Whisper Rap

“I kept moving around because my neighbors were always complaining about the loud music, so I leaned into this whispering or soft crooning sound to suit my environment,” laughs Filipino rapper Aud, explaining some of the inspiration behind the new sound he’s developed while living in Japan. “I’m basically doing this ‘whisper rap’ so my neighbors won’t bang on the wall anymore!” The style outlined on his new album, EXPIRED!, is smooth and melodic—unafraid of blurring the lines between R&B and rap, perfectly suited for night drives and neon lights. And yes, it’s also more palatable to difficult neighbors.

Aud had cultivated a healthy fanbase in The Philippines over the years as part of Delinquent Society from Davao City in the far south of the country. He was raised there but born in Japan, so during the height of the pandemic, he decided to move back to find some stability and work. Growing up he visited Japan often and even started rapping there as part of the local Filipino battle rap scene. But now that he’s returned, it’s a bit like starting from scratch. “I’m basically a ‘new’ artist here.”

“Japanese people have their own world,” Aud says of his experience trying to build an artistic career in the country. “They don’t really care about what’s happening in other places in the world. They create their own apps, they have their own marketing tools, they have different ways of approaching things.” This definitely applies to the rap scene as well, which can be very insular other than its homage to US pioneers. Aud’s distance from The Philippines, which he hasn’t been able to visit since leaving two years ago, also makes it difficult to connect with fans back home.

To bridge divides, Aud has always chosen to rap in English. Although he’s learning some Japanese and is conversational, he’s still not fluent. He hopes that rapping in the most widely spoken language around the world will help him connect with more people so he doesn’t have to rely on vibes alone. It’s a tactic that he developed in Davao, where they speak a different language than people in Manila, home to the majority of the music industry in the Philippines. Using English helps break down that distance since it’s frequently spoken in most of the country. In Japan however, it may limit his opportunities. He raps in Japanese occasionally however, dropping bars like “Watashi no chi wa kori no yo ni tsumetai / Watashi no itami wa sudeni ippaidesu” in Nihongo, which translates to “My blood is ice cold but I’m full of pain.”

For now, Aud is mostly active in the local Filipino hip hop community in Nagoya, where he lives in central Japan. He says it’s just one of several foreigner-driven circles in the country, similar to the larger Brazilian-Japanese rap scene. But they tend to stay within their own lanes instead of overlapping with one another. “It’s sad to see that the scene is divided because of the language barrier,” he says. “Each of us has our own thing going on which makes it difficult for us to really share a common space.” He hopes to break out of the segregated pigeonhole and perform for larger Japanese crowds.

Other than one guest feature from another Filipino rapper, Aud was intentional about EXPIRED! being a thoroughly solo project. “I wanted to highlight my own skills and show what I could bring to the table,” he says. All of the crew members from Delinquent Society are still friends, but with him in Japan and another member in California, they’re on a creative hiatus. But it’s only temporary. “We definitely have songs tucked. I’m excited to release them when the time is right.”