Music

Kolateral is An Unfiltered Rap Chronicle of the Drug War

It's a reminder that the drug war is far from over.
IMAGE FACEBOOK @oplankolateral
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“One death is too much.” This is the thrust of Kolateral, a research-backed rap album centered solely on the drug war.

Conceptualized and crafted by a group of friends that go by the name Sandata, which is headed by well-known local artists BLKD and Calix, Kolateral brings the drug war back to the forefront of public awareness. Raw and unfiltered, the 12-song album renders the experiences of the victims of the drug war into art. You won’t find symbolism or subtlety in this album—Kolateral is blunt, honest, and gripping, not only in the way that it’s written and produced, but also in the fact that these aren't just stories created in the mind of an artist. This is reality as we know it.

The entire project began two years ago at the height of the drug war, and since then, a team of dedicated researchers has gathered the data, accounts, and information that form the backbone of the album. These stories from real victims were translated into verses and beats, inserting socio-political commentary into a socially conscious form of hip-hop. Kolateral rips music from the ivory tower where art often exists, bringing the genre back to the masses on the ground. Historically, hip-hop was borne out of the struggles of the people, used to express, reflect, and comment on the world around them. And that is exactly what Kolateral does.

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After three years of extrajudicial killings (EJK) hitting the news, it’s hard not to witness the degree of normalization and desensitization to the numbers and deaths that plague the public. But Kolateral may be the cure to this desensitization.

Nagkaroon ng mga tracks doon [sa Kolateral] na nagkukwento ng mga istorya [ng victims] to remember that these numbers are actual people with families, with lives,” says BLKD.

“There are people who are still in mourning,” says Calix, noting that the war still isn’t over.

The tracks tackle different characters in the three-year long chronicle of the drug war, from the children orphaned by the killings to the OFWs scared for the families they left behind. There are audio clips of controversial speeches, recordings of a child reciting poetry, gun shots in the background, and endless insights on the complexities of social stratification, government apathy, and the war on the poor.

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Some standout tracks on the album include “Pagsusuma” where BLKD raps the statistics of EJKs and gives the numbers deeper meanings; “Giyera ng Bulag,” which tackles the broken justice system; and “Hawak,” a slower track that puts the spotlight on a couple whose lives were forever altered.  

Despite the anger and frustration bubbling underneath each track, there is, in the spirit of activism, a call to action to remember the struggles of the people and to do what we can so their stories won’t be lost. 

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After witnessing and hearing of the collateral effects of the drug war, there was no way artists like Calix and BLKD could look away.

Bago kami naging artist, citizens o mamamayan muna kami,” says BLKD. “Para sa akin, lahat ng mamamayan naapektado o may gustong gawin. Iba-iba lang tayo ng paraan.” 

Ito yung tool or skillset na mayroon kami,” adds Calix in reference to their music. “So ito yung gagamitin namin para makapagsalita.”

Being vocal in this administration has cost many people their lives—and their freedom—yet that won’t stop the likes of Kolateral’s creators. “We have to be smart, but that doesn’t mean we have to be duwag or pull punches,” emphasizes Calix.

Empathy, something that seems to be disappearing in many, is something this collective has in droves. “Biktima na nga sila in the first place ng drugs, tapos biniktima na naman natin [ng drug war],” says BLKD.

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“They’re already ravaged by an unfair system, tapos nanakawan mo pa [ng buhay],” says Calix. “Do we really want that for our countrymen? Do you really want that for your neighbor? Tama nga ba ito?” 

Technically, this type of hard-hitting music is nothing new to the rap community. Calix and BLKD have been vocal about social issues since the start of their careers so Kolateral is not out of their line of work in the past. But Kolateral marks the first time they worked with a team of researchers and shaped their music around data. The album is also notable for the wide range of artists contributing their diverse styles and sounds, with each one coming from a different corner of the Philippines and beyond.

The entire album is an ambitious endeavor that remains completely independent. Although that presents an obstacle in spreading their music, which is done mostly through word of mouth, it does give them the freedom to create exactly the kind of music they need to make. Kolateral is driven by purpose, not profit. The songs can be freely downloaded on Mediafire and Google Drive and streamed on Spotify and Bandcamp.

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In truth, the album speaks for itself. Its lines and verses will have far more impact than this article ever will. So we’ll leave you with these hopeful lines from the track Walang Maiwan.

“Kahit gano’n pa man, tuloy pa rin ang laban. Iikot ang mundo kahit sa madugong daan. Ang araw sisikat sa gitna ng kadiliman. Hustisya darating basta hindi ito sukuan.”

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Anri Ichimura
Staff Writer, Esquire Philippines
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