Unapologetically Herself: Filipina Rapper Karencitta Is Conquering The Global Hip-Hop Scene

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L.A.-based Karencitta drops rhymes in Bisaya, repping Filipina talent globally. Here, she tells us why she's made it her mission to make the world a better place with her music.

Being an Asian woman in the global hip-hop scene doesn't faze Karencitta. "Female rappers have been on spotlight for many decades so it doesn’t scare me. It’s nothing new," the 23-year-old musician says. "Rapping in Bisaya however, feels like a milestone." And that, it is. Karencitta is the first of her kind, and Karencitta songs are unprecedented.

Born in Sydney, raised in Cebu, and now residing in L.A., Karencitta (real name Karen Ann Cabrera) makes art in her native language, Bisaya. Unapologetically herself, the LA-based artist hit the big time when her single "Cebuana" went viral in late 2017, her fast-paced verses dropping jaws all around the world.

Since then, she's released one banger after another, including "No Apology (Wala Akong Paki)". "'No Apology' is more than just a song," she tells us. "It's a movement. The depression & suicidal rates are mind-boggling to me. As a responsible artist, I’m obliged to shower the world with positivity."

This artistic philosophy is ever palpable in other Karencitta songs. Her most recent track, "1LOVE", was released on 2 October 2018 in commemoration of Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary. In our email interview, she tells us about the creative process behind "1LOVE" and how much has changed since "Cebuana".

Karencitta Songs: The Unapologetic Cebuana in Her Own Words

What is "1LOVE" about?

We are a human family but why do we propagate evil and hatred towards one another? When we are motivated by greed and jealousy, it is not possible for the world to live harmoniously. After I wrote all the lyrics of “1LOVE”, I decided to release this on October 2 as the official soundtrack for Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th Anniversary.

As an upholder of the humanitarian values that are the bedrock of world peace, I believe that:

  1. Universal humanitarianism is essential to solving global problems; our problems are manmade — therefore, they can be solved by man.
  2. Peace is the mother of progress. Without peace, a nation cannot make any progress.
  3. The kind of love we should advocate for is the wider love that you can have even for someone who has done harm to you.

I may not be able to single-handedly stop wars but I can promote peace.

How did you end up collaborating with Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash?

I created 1LOVE as the world peace track for my album. When my music producers (Robin Grubert and Jon Ingoldsby) heard the song, they suggested that we all collaborate with sarod masters Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash to create the soundtrack for Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th Anniversary. My main advocacy is world peace, so it was a no-brainer. We knocked out the music recording and video within one week. Respect to my co-director, Jimbo Celzo, for pushing world peace with me.

Well before "Cebuana", you were more known as a social media personality. When and why did you decide to pursue music seriously?

Music was the career path I conceived from the get-go. I developed my musicality by watching concerts of Michael Jackson and Britney Spears — I'd try to emulate them from as young as 2 years old.

How did you start making your own music?

I was part of the first wave of Youtubers. Around the year 2009, I started uploading covers. Then, I’d remix well-known artists’ songs; for example, if the original song was sung from a male perspective, I'd re-write the lyrics from a female perspective. That’s how I started writing.

How has your life changed since the success of "Cebuana"?

I haven’t noticed any major changes. I’m still the same goofy Karedad but for sure, I am my own biggest critic, so my standards and expectations for myself are higher.

How do you stay grounded?

Spending time with family and friends. It’s important to me to keep a work-life balance.

You’ve also done some acting. What was the experience on Funny Man like and is this something you’d want to keep pursuing?

100% yes! That was my first leading role in a Hollywood film, and it was an unforgettable experience. I fought a hard and tedious fight for that role — audition after audition and call-back after call-back. I also loved how I got to work with my director, Omri Dorani, every day — I was a sponge and tried to embody him in any way possible. He influenced my leadership. Filming around Los Angeles was the best. It was so fun. I remember all shooting days like it was yesterday and would love to relive it.

You’re so feisty and fearless. Where do you get your confidence?

I’d rather be risky and fearless. You need to be strong and fearless to get through everyday life. Money doesn’t fall from the sky. You need to face life with a bring-it-on attitude. To me, playing it safe is a big risk. Being risky is safe.

Listen to our Karencitta songs playlist:

Read about other inspiring women:

How Sanya Smith Left The Modelling World Behind And Started Saving The Planet

The Mixtape Of Mix Fenix: Why This Up-And-Coming Artist Doesn't Believe In Labelling Her Music

Ysa Yaneza On Staying True To Herself, Body Positivity, And Breaking Into Singapore's Music Scene