If you've ever partied at the Pool Club, then you've most likely witnessed the musical calisthenics of MC Aoh, who churns out some the sickest Hip hop beats to hit the dance floor. This talented 27-year-old has already partnered with some of today's biggest international acts (Martin Garrix, Adventure Club, Flo Rida, LMFAO, and Carnage to name a few). But the millenial is quick to dispel any notions of these getting into his head. “It’s cool to meet a lot of people you look up to. Being a performer on a much smaller scale to what these guys are doing is kind of humbling. You realize these are just other people. They’re not untouchable fictional characters,” he says.
His rise as one of the most sought after DJ/MCs in the country has its roots in America. “I was rapping with a guy named Wire and we did okay. Nothing major,” he recounts. A fateful vacation to the Philippines, however, changed all that. “I came for one of my friend’s weddings and met my wife,” MC Aoh reveals. “We dated for a while. I decided that if I wanted to be with this girl, I had to [settle] here.”
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Making the move for love was easy, but the 27-year-old wanted to carve out a career for himself. “My dream was to be on stage and make my mark,” he confesses. “I was rapping out here a little bit but English rap wasn’t a point where it could be big.” He decided to try his luck at DJing/MCing, and the rest is history. “I got picked up by Imperial. Six months later, I did residency at Hyve for about a year and a half. Then, I got picked up as one of the lead residents for Palace. I was MCing and DJing there,” he describes.
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Although scoring gigs at some of Metro Manila's hottest clubs wasn't his original plan, MC Aoh embraced the opportunities. He saw DJing/MCing as another facet of what he loved to do. “It wasn’t what I was used to, like rapping my own songs,” he divulges. “But performing is a great feeling. It's nice to be in front of people and entertain them.” Moreover, opportune timing played a major role in shaping his career. “Back when I started, DJs weren’t low-level celebrities. It was a lot easier to get into the industry,” the DJ reveals. “I was lucky enough to get in at a time when it was still friendship based. My mentors gave me a chance and I was able to learn a lot from them.”
MC Aoh will be the first to tell you that being a constant fixture in the local night scene isn't as glamorous as it seems. “The nightlife industry is hard,” he says. “It’s a constant race.” There's a certain backlash that comes with fame. While the DJ/MC certainly commands a hefty number of admirers, he also gains the inevitable haters. It's something he has to come to terms with as a performer. It’s hard to accept that not everyone is going to like you when you’re doing an entertainment industry based profession. Some people are really just gonna talk sh*t about you. You gotta just sit there and take it,” he vents.
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Another downside is the unavoidable decline of his health. As part of his stage presence, the DJ/MC consumed an entire bottle four nights a week. Coupled with working till the wee hours of the morning, this routine wreaked havoc on his well-being. “It’s cool when you’re 20. But, when you’re 27 pushing 30, you start feeling your body,” laughs MC Aoh. “You’re constantly hungover. You don't sleep much. Your schedule is screwed.” Recognizing his limitations led him to take a break from performing. “You’re drinking all the time and not eating right. When you don’t see the sun a lot, you lack vitamin D. The next thing you know, your immune system goes down. You get viral infections all the time. I was sick. I was in the hospital a lot. I felt like I was dying. I was depressed so I took a step back to get myself happy again,” he explains.
Despite the drawbacks that came with his success, MC Aoh is proud of the things he accomplished in such a brief period. “Being a rapper from Chicago, the biggest show I did was for 130 people,” he recalls. “Now the biggest crowd I’ve been in front of is probably 20,000. And that was when I opened up for Martin Garrix. It was a small set, only like 20 minutes or something. But that’s all I ever wanted—to get on stage in front of that many people.”
The frenetic nightlife, ironically, brought a sense of calm to MC Aoh. He's gained a different perspective from all he's experienced. His advice for the next generations of DJ/MCs? “Just let it ride. Be more chill and not so uptight, hostile, and dismissive of things or of people. Don’t react with your instinct and just kinda let things go,” he shares.
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While MC Aoh insists that performing is his passion, he doesn't see himself doing the same thing in the next five to 10 years. “I’m kind of looking for new aspects," he admits. "I don’t know where my path is right now, I’m just trying to find it.” Stepping away from such a successful career, even temporarily, is no easy feat. But the MC/DJ is confident that the future holds something different for him. “I’ve learned to stop searching for ambition or the end game,” he reflects. “Wherever it goes, I’m happy already. Whatever else comes, comes.”
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Produced by Barry Viloria & Mels Timan | Cinematography by Jana Jimenez | Photography by Vyn Radovan | Grooming by Iris Tolentino of J.Cat Beauty | Styling by Barry Viloria | Clothes by The Athlete's Foot
Shot on location at FUCT MNL (Unit 7, La Fuerza Building, Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City)
Special thanks to Mae Bello and Dennis Gonzales of Fuct MNL and Will Hsu and Kelly Grace Oliveros of Monster Centaur PR