By YANNI ROXAS
As the International Criminal Court (ICC) opens an investigation on the crimes against humanity under the Duterte administration, one recalls a music video by a Pinoy hip-hop, rap and R&B collective released about seven months ago denouncing police brutality.
A word play for kupal-pulis, “Kupsilup” appeared on social media at about the same time that Ben&Ben first released their song “Kapangyarihan”. Both songs were triggered by a Nueve Ecija cop killing both mother and son.
It was a horrifying act that no sane individual could ignore, sending artists to find words and beats to express what they feel.
And the result was for ConStruck Music (name of the hip-hop group) spitting their strongest lyrics yet in “Kupsilup” in a lengthy rap verse that allows each member to smolder or spew fire. The group was just formed a year ago, crossing over from underground music to mainstream hip-hop.
The all-male members came from a community of dancers and rappers, some of whom had competed internationally.
That they chose to dive immediately into social issues despite a climate of tokhang, tanim bala, and all-around state terror was apparently an attempt to be true to the roots of hip-hop which started as a cultural protest movement in the 70s.
The movement was spearheaded by predominantly African-Americans who deplored their environment in the depressed areas of South Bronx in New York City.
“Kupsilup” talks about police brutality like you hear it on the streets or in the neighborhood, devoid of metaphors, just straight talk, but also sans the indecency and vulgarity common to gangsta rap.
Creatively, the music video was shot entirely in what appeared to be a police investigation room. Not to be a spoiler, but the last shot in the frame literally shocks and delivers goosebumps.
What actually started as a critique of a particular incident shot through the roof and exposed the very nature of a fascist police force enabled by a regime with its policy of “kill, kill, kill.”
Not just human rights organizations but the ICC has upheld that material evidence indicates a widespread and systematic attack, neither legitimate nor mere excesses, against the civilian population during Duterte’s drug war.
Such impunity and drug-related murders are found in “Kusilup’s” following verses:
Bakit ba kayo kumikitil
Inosente kayo nanggigil?
Respeto wala dahil ang totoong
Kriminal ay hindi niyo mapigil.
Sunod sa awtoridad
Yong menor de edad
Anong pumasok sa mga kokote
At biglang binaril ang may tattoo’t bigote
Kasalanan ng mga nangangati
Dahil alam na ligtas kayo sa korte.
Also, the people’s disgust of men in uniform, and their hopelessness and mistrust of authorities, find even more resonance in “Kupsilup”. This may not just refer to the buwayas in the streets but may even transition to the upper echelons of power, with leaders who may even be more guilty of unspeakable crimes that are graver and hidden from view.
Tulong, tulong, di alam kung tatakbo
Magsusumbong o magtatago sa mundong ‘to
Talaga bang bulag ang hustisya sa bansang ‘to
At mismong dapat promotekta
Ang syang papaslang sa ‘yo?
Hirap na magtiwala
Kung tama ang hinala
Umaasa balang araw sa inyo’y muling maniwala
Paano ba naman pagtitiwalaan
Kung kayo ay nasuwa’y sa sinumpaang katungkulan.
But what makes “Kupsilup” even bolder is when it starts to serve warnings. It does not limit itself to merely exposing or denouncing what it calls “pure acts of evil”.
Rather, if not stopped, it sees an impending people’s upheaval and armed opposition, too.
ahat nanggigigil. (UH!)
Kung pano kinitil, dapat ‘to matigil. (UH!)
These pure acts of evil. (UH!)
Don’t wait for the people to do an upheaval.
Earlier than the previous ones, these two lines stood out:
Kung laging ganyan ang alagad ng batas
Mga sibilyan mag-aarmas na lang.
What “Kusilup” says is increasingly felt on the ground. The Duterte Wakasan Na movement has gained broader support since the regime kept denying its accountability for the numerous killings in the country. If not ousted by the people before his term, Duterte or his successor faces the prospect of defeat in the next elections.
And as to armed opposition, rebellion or revolution since the days of the Katipunan has always been an option for many Filipinos, hence the persistence of revolutionary armed groups like the New People’s Army which has lasted by now for half a century.
If music like “Kupsilup” grows and expands, “Raptivism” may well be on its way to changing the climate of mainstream hip-hop in the Philippines, or at the very least find its respectable and popular niche.
The activist community, with rapper BLKD being the more prominent one, has long used rap to raise social awareness in forums, rallies and performances.
A few years back, in San Francisco, California, hip-hop artists in the Filipino-American community joined forces to expose the killings of innocent people in the Philippines in a benefit concert called Stop the Killings.
Back at home, the Concerned Artists of the Philippines would invite hip-hop artists, along with indie and rock groups, to lend their voices in various political rallies to raise awareness about the socio-political climate in the Philippines.