A lot has changed since Gloc-9 clinched the top spot of local hip-hop’s echelon. Not only did he gain respect from the community that served witness to his struggles, but the prolific rapper/producer also won hearts of the mainstream audience with his accessible, socially aware lyrics and confident stage presence. But despite the palpable evidence that Aristotle Pollisco, the nursing grad turned rapper extraordinaire, has found his footing in a scene once dominated by false braggadocio and sexism, and turned it into a catalyst for creative inspiration, no one can quite pinpoint the formula that has made him a compelling brand.
Maybe it has something to do with him being an interesting anomaly. In his 20 years in the business, Gloc-9 neither strived to be a part of the cult of celebrity nor aspired to alter the course of the game with boundary-pushing ideas. He did, however, let the hustling do the talking. “Walang pangarap na imposible,” the 39-year-old tells FHM.com.ph. “Yun talaga ang lagi kong sinasabi. I think it’s hard work more than anything else. Kung masipag ka at alam mong may bitbit ka na something promising at kakaiba, may mararating ka.”
With eight acclaimed studio albums, sold-out concerts, and a best-selling book that recently hit shelves, what more can you ask for from one of the biggest hip-hop acts of the country? His narrative is a success story that leaves not only a lasting legacy, but a template for young dreamers to follow. But more than building his own brand out of sheer talent and hard work, it’s the music that contributed massively to who he is as an artist.
His songs are vivid, living imagery of our everyday struggles. He weaves extraordinary but sometimes heartbreaking stories of the underprivileged and the working class, the marginalized sectors of the community and the ones silenced by injustice. Thanks to his life experiences, Gloc-9 was able to light a fire to countless of narratives that the world needs to hear. “Namulat ako sa reyalidad ng buhay when I started working as a kitchen helper,” he shares. “Nung nakasalamuha ko yung ibat-ibang kasama ko sa trabaho, dun ko narealize na malalim pala talaga ang buhay ng tao at marami kang puwedeng ikuwento. Dun ako nagstart magsulat ng mga kantang makabuluhan.” The sense of authenticity that he brings to the table remains unmatched. Gloc-9 writes what he knows, and experience grants him the privilege to tell these interconnected stories from a personal, intimate standpoint. It’s what separates him from the rookies and the indifferent.
You can tell from the moment he poured his heart on the Francis M.-assisted “Lando,” where he traded melancholic, soul-stirring verses with the Master Rapper and recounted the tragic love story of Lando and Elsa—both victims of unfortunate circumstances in the seedy underbelly of Metro Manila, where poverty and crime are pretty rampant. Prolific author and screenwriter Ricky Lee often cites the song as an example during his writing workshops, praising the song for its nitty-gritty details and rich, gripping message. Aristotle recounts, “Sabi ng kaibigan ko na nag-workshop sa kanya, ginamit daw na example yung “Lando” when he talked about the importance of storytelling, na dapat daw vivid and matalim ang pagkukuwento. In order for you to be an effective writer daw, you need to be visual.”
“Upuan” off his celebrated fourth record, Matrikula, is where he masterfully achieved pop ubiquity with an insightful commentary on corruption and social injustice. As music and pop culture critic Katrina Stuart Santiago puts it: “While the truths that surround this lamentation against politicians is in your face, and oh so familiar, the use of the chair as central symbol of power is also one that bravely speaks of class divide and difference, something that very little of OPM even dares talk about, nay insist on.” Gloc-9 went on to produce crossover hits that speak of the systemic oppression that we all face in the hands of greedy capitalists, fraudulent leaders, and a patriarchal society. “Walang Natira,” a catchy R&B anthem, is his way of connecting with the struggles our OFWs. At a time when rampant homophobia continues to hound the LGBTQIA+ community, he released “Sirena” with Ebe Dancel, an uplifting ode that celebrates homosexuality amidst adversity, something that rarely happens especially in a genre known for cultivating a culture of sexism. His other songs “Magda,” “Bayad Ko,” “Takipsilim,” and “Pangarap” positioned him as an artist’s artist capable of amplifying stories of deafened silences from the urban slums and the countryside, making us all think at the same time.
It’s hard to imagine the rapper-extraordinaire slow down and distance himself from the relevant issues affecting contemporary society at the moment. For his upcoming EP, Rotonda—to be released under Universal Records—Gloc-9 chronicles a love story gone cold on “Ice Tubig," provides a seething critique on urban planning and traffic on “Tapik Na Naman,” and taps his ethnic pulse on “Rotonda”—a collaboration with the iconic Joey Ayala. He’s unstoppable as a force, his eagerness to deliver never ceases. And one can only hope that his success will encourage others to do the same, forge a path that is distinctly his from the get-go, and create a ripple so strong it can make a difference. Here’s to hoping.
Photos by Lian Hammer Dumas