World Premiere | Salbahe
Your new single, Salbahe, has reggaeton instrumentals but is sung entirely in Tagalog. What were your goals for the song — did you find the contrast between the recognizable reggaeton and the Tagalog lyrics more of a strength or a challenge for you?
I really wanted to create fusion music, which is something I’m all about. At the same time, I wanted to showcase my individuality, so why not go for a genre of music that I love and put a twist on it? I also wanted to give young Filipino Americans something to relate to. So all in all, it wasn’t a challenge but more of a strength because the cultures are so similar y’know?
What does salbahe mean?
Salbahe in tagalog (the native language in the Philippines) means “bad”, “wild”. It comes from the Spanish word “salvaje” and in English is “savage”.
Now that you made a music video for it, what role do the visuals play in communicating a message that’s inaccessible to those who don’t understand the language? What’s the story behind the video? What’s your audience?
We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words. All I’m doing is giving the world an introduction to my aesthetic while communicating the essence of what “Salbahe” means to me. Look at my body language, it’s wild. And that’s what Salbahe means. Wild, bad and free. Even if you don’t understand the words you’ll be attracted to my delivery. It’s like Lil’ Kim lyrics in Tagalog over a Daddy Yankee beat. A strong woman who’s not afraid of her sexuality. And the story is a real one. In the beginning you see me talking on the phone with my sis Princess Nokia and that’s what we do in real life. We support each other. As all women should do. We should all support each others’ dreams and aspirations. The majority of the video is me serving Salbahe looks. But when I have the graffiti scene it’s symbolic for me because I’m alone with the Filipino flag. And I’m alone because I want to start a revolution of pride amongst young Filipino Americans. Most Filipino Americans do not define themselves with their culture but for me I am super passionate and will go over and beyond for something I truly live for! Also giving life to these young Filipino Americans and letting them know it’s okay to go off! I had to end off the video with an island girl scene and my Polynesian-inspired dance moves. This video blooms like a flower — so at the end I am at my most beautiful form with nature. I’m able to communicate with nature and STILL be Salbahe! I love making all kinds of music so I’d say my audience is universal!
Can you tell us a little bit about your crew, LEEK92? How far back does it go and what is the extent of your participation in it? Do you share the same ambitions and will you continue working together in the future?
Leek92 is actually an acronym for “Letting Everyone Everywhere Know 1992” which is the year we were all born in. Leek92 is not a crew — we are a family and have been since our high school days at Art & Design. Since 2010, Roc’Well, KO-P, Ra-Grim, Young Ty and myself decided to join forces due to our shared love for music. I am the lady of the Leek. Get it right, lol! I am representing for all the ladies! Yes we all share a common mindset and ambition. But also understand that we are solo artists. It is a music group, but we are very individual in a lot of ways. Since we all represent a different aspect of New York culture, it is important that we concentrate on our respective fan bases. So it’s an all-in-one, one-in-all dynamic in the group. Very loose, yet closer than family. With that said, there’s no doubt that we will work in the future. It’s inevitable.
Can you talk a bit about your background, geolocation, identity, and how they play into your music?
Born and raised in NYC. Lived in Queens most of my life going to catholic school for 10 years. Art and music were my favorite classes, but I really didn’t understand myself at the time. I felt caged in, having no one to relate to. I’m second generation Filipino and I feel alone when it comes to my background sometimes. I never been to the Philippines, y’know? So I’m hoping my music brings the world together so I can put me together. I then found love in Brooklyn. I learned hip hop and the respect and discipline it comes with and it continues to be a huge influence in my life. You can say that I’m super highly affiliated with the hip hop culture in all aspects. Owww! But seriously all these things play a role in my music. The pain, the learning, the love, the respect and discipline. Everything.
When and how were you exposed to gay culture?
Going to an art high school in Manhattan has a lot to do with my upbringing in this community. I learned the lingo through Ball culture affiliates who taught me how to duck walk in gym class (yassss)! I was always drawn to the drama and beauty ball culture has to offer. I have the most respect for the icons and legends before me for paving the way for the kids to carry! A year ago I was inducted into The House Of Labeija, which is the first house ever in New York City! That moment was a pinpoint in my life that I will never forget! I walked my first ball last June and slayed the women’s face category and got called up for L.S.S (legends, statements, stars)! It’s all a real fantasy, I cannot even fathom!!
Your nightlife presence in NYC ranges from performing at underground parties to hosting Club YES at Le Bain. Can you tell us about how you got into music, and where it has taken you so far?
Making music and becoming a performer was a dream of mine I never thought would happen! I never would of thought I would actually be doing this in real life! I started taking music seriously after my first big heart break! I held so much inside that I needed to vent. I was tired of drawing my feelings out and writing lyrics and felt it was about time I started bringing it to life. I started off making my own beats with a toshiba laptop and a shitty little mic that barley picked up my voice. I was uploading my music to my myspace music page at the time and letting my friends listen; I wasn’t hoping to blow up but it felt good to let people hear my work. I have definitely made all my little dreams come true! From becoming the anime girls I used to draw, to my vocals being compared to Robin S and Melanie Thornton of La Bouche! Ya girl K Rizz is a hard worker honey! And I’ve become friends with all these beautiful artists from NYC who get me. If I can accomplish these little goals, I know for sure it will get bigger and better! I am living my dream!
Your artistic identity merges pop culture themes with a drive for empowerment and self-assertion. Given how prominently sexuality influences your look and aesthetics, where do you stand when it comes to feminist questions and issues related to female empowerment or representation of sex?
Girl power! I am all for female empowerment! My sexuality has become something I am proud of through my art. I love myself — flaws and all. That is why I am not ashamed to show my body in a sexual way. It’s fun and girls just wanna have fun! I want girls to watch me and see that I do not have the perfect body or the perfect smile. I want them to feel fabulous in their skin the way I do. I want them to watch this video and feel fearless and take those risks and speak their mind! Not only girls but anyone who watches this video! I’m here to make y’all feel good!
Lastly, what is a day in the life of a Filipina Princessa like?
My schedule be all over the place but everyday I always make sure I have..
– 2 glasses of water when I wakeup
– Morning stretch
– Talk to my backyard cats
– Make sure my face is BEAT TO THE GODS! (depending on the situation/day)
Interview by – De Se
Videographer – Roc’well
Editor/Director – K Rizz & Roc’well
Produced by – Julio beatz