From The Province To The World

In the parking lot, a group of friends raise their gin-filled paper cups and shout “Isang Tagay!” The phrase is Filipino for “one more shot,” and it’s the latest track by Manila-based rapper King Promdi. It’s a sentimental song about getting cheated on, spit in mainly in Tagalog but sprinkled with English, featuring yearning melodies and balmy production. “It’s about having one more drink for a broken-hearted homie. But some of it comes from personal experience too,” Promdi laughs. The cut is the latest in a string of lowkey videos he’s dropped, as he shifts his focus from group work and collaborations to solo tracks.

Promdi got his start producing when his cousin from the US visited and brought along some production software on his laptop. After trying it out, he downloaded a free cracked version on his laptop and never looked back.

His name is slang for “a boy from the province,” and he says life in his hometown of Bataan was chill: “It was calm and peaceful.” You can hear some of that influence in his recent music, which is unhurried and laid back.

In 2019, he met the other members of VVS Collective at a gig and they decided to start a group focusing on melodic lyrics and danceable beats. Soon after, they dropped the viral “Walwal,” with Promdi behind the boards and also on vocal duties. The track has hit 25 million views so far and landed them a major label deal.

Working with a major has proved restrictive though. Before dropping music, they need to send a demo to the label and wait while they set up a video shoot and arrange for publicity. While the group can choose who shoots the video and send some general ideas, the label has control over the project. All this can take quite a while, creating a backlog of releases. “We have one track that’s been finished since 2021 and still hasn’t dropped,” Promdi says. “It’s just too slow, so I’m focusing on releasing solo tracks right now.”

These new Promdi joints all have a similar vibe, with raw videos and chill vibes. In addition to “Isang Tagay,” there’s also “Regular,” which finds the 26-year-old rapper distancing himself from basic shit. And there’s “Spalding,” an homage to the famous Pinoy basket ballplayer Mark Caguioa, one of the best ballers in the PBA professional league during the late 90s and early 2000s. “I’m just a fan and wanted to show appreciation,” Promdi says. “He even left some fire emojis on my IG!”

“Spalding” blew up, jsut not for reasons any artist would hope for. The video was reposted on different basketball meme pages, racking up a few million views with comment sections overflowing with haters. Regular Pilipinos were not fans, apparently. “I guess the people here aren’t used to the way I rap,” Promdi reasons. “But I don’t care, because the goal is to push Filipino music forward.”

In fact, Promdi has his eyes on a global fanbase. And while he loves Western rap, he’s looking to the rest of Asia first. He actually follows some Thai rap, mentioning artists like 1Mill, Diamond MQT, and Tarvethz as people he’d like to collaborate with. “It’s my dream to be heard outside the country, to travel and perform.” He’s already worked with Japanese and Vietnamese artists on “Intimate Times” for the pan-Asian label BPM Plus Asia. “I don’t think understanding the language is too important. For me it’s the vibe, the flow. That’s universal. “