ng maraming mata nang makita mo ang lahat ng mga bagay at hindi ka tanong ng tanong sa akin [Oh, Pinang, I wish you would have many eyes so you can see all things and so you don’t keep asking questions].”
Vin added that Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere is still fresh in his mind because the novel was taught to them in Grade 9.
“Pinag-aralan din po naming yung talastasan, pagsulat ng [We also studied communication, writing the] metaphor, simile, hyperbole. Diyan ho ako nagka-ideya sa pagsusulat [That’s where I got the idea of writing],” he said.
The millennial rapper steeped in classic Filipino literature cited Filipino rapper, songwriter and Universal Records artist Shanti Dope as his favorite, along with American rapper Travis Scott.
“Hindi alam ni Mama na gumagawa ako ng tula, sinasarili ko lang [My mother did not know that I wrote poetry. I just kept it to myself]. I so wanted to tell her not to be sad. That I’d be good,” he said.
With the death of his mother, Vin moved to the house of his Lola, the mother of his father Rodel Montañes.
One can find Vin’s songs in Youtube, where he goes by the name of XtraÑo Keed (https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=xtrano+keed).
Xtraño is a Spanish term for extraordinary. He said he added Keed to mean, “kakaibang bata [strange kid].”
In his song “Slime,” Vin demonstrates millennial feelings of love and betrayal.
“naiinip kung kaylan kaba babalik
gusto makapanik sa bahay nyot makahalik
sa malambot mo na labe
kaso lang meron akong kahate
pwede ibalik natin yung date
nasolo natin ang isa’t isa
pakiusap lang naman na pwede sakin ka
kaso lang eto ang tinadhana sating dalawa lam ko naman na sa puso mo akoy pangalawa dinako
na ikay lilisan na”
[I get impatient waiting for you to come back/ I want to come to your house to kiss you on the lips/ but I have to share you with someone/ can’t we bring back the date/ when we only had ourselves/ can I have you for myself/ but fate has other plans for the two of us/ I know in your heart I come second/ I won’t be surprised if you leave]
In 2018, Vin wrote three songs. He recorded one song in a studio in Cogeo in 2019.
To date, he has written 30 songs and recorded 21 rap songs, mosh pit, trap beat, reggae rap, and his signature love songs.
In the reggae rap ORAS, Vin delivers a message of hope for the environment.
“BATIS AY UMAAGOS PAMATID UHAW KANYANG HATID UMAKYAT TAYO SA BUNDOK DAMHIN HIMPAPAWID SARI-SARING MGA PRUTAS SIGE IKA’Y PUMITAS WALANG MAG BABAWAL DAHIL LIKHA YAN NG TAAS
TUMINGIN KA SA PALIGID TIGNAN MO LIKAS NA YAMAN UNTI UNTING NAKAKALBO DAHIL SA MAYAYAMAN TROSO TROSO TROSO KAHOY GAGAWING NEGOSYO SAN NA NGAYON TITIRA ANG ATING MGA KATUTUBO?
DUGO AY MALUMANAY NA SA AKING KATAWAN ALAMIN KARAPATAN PALAGUIN KAMALAYAN PALAWAKIN KAALAMAN TALASAN ANG KAISIPAN WAG NA WAG MAG PADALA SA UTOS NG MGA DAYUHAN”
[Spring flows to quench thirst/ let us climb the mountain/ feel the air/ all kinds of fruits for us to pluck/ nothing is forbidden/ created from above
Look around/ watch nature’s resource/
logs, logs, logs felled for business/
where will the people now live?
Blood flows gently in my body/ know the rights/ enrich the mind/ broaden knowledge/ sharpen the intellect/ don’t, don’t, don’t be swayed by foreigners]
Vin said fame eludes many underground rappers like him. They rarely get the attention given to mainstream artists.
“Lahat naman galing sa underground bago sila sumikat. Pero yung nasa mainstream, mabibilang sa daliri. Sa underground, madami pa din kami [All rappers started from the underground before they became famous. You can count with your fingers those that became mainstream artists. There are a lot of us in the underground].”
He mentioned that it is important to have a theme when writing songs. “Dapat po may purpose, may tema. Para ka lang naman gumawa ng kantang wala lang, ano kaya yun? Dapat may pinaghuhugutan [It (song) must have a purpose. You don’t write for no reason. It must have depth].”
Vin wishes many people could listen to his songs. “Magtiwala lang kayo at mahalin yung ginagawa kong obra. Sana madagdagan pa yung taong makikinig at susuporta [Just trust me, love my work. I hope more people will listen and show support for my work],” he said.
Citing Loonie and Abra he also dreams of being in a battle MC rapper.
In the Pinoy rap world, Loonie and Abra are two of the most popular pairs that enter MC battles.
Image Credits: Bernard Testa.