Palawan-based rapper Geo Ong proved that an artist can successfully marry modern rap and hip-hop music with society’s pressing issues. And that you can be famous for your craft that delves on brokenheartedness of a different kind.
Thus, Geo’s trademark: brutally honest lyrics on social ills set in startling multi-syllable rhymes and tight rhythms. And Geo made it all looked so easy.
For in a world competing for attention, he’s managed to attract millions so fast! He has a steadily growing online listeners and fanbase to attest to that.
As of this writing, Geo’s most popular song, “Parokyana”— which tackles about how some women confidently use sex for money—has already culled over 17 million views on YouTube alone; while it has 3 million streams on Spotify since its release last December 21, 2018.
The 22-year-old musician, who is definitely one of the hottest Filipino rappers today, has also penned rap music addressing some the country’s pressing issues.
He tackled drug wars in “Gising,” emphasized the importance of educating the youth in “Kasalukuyan,” cautioned the public about networking schemes and joining religious groups in “Opinyon,” addressed the consequences of cyberbullying in “Huling Liham,” and he attempted to break one of Pinoy’s toxic kaugalian: the breadwinner culture in “Breadwinner.”
Earlier this year, Geo once again racked up millions of views on YouTube for his most recent single, “Pekeng Kaibigan” two days after its release. And it remained in the #1 spot in the trending videos on YouTube for three consecutive days.
According to Geo, he will never veer away from discussing important issues that will be of great benefit to his listeners.
“Para sa’kin kailangan ’yong ginagawa kong kanta dapat may benefit ’yong nakikinig...may nakukuha sila sa akin,” Geo told pikapika.ph. “Hindi ’yong ako lang ang nagbe-benefit na umaangat ako...kilala ako ng tao. Gusto ko both sides...nai-inspire sila sa akin kung ano man ’yong ginagawa ko o pinaghihirapan ko and sila natututo din sila.”
He says he doesn’t want people to listen to his songs just for the sake of soundtrip.
“Ayoko po kasi ng wala silang makukuha, ayoko ’yong tamang pang soundtrip lang, pampatulog,” he said candidly. “Gusto ko habang nakikinig sila may nare-realize sila na, ‘O, okey, ito nga ’yong totoo, tama ’to, may point’ ’yong more on napapagan’on sila kaysa jam lang.”
Geo, like most artists, write his songs based on personal experiences and true-to-life scenarios he witnesses on a daily basis. But his no-filter lyrics were intended to serve as an eye-opener for those people who fear the truth.
“’Yong mga katotohanan po, kung ano po ’yong ayaw at kinakatakutan na katotohanan ng mga karamihang Pilipino—hindi lang po Pilipino, lahat ng mga tao--kung ano po ’yong ayaw nila marinig dahil masakit, ’yong mga ayaw nila malaman...kumbaga nagbu-bulag-bulagan na lang. Gusto ko pong marinig ng lahat ’yon.”
But behind all these achievements thus far, who really is Geo Ong?
Ironically, the name Geo is not actually his. It’s his elder brother Gerard Ong’s nickname. It’s the same brother, he said, who influenced him significantly on why he grew up liking rap music.
The real person behind the screenname Geo Ong is actually Don Angelo Villaver Ong. He is the youngest among the three sons of Elsa and Angelito Ong.
“Ang real name ko po, Don Angelo. Dahil Gerard Ong [ang older brother ko], so Geo. Gerard Florence po tawag sa kanya—minsan Renz, minsan Rard,” the rapper tried explaining. “Sabi ko, ‘Ako Don lang pangalan ko.’ ’Yon lang tawag sa akin sa school, minsan Don or minsan Ong, tapos na. Naiinggit lang po ako sa kanya at tribute ko na din po sa kanya.”
His Kuya Gerard was indeed his idol growing up. From having identical pair of pants and sneakers to his, to liking the same rap songs. And then now, they even share the same names.
“Geo...ang ganda ng pangalan na ’yon. So, pinakilala ko sa lahat Geo Ong. Tapos nilagay ko sa music video ko. Kaya buong Pilipinas ang tawag na sa akin Geo Ong,” he laughed.
Now people rarely call his brother Geo and since he really likes the name, he finally went on to use it as his own.
After graduating highschool, Geo (or Don), then 16, decided not to take on a college course because he took a leap of faith in the music scene as a freelance rapper.
He has appeared in several rap sessions and had guestings stints in Net25, Master Showman; and radio guestings in stations such as Pinas FM and Barangay LS. And last year around September, Geo finally had his time to showcase his talent even more, especially in the digital space with the help of the record label, Viva Records.
But before he began making a name in the music industry, Geo was once part of a hip-hop dance crew for some time. At that time, he already loves rap music that he even suggested to their group’s manager to inject rap music in between dances. But he was rejected and was even called names like jologs and baduy in return.
Despite that, he remained unfazed and realized that he was destined for something more. Later on, he decided to pursue his passion: creating trap music.
[According to rateyourmusic.com, trap music “ is a form of Hip Hop originating in Atlanta in the early 2000s. While trap is diverse stylistically, it is united by its distinctive fast hi-hat sound and heavy bass at moderate tempos. Trap has its roots in Southern Hi Hop, particularly the Atlanta scene, stretching back to the 1990s. ‘Trap’ is a slang term denoting a place where drugs are sold.”]
Coming from the beautiful island of Palawan, Geo wanted to carry his hometown along with his triumph. In fact, he plans on releasing rap songs accompanied by the unique beat of Palawan tribal music in the future.
His straightforward lyrics, after all, were greatly influenced by how Palawenos converse with one another.
“Mga taga Palawan po kasi masyadong literal, masyadong makatotohanan din…” Geo explained. “Kumabaga pag kami doon pag sinabing pangit ito, pangit. Pag sinabing mayabang ka, mayabang ka. Pag sinabing mali yan, mali yan. Ganoon po, e. Direkta po. Hindi po kami ’yong masyadong paliguy-ligoy. Diretso lang kasi concern kami sa isa’t-isa. Kasi gusto namin maging maayos ang bawat isa, maging maayos lahat. Iyon po siguro ’yong isa sa mga na-adapt ko.”
And that’s one of the reasons why he believes that his songs stand out from the rest, saying: “Makatotohanan po, hindi po siya ’yong maraming pa-echos or pa-cheche bureche. Straight to the point and may matututunan at makukuha po ang mga listeners.”
With all his successes in a short period of time, Geo took time to dedicate a message to those aspiring rap artists wanting to follow his footsteps.
“Kung gusto mo maging tunay na musikero at maging rapper...kailangan seryoso ka sa ginagawa mo,” he admonished.
He says, originality is key. “Kailangan alam mo kung saan ’yong patutunguhan mo, kung sino ka, sino gusto mo maging. Gawin mo lang ’yong tunay. Gawin mo ’yong nararamdaman mo kasi wala naman pare-parehas ng puso at isip.
“So kung ano ’yong tumatakbo sa isip at puso mo ’yon ang isulat mo, ’yon ang gawin mo. Wag mong gayahin kung ano man ang ginagawa ng ibang nagtatagumpay sa bagay na ’yon dahil sila ’yon.
“’Yon ang nasa puso at isip nila. So ikaw, kung ano mang na sa’yo, kung ano man iyang baon mo, kung ano man ang binigay sayo, gamitin mo yan. Wag kang gagaya sa iba, wag mong gagamitin ’yong istilo ng iba.”
There’s a lot in store for Geo’s avid listeners this year. He has high hopes to release a total of twelve songs with music videos complimenting each.
Are you curious what kind of social issues will Geo discuss in his next no-holds-barred songs?
We share your excitement. We can’t wait, too!
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