MANILA -- Rapper KJah and beat-maker Juss Rye from the pioneering Filipino hip hop group Sun Valley Crew are releasing a new album titled "Pamantayan."
We’re meeting up with the duo in Katipunan Avenue and KJah’s running slightly late.
He entered the coffee shop and apologized for his tardiness. If you aren’t in the music scene or you don’t follow it, you’d think that KJah, dressed in a black track suit, is either a boxer or a point guard for a college basketball team.
His musical partner Juss Rye chuckled. “Gusto niya sa basketball pero ang basketball ayaw sa kanya.”
KJah doesn’t mind being outed. “Totoo naman,” he cheerfully admitted. Nevertheless, he loves the game and follows it. “Ako na lang sa amin yata ang PBA fan.” A recent single “Pasa Pasa” – featuring Kemikal Ali and Mike Kosa – had this basketball vibe.
More than being a basketball junkie, KJah is one of the most prolific musicians in the local scene today having released an album every two years. KJah and Juss Rye laugh. They weren’t even aware that the rapper puts out new music in such intervals.
When talking to KJah, there are two overt things – one, he speaks in the vernacular; and two, the music, hip hop and rap, courses through his veins.
He isn’t tied down yet so his devotion is to the music, basketball, and his girlfriend (am not sure in what order though).
His last album (under Uprising Records) was titled "Kamao ng Kankaloo," the latter which is slang for Caloocan. KJah is proud of his roots. His experiences on its streets and that of his friends find themselves as topics for his verse. And he can only write them in Filipino. “Hindi ko kaya magsulat ng mga kanta sa wikang banyaga,” he bared.
KJah studiously studies the language. “Pati diksyonaryo binabasa ko para lumawak ang aking bokabularyo. Pinakikinggan ko lahat ng klaseng hip hop kesyo maganda or hindi pasa sa aking panlasa. Estudyante ako ng musika at pinag-aaralan ko lahat ng ginagawa. Mahalaga iyon para sa growth ko. Ano 'yung tama, ano 'yung mali. Bakit naisulat ‘to at bakit ganito ang areglo.”
Hence, pamantayan. Or “standard” in English.
“Nagsimula sa title 'Pamantayan,'” explained Juss Rye. “Bago kami mag-collaborate ni KJah, nagusap heto 'yung gusto ko na title. Nag-agree siya. The idea of keeping to a standard. We are not saying that what we created is the standard. For us, we want to say that this is our best work and if we do more then we have to top this album. It’s all about making good music.’
“Kahit love song or hindi cool sa hip hop, may standard pa rin,” threw in KJah. “And we’ve happy sa tunog.
“Si KJah mabilis magsulat,” noted the bespectacled beat-maker. “Within a day or two babalikan na ako with several verses to go with the beats. Nag-rub off sa akin yung kabilisan sa pagawa ng kanta.”
The song “Hindi Susuko” (recorded with Kean Cipriano of Callalily) was supposed to be on "Pamantayan" but instead, it was left out for other songs.
“Nakuha naming 'yung gusto naming ilabas,” summed up Juss Rye. “Nung marinig ko yung mga nasulat niya. Wala na akong gusto ilapat dito na iba. Confident kami sa mga kanta that it is only right na bigyan ng magandang video, publicity, and marketing.”
“At sane magustuhan ng music fans,” concluded KJah.
"Pamantayan" from KJah and Juss Rye will drop late August or early September.