Drifting Away

Owfuck’s video for “Alak” is a deep shadow-cast piece of animation that finds the artists wandering a flooded Manila, capturing the reality of a city deeply at risk from climate change but also as a metaphor for the alcohol-soaked livers that the title implies (it means “booze” in English). Their digital avatars are surrounded by bare concrete and corrugated metal, all covered in graffiti and illuminated by dimly-lit LEDs as Red Horse and Ginebra bottles float with the current.

“I’m sick and tired / I said who are you? I can’t remember anything / I canโ€™t feel anything,” Lexus raps in the first verse, going on to outline a mission of blackout drinking. The team, alongside Gat Putch who handles hook duties, expands on the drinking theme, mixing ideas of drinking to escape the pain, reveling in nightlife, and engaging in inuman rituals. “We were actually drinking Red Horse when making that track,” laughs Paul Cassimir when asked about their favorite drink. The videoโ€”animated by R3d Visualsโ€”is the lead single off their debut LP, Acidic.

Paul and Lexus are from an area called Tondo and Astro is from the neighborhood Sampaloc, both notorious but vibrant parts of Manila city. They got into rap during high school, listening to a mix of Western and local artists, freestyling in the street, and joining local contests. They didn’t meet until after getting involved in the rap scene and were introduced at a studio where they were all recording. When listening to music together, they’d exclaim, “Oh, fuck!” which morphed into an inside joke, becoming “OwFuck!” And the rest is history. (They often shorten it to the more family-friendly OF.)

Although OwFuck has been releasing music for a decade now, rising as part of the vanguard introducing the Philippines to trap music, it took them a while to drop their own album. But they’re natural collaborators and have released a consistent string of music, often alongside other groups and artists. “It just happens naturally on the spot in the studio,” Astro explains. They were part of the 727 Clique supergroup and they released a collaboration album with the similarly expansive Bawal Clan collective.

Acidic is a mix of old and new tracks inspired by bouts of acid reflux and psychedelic trips. “Our songs are always about what our lives are. The bad, the good, and the real,” Astro says. It comes at another turning point for Filipino rap, much like when trap and R&B were first becoming part of the local scene’s vernacular. “More people are warming up to new genres and their tastes are evolving,” Paul says of the current local environment. “The level of talent is becoming higher and higher, especially when it comes to lyricism. That higher standard becomes more listenable to people who truly pay attention and listen.”