The Philippines is an unlikely location for the world’s most popular rap battle league, but Fliptop Battles has been steadily growing since its inception in 2010.
As of today, their YouTube channel has nearly 1.1 Billion views — no, that’s not a typo — with their highest viewed battle being Loonie & Abra Vs Sheyhee & Smugglaz. The thing that sets Fliptop apart from other internationally-based domestic battle leagues is their non-reliance on U.S. and Canadian guest battlers; it’s mostly all local talent, and most of the battles are delivered in their native tongue or in English.
The leagues’ founder, Anygma, has been travelling the world and representing both his country and his league, most notably in Canada thanks to their World Domination events. He’s also had two battles in Australia, with his most recent against talented Melbournite Epps clocking in at over 2 million views. His fellow bilingual spitter, Protégé, has also represented in both Canada and Australia with memorable face-offs against former KOTD Champion, Rone, and Australian top-tier lyricist Manaz Ill. Fliptop is also responsible for launching the career of Loonie, an MC that averages around 7 million views per battle, and has gone on to battle in English against Dizaster in the same arena where Ali fought Frazier.
The Philippines is a small country comprising of over 7,000 islands, boasting a population of over 100 million people. Culturally, the country did not take well to the product of organized battle rap, prompting the city of Makati to ban the sub-culture in its jurisdiction. The art of disrespect goes against the manners and customs of many Eastern cultures and societies, which is part of the reason for the slow embrace. Battle rap has largely been an English-speaking platform; it has taken time and generations to trickle down and spread throughout other language-based societies. However, there are still ways to go about it, as demonstrated by a lawsuit in 2017 involving a battle between Sinio and Shehyee. Sinio directed parts of his second and third verse towards Shehyee’s girlfriend, Internet personality, model and public figure, Ann Mateo. Mateo’s mother took exception to the bars and filed a slander lawsuit that has since been resolved, according to Anygma.
While some of the older generations may not understand or accept battle rap as a legitimate form of expression and entertainment, there is some progression being seen, with some academics describing it as modern-day ‘balagtasan’ which is a formal Filipino form of debate that some educators consider an art form part of the Philippines 21st century native literature. While the top MCs may never be household names or grace the Billboard charts, the Philippine movement is content with creating and furthering their own scene, culture and ultimately not pandering to the rest of the world. It’s highly respectable, and they have already proven that there’s enough interest and fandom from the younger generations to sustain the world’s most-viewed battle league.