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Can’t do it like how we do it: life as rising hiphop star Waiian

by Gaby Agbulos AND Joyce Remo

FILIPINO rap artist Pablo Miguel Waiian Santos, or just Waiian when he’s on stage, has always been known to friends and fans alike for his fun and bubbly personality. And in true Waiian fashion, he’s the type of guy who’s easy to vibe with, or at least that’s how it felt when he entered republicasia’s newsroom.

Waiian is a 26-year-old rapper and CEO of the record label LIAB Studios. He is also part of the Filipino collective hip-hop group Kartell’em, known for its earworms Posse, Donat, No Drugs In Heaven, and Cypher 3 among others.

With his ever-present smile and his jokes that won’t fail to propel the room to burst into laughter, one might mistake Waiian for a happy-go-lucky type of guy. But with the comical aspect aside, Waiian’s sincerity towards his craft is manifested not just in his critical lyricism but his commitment to producing what he believes is the best output that he can share with his avid listeners.

And while he has kept his distance away from the limelight for quite some time, Waiian is back brighter and more vibrant than ever with the release of his brand new nine-track album WEEYAT?, a record that chronicles both the past and present events of his life and provides its audience a glimpse of the artist’s mental space.

Photo courtesy: Waiian on Instagram (@waiianworldwide)

How it all started

It was roughly seven years ago when Waiian began venturing into the local music scene. With the songs he wrote with his friends in high school, they would often contact random events, skateboarding contests, and even anniversary celebrations of clothing brands to ask them if they could perform their music at their shows.

In Waiian’s words, it was human interaction that made him who he is now as an artist.

“Mano-mano naming inukit yung pangalan namin sa eksena,” he told republicasia in an interview.

One of Waiian’s first few songs, Sing Along For You, is a track written for his college crush back in 2017. It was through this musical confession that he realized the power of words and music when combined to express someone’s deep-rooted emotions.

“Yung hook nung kanta na ‘yun is like I don’t know KPop but I would sing along for you,” said Waiian. “Pinatugtog ko sa kanya ‘yun tapos umiyak siya and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I have powers.’”

The Kartell’em member also revealed it was at this point when he began to understand that making music was really his thing. This apprehension was what made him stay on the creative side when the rest of his peers stepped into the real world.

Waiian would continue on in his journey in the Philippine hip-hop industry, making hit after hit after hit. Most popularly streamed is Solo Mission, a song he released in 2020 that now has over 5, 000, 000 views on YouTube and 7, 156, 833 streams on Spotify.

The Juan Dela Cruz life

According to Waiian, one of the biggest changes he experienced after basking in the music industry was that he could no longer enjoy the bliss of a normal Juan Dela Cruz life. He couldn’t hang out with his friends the way he used to without strangers asking for a photo, a sample, or a video greeting.

Because of this, he admitted that as he spent more years in the industry, his circle became smaller and more intimate.

He added that this friend group, which happens to be the same people he met before he started making music, is the people he talks to whenever he needs to reflect about his craft and his life.

One thing that has always been consistent with Waiian, though, is his way of incorporating his quirky personality and the truths he discovers as he navigates through his electrifying life.

The only difference now is that he’s more straightforward and critical when it comes to writing lyrics as he has observed that he used to babble nonsensical phrases when he was younger.

“Habang tumatanda ako, na-realize ko na minsan nonsene lang ‘yung sinasabi ko. Ngayon, habang nag-ggrow na ako ako, mas may pake na ako sa aking mga sasabihin,” Waiian said.

“Parang mas gusto ko sapul na sapul yung gusto kong sabihin. Mas kritikal ako ngayon.”

He calls this way of making music the Waiian rap.

The writing process

Many music artists draw inspiration from the people they met and value when creating songs. Some would even explicitly announce they write songs for a particular person, which adds a more personal touch to their outputs.

While it could also be true to Waiian, he emphasized that he follows a certain pyramid when making music, including the people he considers during his creative process.

At the bottom of the pyramid sits the audience, said Waiian, while the middle block is where his family and friends are. The top of the pyramid is for himself.

He explained that the most crucial part of the pyramid is the top block because this allows him to ensure that before letting it free for the world to hear, his songs are of superb quality.

“Pinaka-importante ‘yung taas kasi basura yung lalabas sa baba ‘pag hindi mo inuna sarili mo,” he said.

In making Rap Shit!

Waiian’s last release was in August 2020 with the single Rap Shit!. 

Waiian’s single Rap Shit! in August 2020 marked the beginning of his hiatus. He suddenly stopped making music. He walked away from the spotlight after experiencing the death of someone that had meant the world to him.

“The music, these interviews, the money I make, it didn’t matter to me anymore,” he shared.

In this hiatus, he took the time to connect with his family and friends, going on late-night adventures and camping out with them. During this time, he was able to celebrate even the littlest moments with them, which to him was the most important thing of all. 

These people, to him – they were the only things in his life that mattered.

His short break helped him to remember why he ever even joined the music industry in the first place: to be able to have control over his time, and to spend time with the people closest to him. In his mind, they have always been first, while he places himself second.

However, he couldn’t help but go back to music eventually. Why?

Because to him, not putting out music pains him; without it, he feels as if he has no use.

“Hindi ko kayang hindi magsulat,” he shared.

“Kahit nung hindi na ako gumagawa ng music, araw-araw pa rin ako nagsusulat, kasi yun talaga yung special skill [ko]. As long as may thought na nag-pop up, pumasok man sa kanta o hindi, lagi kong sinusulat yun.” 

Waiian’s journey thus far

As seen in the growth of his music, Waiian has done his best to pave his way in the hip-hop scene. Starting solely by messaging random events, contests, and clothing brands on social media to play his and his friend’s songs, he’s now one of the most sought-after artists in the industry.

“Mano-mano namin inukit ang pangalan namin sa eksena; it was really like human interaction, how people really met us,” he shared. 

And from working in a group to going solo, Waiian admits that there have been a few changes to his creative process, and with the amount of control that he gets when releasing his music. 

Instead of getting everyone’s input and having to tone things down for others to shine, Waiian gets to be as much of himself as he wants to be with each lyric he writes.

Even though his popularity has grown immensely since he first started, though, Waiian has made sure to stick to his roots, as seen in how he constantly still releases songs with members of Kartell’em whom he’s known for years such as Ruiijikun, Wavyier, and Aftermatt. 

He also says that there have been some changes to his manner of making music since he first started. For example, he takes longer to write his songs, and his more critical of each line that he writes. Now that he has more experience as well, he thinks about the production side of his music as well as he makes it. 

No matter what, though, there are three things that have always been present in his music: his personality, his lyrics, and his truth.

To all aspiring artists out there, there are three things that Waiian recommends: first, to listen to a lot of music. 

Second, to copy from artists – from a hundred of them, if you can. 

Finally, to have fun. Enjoy what you’re doing as much as you can, but remember to continue being a good person while doing so.



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