“Ang mamang unano…hindi na lumaki…,” a FlipTop Battle League contender once belted out against his then 21-year-old opponent, Raymond Abracosa. To music fans, Raymond is better known by his stage name, Abra—local hip-hop artist and now lead actor of Cinemalaya 2017's critically-acclaimed indie rap film RESPETO. His life story was, perhaps, an appropriate fit for his present milestone: playing the role of the impoverished, rap-aspiring Hendrix, who finds himself caught in the midst of a substance struggle on the streets.
To know who Abra was before his acting debut, we need to backtrack a bit. This youthful yet grown-up icon of underground Pinoy rap was once slapped silly by hip-hop rivals. The flak flung often consisted of cheap-shots at his good looks, his lack of height, and bleep-worthy, below-the-belt jabs. In 2010, it was emceeing and contending for the league that helped build his fame in the local hip-hop community, as well as his open collaborations with other artists like Parokya Ni Edgar's Chito Miranda.
The league’s past face-offs in his earlier years can be likened to verbal martial arts, a seeming outlet for negativity and rage left to dissipate mid-air between challengers. They can also be seen as a surf contest, where the aim is always to ride and conquer, while hoping the other gets wiped out by tall waves of wit.
Fliptop: Abra vs. Zaito (Warning: this video contains strong language)
Directed by Alberto “Treb” Montreras II, RESPETO outlines the life of Hendrix whose days are spent roaming the slums and cemeteries of the city with his two friends, staying out of trouble, and reluctantly yet frequently delivering drugs for his sister’s pusher boyfriend. Hendrix’s ultimate escape from poverty prison lies in his headphones and the smoldering word world of Pinoy rap.
His release is embellished in rhyme and rhythm: words of pride, words of rage, words of sorrow, and a deep yearning for love and liberty. The film also stars local rap star Loonie as Hendrix’s villainous rival. In real life, Loonie gained popularity online through his own music and as a hype man sought out by the King of Philippine Rap, the late Francis Magalona.
Over the last decade, Abra has built himself an image of a relentess, razor-sharp wordsmith with a smug glare and passionate spirit to match. His explosive comebacks and showdown excellence solidified his place in and earned the respect of the Pinoy hip-hop world. Ironically, though, his Mestizo looks and deep soul have led many (the youth especially) to dub him a more angsty Francis M. He speaks from the heart, and the 2.3 million subscribers of FlipTop league's online channel can well attest to it.
But more than make way for Abra's budding acting career RESPETO has the potential to impact movie-goers and society as a whole. It bears an honest message about the problem of drugs, the problem of poverty, the problem of corruption, and perhaps the most deadly toxin of all: the problem of unforgiveness.
For more updates regarding the film follow their official Instagram.
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Photos from: Instagram.com/abraofficial, Instagram.com/respetomovie