Words by Isabel Aguas
It may seem off the beaten path from Makati’s stiff-collared madding crowd, but Guijo Street will always lead to a damn good time. Besides it being a culinary cubbyhole, this side street has also been a launch pad for local indie music.
Helping build a fresh sound in these parts is Mito Fabie, also known as rising-hot rap artist Curtismith (listen to him here). As part of B/BLOG’s jaunt through our beloved neighborhoods, we met Curtismith amid the graffiti-covered walls of SaGuijo, what can be considered the thunder dome for live gigs and new music.
Following sick sets at Malasimbo and Wanderland, the 21-year-old beat master rests his jaw and talks to B/BLOG about holding a mic in one hand, a clothing brand in the other, and the pseudo-singer who inspired his pseudonym.
So what’s the story behind the name Curtismith?
When I was thinking whether to release my music or not, I was contemplating on whether I should [use] my name. And while I was thinking this, I was looking out the window and who else do I see on the billboard but Anne Curtis.
That answer’s unexpected.
I know, but I see Anne Curtis and I remember reading that this girl was a platinum award-winning artist. And that’s definitely not because of her voice. And for the industry to be able to do that when I knew artists who were extremely talented and were not able to reach that level [of fame], I found that ironic. When I did decide to make my name Curtismith, I just wanted people to listen to my music for what it was and whether they liked it or not, it would be for the music. And so I found it ironic to name myself Curtismith because just back then my perception was that Anne’s fans loved her for who she was more than her music, I guess?
What got you into rap in the first place?
My [clothing] brand’s name is Nomama. I was raised with no parents and I feel like rap is really what raised me – both the good and bad sides. Because when you’re a kid, you’re exposed also to the “in” rap for that time so that would mean the “Oh I got money, I got bitches.” But the older I got, the more I was able to understand what I was getting into and what I saw hip-hop as. They call it intelligent movement. “Hip” being intelligent, and “hop” being movement. So being aware and trying to elevate the culture is now what I see the music as.
Who are you favorite rappers?
A lot. Jay-Z back in the ’90s all the way up to The Black Album. Kendrick Lamar, of course. Drake, also mostly everything.
What do you think of Drake’s new EP?
It’s an EP but he’s selling it. That’s what I don’t like. It’s a money scheme. I feel like a lot of his songs are just catchy, songs that he just threw away, yet it sold so much. Although there are a couple of songs in that EP that I love. No hate to him. (Continues naming favorite rappers) Kid Cudi, of course I love Kid Cudi. Kanye West before Yeezus. I’m hoping he goes back to his roots in his next album. Frank Ocean, I love Frank Ocean. I think he’s one of the smartest guys. Earl Sweatshirt. Vince Staples. Nas, back in his first album Illmatic.
Who would be your dream collab?
My dream collab would probably be someone from Soulection. Maybe Stwo! Stwo would be a great collaboration. Maybe if it’s a rapper, of course Kendrick Lamar.
Are you surprised that some people think you’re an international artist?
That’s a compliment. I want them to know me as a Filipino but I want the sound to resonate wherever it resonates. I don’t want it to be strictly confined in the Philippines because we’re entering globalization and so I believe that music has its influence to more than just our vicinity. More than just Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao.
Which acts do you think can compete internationally?
CRWN, for sure. Similar Objects, for sure. She’s Only Sixteen. Oh, R.H. Xanders! He is one of my favorite artists. I just respect him so much. He’s just up there for me. I think that they just have to get more out there. Oh, and Jess Connelly. She can kill it too.
Any thoughts on the local music industry right now?
I think that the industry itself is following a pattern to make as much money as quick as possible and it jeopardizes the quality of music that’s being released in mainstream media. I think that there is a way in which we can fix that by actually staying true to the music and giving the power to who deserves the power. It’s not the big corporations that should be deciding what is catchy, what is popular, and all of these things but rather artists themselves. I think it’s coming about with the different collectives. More than just Logiclub, there are a lot of different collectives that are trying to push forward thinking and again, they’re all influenced by bands and groups from other countries. Because I’m really optimistic, I’d like to believe that we could progress into something more than we are today.
How do we get more people to visit gig places like SaGuijo or Route, and ultimately help the music industry?
I think all boils down to giving people a good night, and if they get a good night, they’ll wanna come back. And if the good nights are more consistent, then I guess people won’t be afraid to just go on like a Wednesday night or whatever because they know that when they’re there, they’ll have a good time.
Anything you’re looking forward to?
My EP. I want to do my brand, my clothing brand. And I guess vlogs, as well, or videos. Just because I feel like when you make music it’s so one-dimensional in terms of who you really are. And I feel like it would be better if people knew that I’m not just a guy who raps.