Al James is no stranger to success and his latest video “Latina” is on track to become one of his biggest yet, hitting 5 million views in less than two months. As his sound has spread throughout the Philippines, he’s switching up his style a bit to stay ahead of the imitators. And he’s also invested some more in the video since it was clearly going to be a hit. The updated flow, crisp animation, and cinematic views all come together for a true leveling up.
Tahoooooo. Tahooooo. This early morning siren is one of the sounds that define the Philippines, and the warm feelings it evokes in so many is why the artist Qwark sought them out during a time of personal crisis. His new series is not just the about the magtataho though, but street vendors in general. As a young kid, he’d watch them on his way to school every day, and they left him with an impression he couldn’t fully explain. “I’d see the same ice cream man in the morning, at lunch, and afternoon,” Qwark explains. “I never understood until I grew older how these people spend long hours working for minimal income. I admire their resilience, their dedication to providing for their families. So now I depict these people as modern-day gods: people of wonder and might both in body and will.”
On the hook of “Maestro,” the Kartell’em crew rap how they’re intent on letting the city know who they are, that they’re set to “make this place aware.” It’s a mission statement, and they’re definitely doing a good job following through on that promise. To do so, they’re aiming higher than the stage and looking to the sky. Specifically the rooftops. If you gaze out the window of the LRT in Manila, you might spot a recent big ‘ole blockbuster at eye level with the train screaming TELL’EM. It’s so crispy it looks like an advertisement, which we guess it is, but it’s a DIY one painted by the crew themselves to promote an upcoming tee collab with cmplct.
For a small island country located far from the centers of street dance culture, the Philippines plays an outsize role in the scene worldwide. Legit Status, a team founded in 2009 by coach Vimi Rivera, has continued that reputation. This August they captured the bronze in the top category of Hip Hop International, one of the world’s biggest street dance competitions. Every year, around 50 countries descend on the West coast of America to battle it out in a dozen different categories, and Filipino teams nearly always rank among the top in the mega crew competition, beating out teams from the US, Japan, and other bastions of street dance. “This year had the most intense level of competition,” Rivera says. “It’s crazy”
It can be tough to choose among your favorites, but sometimes you have to. For today’s OPENING ACT, Kayo pits his two highest-rated sneakers—Nike’s Air Vapormax 2019 and the AirMax 720—against each other in an attempt to pick an all-out winner.
Today’s OPENING ACT is an anniversary of sorts, marking Kayo’s return to his roots. We feature the Nike AirMax 720s, which was the same sneaker he used for his first-ever unboxing. And it’s a sneaker that held up well after extensive wear: “I’d wear it a couple of days every week, and I have a lot of shoes, so that says a lot.”
Rainy season in Manila can be a difficult time, but combine that with an endless rush hour and you have every excuse to go full emo. A young Makati-raised artist named Sabadontt is capturing all the feels of these dreaded, water-logged days in a series of pixel art animations. Commuters stuffed in leaky stairwells waiting for an MRT that threatens to never show up. A student trying to hide under her umbrella pauses on an overpass, gazing off in existential crisis. Locals start to shed the day’s struggle in a communal break at the carinderia.
The term “street dance,” when used in the Philippines, is a little complicated since most of it happens on stage or in the studio. But director Mark Valino aims to correct that, bringing these styles back their rightful place. He shoots song-length videos of dancers on sidewalks, stairwells, and literally in the middle of the street. The series mainly focuses on Southeast Asian dancers but also includes dancers from his hometown of Toronto. Ultimately though, it was the Philippines that inspired the whole thing.
Skateboarding. Punk rock. Graffiti. They’re all pretty aggressive subcultures, outlets that allow angry kids to express themselves. And Distort Monsters has been here for all of them since he was little. Whether out in QC on his board during middle school, running around Metro with a can in high school, or penning angsty punk songs all along, it was a way for him to channel his mood into relatively positive ways. And it paid off too, considering that he’s opening his first solo art show this Sunday, courtesy of the good people at Secret Fresh. [Full disclosure: Distort is now part of the Honeycomb team.]
Today we switch things up a bit with OPENING ACT and take a close look at some Star Wars toys. Spolier alert: spoilers everywhere!
Does Kayo have a Star Wars twin?? Not really, but pretty close! K-2SO—the repurposed droid from “Rogue One”—certainly shares a lot in common with Kayo: “I see a lot of myself in his personality. Even his look; he’s bald and has dark skin… That’s why this is the second K-2SO I’ve gotten as a gift.” This particular K-2SO toy is a Funko Pop! bobblehead exclusive from New York Comic Con.