Interview and text by Joey Dizon
There’s a fine tradition of excellent musicians, producers, and artists from all over the archipelago giving their Manila-based contemporaries a run for their money. Davao-based hip-hop group PLAYERTWO is keeping that tradition alive, as the quintet recently launched their debut album to a bumpin’ and jumpin’ crowd at Makati’s current hotspot, Apotheka bar.
The event—which had the group performing the album in its entirety—also featured performances by Jetter, Jolianne, CRWN, Duaneinsane, and Steelo.
A five-piece made up of rapper-producers Wave P, Luke April, and Ivo Impreso, joined by creative directors Ven Villariza and DJ Puhken, PLAYERTWO originally started with the duo of Ivo and Luke, both who coined the name in all caps in 2022. It was also last year when they hooked up with the rest of the crew and took their local music scene by storm. (Even if hip-hop wasn’t thriving like they wanted it to in their home province.)
Not too long after, the group scored it big with their breakout viral hit “That’s My Baby.” It has nearly 29 million streams on Spotify (a feat that landed them on Spotify’s 2023 Radar Philippines campaign) and has been used in thousands of TikTok videos. Ultimately, the band was signed to Warner Music Philippines.
Listen to “That’s My Baby” here.
“It’s all about [that] fun, collective energy,” says Ivo when asked about the album and its creative process. “When you listen to it, you’ll notice snippets of us talking, laughing, speaking in Bisaya at certain points in the song—we wanted it to sound like you’re in the studio with us recording the album,” he explains.
Ven shares: “The album title came from a Bob Ross quote, and it fits since we felt that we don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.”
You can listen to the entire album here.
Meanwhile, PULP.PH had the opportunity to chat with the members of PLAYERTWO right before the festivities began.
PULP: So, how did the whole music thing start for you guys individually?
Luke: As far as I can remember, I was always into music, and my first instrument was the drums. By the time I was in high school, I had learned the guitar. The transitions were natural, like any musician: I listened to many Filipino bands. By 2018, I realized that I could make my own music using my laptop, and because of what I saw on the internet, I was inspired to become a producer and an artist.
Ivo: I was 12 years old and really into Avici and EDM. It’s funny because I was into this girl, and she was really into hip-hop, so that’s what got me into it because I wanted to be cool! I was rapping along to Kanye, and ultimately, I found out about J. Cole and all the big players, so when I was 15 or 16, I decided I wanted to be a rapper. Before, I just wanted to be a producer, you know. Just be behind the scenes and all. But I took a shot when I found out I could write. I realized that some people may like it, and some may not, but you have to put your music out.
Wave P: It’s a crazy journey for me, a LOT of transitions: it started with basketball, then dancing, then DJ-ing. Through dancing, I realized I wanted to be like Justin Timberlake, a guy who could dance and sing. Then, I joined a competition in L.A. and saw posters of Flowerboy by Tyler, the Creator—they were everywhere in the streets, so I searched it and realized that I wanted to make music like he did. So, all three of us have the artist-producer thing going on.
Puhken: Sa father’s side ko, mahilig talaga sila sa music. Meron kaming mga plaka, a lot of tapes and I’d listen to them. I never thought I’d become part of the music industry, but realizing my father listened to various styles of music helped me with my own journey and tastes in music. Originally, I worked as a photographer and at a call center, but then I discovered I wanted to be involved in music events, so that’s where it all happened. I took photos at gigs and met these four lovely people, and the journey continues. Life takes you through different twists and turns.
Ven: My mom sings, and I grew up listening to cassette tapes, too, during road trips. But instead of getting totally into music, it was more of getting into directing videos. I wanted to be a director when I was young. I borrowed my mom’s camera to shoot all sorts of stuff. I watched Parasite back in 2019, and then soon after, I hooked up with these guys and decided I wanted to do cool multimedia stuff for them.
PULP: I can imagine that getting five creative guys together in a studio can be awesome and crazy at the same time. How do you manage everyone’s ideas?
Ivo: We all know when to lower our egos and compromise. We’re very passionate, but we all share a common vision. We decide as a group when we have decisions to make. We always talk to each other.
Wave P: Communication is really important. We’re always asking each other what each member thinks about the output.
PULP: Do you remember the first time you got in a room?
Wave P: Yeah, it all started with a feeling. We didn’t want to overthink anything. We went with whatever we felt at the time. That was our method. If we were in the mood to make music, we would do it.
Ivo: At the start, it was very exciting—we found each other, we were on the same wavelength, creatively. So, from the start, we just went for everything! We were like, “Sige try naten! Let’s do it!” It was a very gung-ho way of doing things. We shared the energy and just decided to see where it would go. We’re still like that to this day.
Puhken: Anything is possible, music-wise, visually. After the three of them had produced the music, they’d send it to me and Ven. Again, it’s the wavelength—we thought the music was dope and were excited to do our part.
PULP: I especially appreciate that PLAYERTWO comes from very different beginnings. Instead of the whole rap battle/stereotypical formative years, you were trying to be creative individually. What were the goals you set for yourselves back then, and how have they changed now?
Wave P: The first goal was to get traction on TikTok!
Ivo: It was! When we came up with “That’s My Baby,” we all said, “This is for TikTok, man!” So we just put it out. And it wasn’t like we wanted it to go viral. We just thought it’d be cool to hear it on that platform.
Puhken: And the goal is still the same! It’s all just about having fun. It’ll always be about that.
PULP: Tell us more about being a group coming from Davao. What was the landscape like when you were starting PLAYERTWO? Hip-hop is a big thing worldwide, but people do it differently in different parts, right? Was it easy to get people’s attention?
Ivo: It was new at the time to many people. The crowd there was used to street hip-hop and a lot of auto-tune trap. So, when we came into the scene, I guess some people were confused about what we were trying to do. But I’d also humbly say that they were amazed that a sound like ours could come from Davao, so we’re very proud of our contributions to the Davao scene, which is why we’re bringing it to Manila now.
Puhken: It was also pretty hard at times. I mean, events in Davao are very different compared to Manila, where you can throw parties even during weekdays, and people will still show up. So it was challenging to support homegrown talent: you had to find artists yourself if you wanted to, and you had to create events.
PULP: It’s also notable that PLAYERTWO isn’t just playing at hip-hop events since you’ve already opened for various artists and bands.
Ivo: Yeah, for sure. We never want to limit ourselves, so we label ourselves an alternative hip-hop group. We want to mix different styles of music. We love opening for other bands and artists, and it’s awesome that they love and vibe with what we’re doing.
PULP: Regarding creating Happy Accidents Vol. 1, what were your biggest hurdles?
Puhken: As funny as it sounds, we didn’t realize there was a timing. ‘Di pala kami pwede mag-release ng album agad or basta-basta. We didn’t know there was a process of having singles and needing to market things in a certain way.
Ivo: We didn’t know anything about it. We were like, “Marketing? Yeah, sure—but if it’s good music, it’ll get out there!” But we learned that the market was so saturated that all of these things came into play, and we had to go the extra mile to push our music. So, we moved our initial plan of releasing it in January to August—we planned it.
Wave P: So yeah, we want to do a homecoming show in Davao, but it’s something that we’d like to plan. So it’s a cross-the-bridge-when-we-get-there thing for now.
PULP: So what’s the next step? What’s in the immediate future now that the record is out?
Wave P: Volume 2 is already in the works!
Ivo: Yeah, we already got a couple of songs finished, but what we plan to do is go through them and pick the best from the lot and work on it further; it’s still the same plan as the first album: write what we like and release them as singles and pile them on until it’s a whole album.
Puhken: We didn’t want to think that way—we wanted to continue working; just because we released an album doesn’t mean we’re all going to take a break. We wanted to do more shows, hopefully bigger ones. We want to accomplish big dreams: conquer Southeast Asia, maybe the world.
Wave P: …and more collaborations!
Ivo: We have a list. The artists on our list are very different from us, so we hope to learn a lot from them.