LIVING room where the rapper watches Discovery, National Geographic and History Channel programs. Photo by Rodel Rotoni
Welcome to Abra’s private world or, in urban parlance, his “crib.”
Who would have guessed that this well-appointed home in a sleepy subdivision somewhere in Pasig nurtured an award-winning rapper-musician and YouTube sensation?
Abra masterminded the year’s biggest hit, “Gayuma,” and its music video that has scored 20 million hits on YouTube, plus a slew of industry awards.
But who is Abra?
Abra—Raymond Abracosa in real life—is the first to admit that his background is not typical hip-hop lore.
Much like Gloc-9, a nursing graduate, Abra came out of left field.
HE HAD a normal, happy childhood, he insists. Photo by Rodel Rotoni
He earned his high school diploma from Colegio de San Agustin and graduated with a degree in Management from the University of Asia and the Pacific in Ortigas Center.
Not exactly the raw and gritty stuff rappers are made of, Abra specifically seeks to jump out of the box. And break stereotypes.
To start with, there’s his rather sedate “crib.”
Abra readily admits that he’s no homebody.
HE HAS given away several baseball caps from his sponsor Wip. Photo by Rodel Rotoni
On his days off from gigs, he will not be cooped up in his room (painted in a soothing shade of blue).
“I’d rather go out,” he quips. “Gumimik. Eat out. Watch movies. Good thing we live near a mall.”
But if there’s a deadline looming, he can be quite disciplined, too.
“GAYUMA” DVD as it appears in the music video. Photo by Rodel Rotoni
“If I need to finish a song, I prefer to work in my room so I can concentrate,” he says.
His bedroom isn’t necessarily where he is most creative. “When I’m not sure what to write, I go out and look for ideas everywhere,” he says. “When I wrote ‘Gayuma,’ I didn’t stay in my room. [That] is a mixture of several personal experiences.”
Lest anyone get the wrong notion, he points out: “It’s not that I courted a trannie or fell victim to a gayuma (love potion). My idea was to make gayuma a metaphor for deception [to show] that love is blind, love is shallow.”
SIX OF industry trophies he won recently. Photo by Rodel Rotoni
Abra mined his friends’ love woes for inspiration.
He recounts: “I looked back on my friends’ stories, on the movies I had seen, the things I read in newspapers, all the stored information I had on the topic. But I didn’t want to write a love song. So I came up with a pseudo-love song,”
He clarifies that “Gayuma” can mean different things to different people, “depending on your interpretation. It’s universal. I guess that’s the reason people liked it. Everyone has his own ‘Gayuma’ experience.”
The flip side of success is controversy, however. Some people found the video “homophobic,” he confesses. “I am not dissing gays,” he says emphatically.
MAKATANG Hibang tee. Photo by Rodel Rotoni
He elaborates: “Gayuma” aims to raise pointed questions and provoke meaningful dialogue. “That’s what I want in a video. After watching it, you should be moved to watch it again because you want to understand it more.”
That’s replay value.
And that was spoken like a savvy marketing man. Obviously, he’s putting his Management degree to fine use in the music biz.
HIS first batch of ballers was sold out. Photo by Rodel Rotoni
“I finished ‘Gayuma’ in 2011, but I waited for the right time to release it,” he recalls.
After a year of waiting, he noticed that hip-hop artists Gloc-9, Ron Henley and Loonie were among the front-runners in the charts, accumulating over a million hits on YouTube. It was a basic economic principle: There was a demand, and he was ready to supply.
He explains: “That’s what I want to share with other aspiring artists. Diskarte (Strategy). Of course, having a top-notch song is important, but you also have to have a good marketing plan, in order to sustain your art.”
He signed up with YouTube early last year, under PinoyTuner, which gave him his own channel: aabraatv. He gets a certain amount per view.
For “Gayuma,” he won trophies at the Myx Awards (favorite music video and favorite urban video) and at the Wow 89.1 Urban Music Awards (best new artist, best collaboration, people’s choice).
HE SURFS the Net in his room. Photo by Rodel Rotoni
He will top-bill a concert at the Big Dome, entitled “Araneta Dreams,” on Tuesday, April 9, along with music greats Freddie Aguilar, Gloc-9, Loonie, Greyhoundz, Ron Henley, Q-York, among others.
“We just finished the storyboard for my next video, ‘Ilusyon.’ That’ll be something different, too. Socio-political commentary.”
As a rap artist, he has a simple goal: “To be a game changer.”
There’s no one in the family with a music background, Abra volunteers. “I’m the first to join the music industry. And it’s a different kind of genre pa: Rap. Hip-hop.”
The middle child in a brood of three, Abra insists that his childhood was pretty uneventful—no scarring traumas comparable to Eminem’s or Kanye West’s.
“I was a happy child,” he says. “I was into normal stuff. Gimik. Hanging out with friends. I was into traveling.”
TIMBRE headphones used in the video. Photo by Rodel Rotoni
Scattered all over the living room are family photos of trips taken in Hong Kong and the United States.
His parents also enrolled him in painting classes at one point. “My introduction to art,” he says.
He was constantly exposed to movies and books as well. A landmark film in his growing-up years was Eminem’s “8 Mile”—his introduction to rap.
“I was a movie addict. I would watch three films a week,” he says. “My favorites were ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Star Wars.’ I also liked the comedy flicks of Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey. I saw (Sacha Baron Cohen) ‘The Dictator.’”
THE SERENE home is decorated with souvenirs and framed photos from family trips. Photo by Rodel Rotoni
As far as reading fare is concerned, there’s a well-thumbed English-Filipino dictionary on his bedside table, along with Bob Ong’s “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino.”
“I am not ashamed to admit that I read four ‘Harry Potter’ books when I was young,” he remarks.
Books, he says, spark his creativity. “The books I read in school, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and Dante’s ‘Inferno,’ were a big help, too.’
He’s a self-avowed “knowledge” junkie. “When I was a kid, I loved reading the encyclopedia. I’ve retained my love for facts and trivia. And until now, I always watch National Geographic, Discovery and the History Channel.”
As a kid, he was also into RPG (role-playing games). “I played video games like Final Fantasy, Chrono Cross and Legend of Legaia,” he says.
He confesses, however, that he was a naughty kid, too.
Even though he grew up in a rather affluent milieu, which he described as “sosyal (posh) and English-speaking,” his individuality (and love for hip-hop) was embraced and encouraged by his peers.
ABRA signed up with YouTube last year— now he has his own channel and gets a certain amount per view. Photo by Rodel Rotoni
“My barkada and I joined the hip-hop scene. That was LDP: Lyrically Deranged Poets,” he reminisces.
It was a double struggle. He had to fit in in two disparate worlds: The high-class turf of his classmates and the thrilling underground hip-hop scene.
“People used to look down on hip-hop as jologs (low-class) and baduy (tacky). But the perception is slowly changing,” he notes.
Overcoming class bias is a common rite of passage for many young Filipinos. Abra advises other teens to simply be themselves.
He says it’s wiser to “come up with your own look … no one can fault you for not being trendy because you don’t follow trends.”
He defines the “Abra” look as unique but low-key. “I can blend in, but you can still notice that I’m into hip-hop.”
He shuns bling, however, and all the usual accoutrements of the hip-hop world.
“I’m not a collector. I’m content to have just one new pair of shoes in a year,” he says.
These days, he’s partial to Nike SB (skateboarding) sneakers.
His favorite scent? Clinique Happy for Men.
He started accumulating headgear after local brand Wip Caps signed him up as endorser.
He is now thinking of branching out with his own merchandise line. He has tested the market with his own ballers.
“Our first batch of ballers was sold out,” he says, proudly.
Abra shirts are now in the works. He looks up to the late rapper Francis Magalona, whose FrancisM Clothing Company has become an iconic label.
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For the Philippine province, see Abra (province).
Raymond Abracosa, better known as Abra, is a Filipinohip hop artist and occasional actor. He gained popularity in his song "Gayuma". The music video for the song shows Abra being given a potion only to realize that his love interest is in fact transgender. When the video reached more than 26 million views on YouTube, it was hailed as the highest number generated by any local artist.
His career started as a member of Pinoy hip hop group Lyrically Deranged Poets (LDP) in 2010. He joined the Fliptop Battle League as Abra. They released their independent debut album, The Project in 2009, and had their first major concert at the legendary Music Museum in 2010. LDP was awarded Best Urban Group at both the 2010 and 2011 Urban Music Awards, among other nominations. In 2011, LDP was granted TV air time on myx for the music video of their song, "Here to Own It", which was able to enter the charts. He is also a major icon in the Fliptop battle league, as well as a co-host on PTV 4's show iConnect.
When the Fliptop and Sunugan rap battle leagues came about in 2010, Abra was one of the first battle emcees to compete and gradually make a name for himself. After a couple of intense rap battles, Abra has been considered as one of the heavyweights in Filipino rap battling. Using his compelling lyrical style coupled with witty antics, he is able to impress viewers and artists alike; and has YouTube videos that have amassed millions of views. It did not take long until Abra was able to perform on live television, radio shows and various events across the country.
In 2013, Abra and his label Artifice Records signed a major distribution deal with Ivory Music & Video. He released his self-titled debut album nationwide on February 21, 2014. He took home the 'Best Music on YouTube Award' for his YouTube Channel called 'Abra TV' at the 2013 Globe Tatt Awards. On March 29, he collaborated with Maja Salvador for the song "Halika Na" on her debut album Believe.
The music video "Cerberus"- featuring Loonie& Ron Henley under the direction of Willan Rivera won MYX Philippines Best Music Video Award of 2016.
- Abra – self-titled album (released nationwide February 21, 2014)
- The Project (with Lyrically Deranged Poets) (2009)
As featured artist
Television and media appearances
- The Voice of the Philippines (season 2) (ABS-CBN, guest performer)
- ASAP (ABS-CBN, guest)
- It's Showtime (ABS-CBN, guest judge/performer)
- Kris TV (ABS-CBN, guest)
- Gandang Gabi, Vice! (ABS-CBN, guest)
- Sarah G. Live (ABS-CBN, guest)
- Rated K (ABS-CBN, guest)
- Showbiz Inside Report (ABS-CBN, guest)
- Kapamilya, Deal or No Deal (ABS-CBN, guest player)
- Minute to Win It (ABS-CBN, guest player)
- Pilipinas Got Talent (ABS-CBN, guest)
- Banana Split: Ihaw Na! (ABS-CBN, guest)
- Bandila: Ikaw Na! (ABS-CBN, guest)
- Wowowillie (TV5, 2013)
- iConnect (PTV 4, 2012–present)
- Sharon: Kasama Mo, Kapatid (TV5, guest)
- Party Pilipinas (GMA, guest)
- H.O.T. TV: Hindi Ordinaryong Tsismis (GMA, guest)
- Celebrity Bluff (GMA, guest player)
- Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho (GMA, guest)
- The Ryzza Mae Show (GMA, guest)
- Flashbook (GMA News TV, guest)
- Front Row (GMA, guest)
- Aquino & Abunda Tonight (ABS-CBN, guest)
- Buzz ng Bayan (ABS-CBN, guest)
- Tunay Na Buhay (GMA, guest)
- "Gayuma" (feat. Thyro Alfaro & Jeriko Aguilar; September 2012)
- "Ilusyon" (feat. Arci Munoz; July 2013)
- "Alab ng Puso" (Juan dela Cruz OST)
- "Rejoice Haba ng Hair" (for Rejoice commercial)
- "Rejoice Ikaw na ang Malupit" (for Rejoice commercial)
- "Midas" (feat. Jaq Dionisio – Boy Golden OST)
- "Sanib Puwersa" (feat. Raimund Marasigan, for Colt 45 commercial)
- "Dedma" (feat. Julie Anne San Jose; October 2014)
- "Diwata" (feat. Chito Miranda; December 2014)
- "Cerberus" (feat. Ron Henley & Loonie; September 2015)
- "Bolang Kristal" (feat. KZ Tandingan; March 2016)
- ^"Six things you didn't know about rapper Abra". GMA News Online. April 10, 2014. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- ^"Fliptop rapper taps Vice Ganda for new single". ABS-CBN News. March 12, 2012.
- ^"20M Hits on YOUTUBE: ABRA sets a high bar". PhilippineShowbizNews.com. March 26, 2013.
- ^ ab"Abra, Artifice Records sign up with Ivory Music & Video". The Philippine Star. June 10, 2013. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
- ^"Abra releases debut album". 16 March 2014. The Philippine Star. Retrieved April 10, 2014.
- ^"Abra TV". Archived from the original on April 13, 2015. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- ^Globe Tatt Awards 2013 Winners List Revealed. Philnews.ph (2013-07-06). Retrieved on 2015-09-01.
- ^"Maja Salvador: 'Believe and it will happen'". 29 March 2014. Manila Times. Retrieved April 10, 2014.