Today we received the sad news that Pinoy rap legend Francis Magalona passed away. It was a day we had not expected to come so soon, despite the battle with leukemia. Folks were actually expecting a new collaborative album with Ely Buendia, even during Francis M's treatment.
Very few people are entitled to have the word "legend" attached to their names. Even fewer for those who are just 44.
Kiko was a pioneer, a trailblazer for all the Pinoy rappers today. He started out when folks in the Philippines had not even heard of hip-hop. He was a giant in his field, yet never forgot to look after the "little people", the aspiring artists he took under his wing, or the young rappers he inspired.
The Master Rapper lived up to the words of the late Lino Brocka, that the artist is also a citizen.
I remember as a kid, listening to "Mga Kababayan" ,"Man from Manila" and "Tayo'y mga Pinoy". These songs gave us a sense of national identity, a concept that was just forming in our heads as grade-schoolers. The words "three stars and a sun" will always be associated with him.
Francis M. was down with being Brown with lyrics such as "Mga kababayan ko, dapat lang malaman nyo, bilib ako sa kulay ko, ako ay Pilipino!". "I am the Man from Manila. Kami ang tinig ng Kayumanggi". He brought a sense of national pride into Pinoy hip-hop.
Francis M. was looked up to even by Fil-Am hip-hop artists who also strived to grasp their roots while living in the US.
But more than this affirmation of national identity is the serious effort at commenting on social ills. There's the remarkable "Kaleidoscope World", reminding us that "some are friends, some are foes, some have some, while some have most."
There's his collaboration on Lando with Gloc 9 about a tragic relationship set in urban poverty. There's Liham sa Pangulo which he did with Stick Figgas and Gloc 9, a scathing criticism of corruption at the highest levels.
"Mahal na pangulo bakit mahal ang mga bilihin
Di mo na nanaisin na tumira dito sa bayan natin
Ang kinain ng mayaman tinatapon sa basura
Pinupulot ng mahirap mapuno lang ang sikmura
Balahurang nahalal halos kaban ng bayan isinugal
Isinambulat sa Senado at sa dyaryo binulgar
Napahiya’t ayaw umamain na sila’y nagnakaw din
Di lang sa pagkain pati sa pera ay matakaw din
At pagdating sa lupain sila ay mga buakaw din
Lahat ay inaangkin kahit ano ay gagawin
Mga sakim, ganid sa ginto di makuntento sa milyon
Bilyon ang gusto kahit ang bayan ay baon
Sa utang at sa kangkungan pupulutin
Tanong ko lang sa inyo mahal niyo ba ang bayan natin
Mahal na pangulo paano na ang pilipinas
Lantarang pagnanakaw araw araw di lilipas"
There's That Money which he did with Fil-Am rapper Kiwi and Gloc 9, talking about corporate greed. https://www.imeem.com/kiwizzo/music/psUW0eqg/kiwi-that-money-feat-gloc9-and-francis-m/.
These weren't just rhymes without reason. These verses spoke the truth about the society we live in.
Activists from the early 90's remember Francis M. perform at the Quezon Memorial Circle during a protest activity against high oil prices.
Lest I forget, Francis M's "influence" on the mass movement was this short line which he used to do in that TV program Loveli-ness when he would do the music chart countdown with Willie Revillame on drums. He'd say "No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no-no". This line was picked up by activists and was popular during rallies, "Say no! Ayoko! Say, No, no, no, no, no,no ,no no-no... sa base militar ng Kano dito!".
Pinoy Music is a head shorter now without the Man from Manila. He will be truly missed. It is our hope that his words and works will live on in the next generation of artists who will pick up a mic and and instrument.
Farewell to the Man.