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Manila, Philippines

Knowing The Illest Morena: Bringing Success to the Streets

Manila, Philippines — "I am a fierce and a bad bitch artist. An artist who's not afraid to express herself and to tell people what I want," Illest Morena declares with a confident grin. This level of confidence and self-assurance has become her hallmark for her rapid rise in the Philippine hip-hop scene, landing her on the list of "Best Female Rappers in The Game."

An independent artist hailing from Mandaluyong City, Angelica Layague's (her real name) passion for rap was born out of her desire to express herself raw and authentically. "I couldn't sing when I was younger, but now I can," she explains. "So, I dived into rap. I dove into rap because it's much easier because I can write my own verses."

Embracing her limitations became the catalyst for Illest Morena to find her true calling. "I write my own verses. And you know, I don't know how to do it, but I can't reach high notes. And that was the standard back then. So, I started rapping, and I enjoyed it because it's just like poetry with rhythm and an instrumental."

As Angelica honed her craft, she deliberately set out to cultivate a style that was uniquely her own. "I developed my unique style. Basically, it's just a mix and match of my inspirations from other artists. And at the same time, adding in my personality, I let it show in my music as well so that I can be unique."

"I think the branding itself is in the name. Being proud of my skin color, being proud of being Filipino, being proud of my heritage," she shares.

Her refusal to be confined in a tight box of genre expectations or comparisons to other female artists has been a driving force behind her rise and fuel to be completely out there, differently. "When I started rapping, I often got compared to a lot of female artists then. And I didn't want that to happen because I hate it when fans compare girls to each other, so I really took my time to search for inspirations, live life, and create songs that resonate with me."

And the result? An unapologetic Illest Morena – carrying herself with pride. "I used to make songs that would cater to the mainstream, cater to the masses. I thought that was what they wanted from me, but what I realized was good music is good music. It doesn't matter what my lyrics are about. It doesn't matter if it's pop, it doesn't matter what subgenre I'm exploring."

She emphasizes, "I don't have to... How do you say this? I don't have to dumb down my art just for people to like it. I just do me."

Envisioning her future, Angelica exudes confidence and ambition. "Ten years from now? I see myself managing other artists," she reveals. "I believe I'd make a great mentor to new artists, guiding them to their creative journeys. As for Pinoy hip-hop, I see it thriving even more. We've come a long way in terms of social acceptance, unlike before where people would side-eye us listeners and enjoyers, and I believe we're on the path to becoming the new 'pop', breaking barriers and captivating audiences with our sound."

And for her fans, she has a simple message. "I'd like to thank you very much, I love you guys and I'll never stop making music to relate to, or, you know, have sexy times," she mused. "I'll never stop making music that would make you happy, and there's more for you to look forward to."

With her raw and authentic style, she's sure to cement herself strongly in the Filipino hip-hop scene, sure to pave a fresh way.


Creative Collective | Artists @illestmorena Creative Direction by @myc.priestley Photography by @jobcorpuz @___jcmedia Hair/Make up by @sofiasynocon Cover story by @luminassance Styling by @whatnowmargot Produced/Art Direction by @thenewhueph Special thanks to @astburyph @neweracapph



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