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HUESPAPER BY THE NEW HUE

Manila, Philippines

Sassa Gurl: Nesting A Music Scene out of its Closet



Known to many through her funny and relatable online skits, transgender advocate and rap artist Sassa Gurl has wiped her blush off for her music persona, Sassa Boi. Without the popping red cheeks, the character has persistently committed to adding new contours and highlights to the local music scene.


In 2022, the influencer’s “boy” counterpart was introduced to the hip hop and rap scene in the Philippines, through a title track called Maria Hiwaga. With a deep and raspy voice reminiscent of male rappers, he shamelessly and sexually fantasizes over Sassa Gurl.


According to her, the character she portrays is a mockery to the male gaze prominent in the Filipino rap scene. Ever since she was a child, she said, the genre of music has been used against her sexual and gender identity.


“It is [a parody of] the male hip hop culture. Nung iniisip ko siya, dati, kinakantakantahan ng mga lalaki ng mga sexualized hip hop [songs]. Why not gawin ko yun sa sarili ko.” the influencer said wittingly.


Sassa Boy maintained and established his appearance in Sassa Gurl’s most recent release, Panaginip, setting the tone of the artist’s direction in the music industry.


Sassa expounded how this started off as “straight-baiting,” a supposed callback to the misogynistic and queer-baiting behavior of some cisgender male rappers of the past. This explains why the sound hits close to fans of Filipino rap music.


Not dysphoric about portraying a male character, the transgender woman likened Sassa Boy to being in drag. Some might see the character as regressive, but for Sassa, it means being secure and fully owning her gender identity.


“This is me trying to reclaim my [identity]. As a trans person, pag bumalik ka sa pagiging lalaki mo, kalaruan siya,” Sassa explained.



Taking up space


For Sassa, the space provided for queer people within the rap scene is niche. However, she took this as an opportunity to front the community’s lived experiences, including their pain.


“As queer people, we have a lot of pain. Pain is knowledge. Wala pa masyadong kwento sa Philippine [rap scene] ang kabaklaan,” she expounded.


Sassa also believes that queer individuals offer a distinct way of storytelling, both lyrics and musicality-wise. It is a sound that shouts their struggles fashionably and with hype.


Sassa tries to break what is expected of Filipino rappers. Adding a queer touch to the sound, she tries to make it sound more dynamic, diverse, and alluring to the genre’s avid listeners. She said:


“Sa maraming scenes ng rap, maraming restrictions at norms, bawal ang kabaklaan. Pero ang kabaklaan, it hypes you and gives you life. Something na hindi pa naririnig [ng karamihan].”



Nesting it out


In recognition of the current conditions of the music industry, Sassa knows that she has to take the first punches in what otherwise would be normal in the decades to come.


“[We are] trying to build a universe for the queer community in the [rap] scene. Any moment na may maling gawin, pwedeng gumuho nang bongga. We have to be strategic,” the artist said.


Humble as to not claim leading the pack, Sassa knows that the community of queer Filipino rappers is currently small, however growing.


Sassa likened the queer rap scene in the country to the concept of coming out. She described it as “medyo tago pa” at “hindi pa nag-oout.”


With this, Sassa said that she, along with her fellow queer rappers planned a performance to expand their tune’s reach during Pride PH 2024.



Due to the showers, however, the remix of Maria Hiwaga, Lady Gaga’s 911, and the famous children's song, Baby Shark, was not heard by the crowd at the Quezon Memorial Circle.


Thus, Sassa plans to shake the local rap industry by releasing an online music video of the very performance with fellow queer rap artists, Pette Shabu, Cataleya, and Harvey.


Whether through Sassa Gurl, Sassa Boi, or any other character she portrays in her online skits, she remains steadfast in adding color within the rap landscape, heavily based on the struggles and historic wins of the collective.


This is a promise Sassa holds both for the music scene and the queer community. A promise she is fulfilling and more.



 

Creative Collective Artists @itssassagurl Creative Direction by @myc.priestley Photography by @khristiandt @babecage69 Photography assistance by @zneps

HMUA by @sofiasynocon Styling/Assistance by @dellmorales @llunenoir @peytthepoltergeist @sopi_yaaaa Cover story by Harry Serrano

Produced by @thenewhueph Location @astburyph Special thanks to @neweracapph

 

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