by Renato Reyes, Jr., BAYAN Secretary General
Very few people are entitled to have the word “legend” attached to their names. Even fewer for those who are just aged 44.
Francis Magalona was a music pioneer, a trailblazer for all the Pinoy rappers and hip-hop artists today. He started out when most Filipinos had not even heard of hip-hop. He was a giant in his field, yet never forgot to look after the “little people”, the aspiring artists he took under his wing, or the young rappers he inspired.
The Master Rapper lived up to the words of the late Lino Brocka, that the artist is also a citizen.
I remember as a kid, listening to “Mga Kababayan”, “Man from Manila” and “Tayo’y mga Pinoy”. These songs gave us a sense of national identity, a concept that was just forming in our heads as high school kids. The “M” in Francis M. could have very well stood for “Makabayan”.
Francis M. was down with being Brown with lyrics such as “Mga kababayan ko, dapat lang malaman nyo, bilib ako sa kulay ko, ako ay Pilipino!” and “I am the Man from Manila. Kami ang tinig ng Kayumanggi”. He brought a sense of national pride into Pinoy hip-hop at a time when references to nationalism in music were common only to folk artists. He not only carried patriotic sentiments through his work, he stamped the industry with his energetic and creative advocacy of national pride. In a time when the emerging hip-hop movement turned to foreign acts as their models, Francis M. sought to promote indigenous influences and fuse it with the hip-hop form.
For Francis M., national pride was never just a fad or a creative way of breaking into the music business. He was consistent with his advocacy. No other artist form his generation has sought to popularize nationalism with such consistency and fervor. From music to the visual arts, the “three stars and a sun” were forever etched into his works.
But more than this affirmation of national identity is the serious effort of speaking out against social ills. There’s the remarkable Kaleidoscope World, reminding us that “some are friends, some are foes, some have some, while some have most.” There’s the anthem Ito ang Gusto Ko! which trumpeted the ideals of freedom, justice, truth, peace and human rights.
There’s his collaboration on Lando with Gloc 9, about a tragic relationship set in urban poverty. There’s Liham sa Pangulo which he did with Stick Figgas and Gloc 9, a scathing criticism of corruption at the highest levels.
“Mahal na pangulo bakit mahal ang mga bilihin/Di mo na nanaisin na tumira dito sa bayan natin
Ang kinain ng mayaman tinatapon sa basura/Pinupulot ng mahirap mapuno lang ang sikmura
Balahurang nahalal kaban ng bayan isinugal/Isinambulat sa Senado at sa dyaryo binulgar
Napahiya’t ayaw umamain na sila’y nagnakaw din/Di lang sa pagkain pati sa pera ay matakaw din/At pagdating sa lupain sila ay mga buakaw din/Lahat ay inaangkin kahit ano ay gagawin
Mga sakim, ganid sa ginto di makuntento sa milyon/Bilyon ang gusto kahit ang bayan ay baon
Sa utang at sa kangkungan pupulutin/Tanong ko lang sa inyo mahal niyo ba ang bayan natin
Mahal na pangulo paano na ang pilipinas/Lantarang pagnanakaw araw araw di lilipas”
Then there’s also That Money which he did with Fil-Am rapper Kiwi and Gloc 9, talking about corporate greed. Francis M. was a revered figure even among Fil-Am hip-hop artists who also sought to grasp their roots while living in the US.
His works weren’t just rhymes without reason. These verses spoke the truth about the society we live in. Nationalism and social commentary will form part of the enduring legacy of Francis Magalona.
Lest I forget, Francis M’s “influence” on the mass movement was this short line which he used to do in the TV program Loveli-ness when he’d do the music chart countdown with Willie Revillame on drums. He’d usually say “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no-no” as part of his routine. This line was picked up by activists and was popular during rallies in the early 90’s, “Say no! Ayoko! Say, No, no, no, no, no,no ,no no-no… sa base militar ng Kano dito!”. It’s still used today, for various issues.
Pinoy Music is a head shorter now without the Man from Manila. He will be truly missed. It is our hope that his words and works will live on in the next generation of artists who will pick up a mic, a turntable or any instrument.
Paalam, Kiko Makabayan.