Through “Lahi,” the Dumaguete-born and Ghana-raised hiphop artist shares his worldview
After closing 2021 with a creative multimedia project with James Reid, Massiah conquers 2022 with his debut album: Lahi. The Dumaguete-born and Ghana-raised hiphop artist has always been proud of his roots, and it takes a more prominent shape in this record. Lahi’s definition combines both its Cebuano and Filipino meanings, which respectively translate to “different” and “race.” Through his music, Massiah champions his mixed heritage, life in the islands and how it affects his worldview.
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Tourist Chick kicks off the album, a love song to both his favorite place in the world and the girl he’s into, bragging about the island life. The rhythm’s sustained by its addictive instrumental and Massiah’s verses. In the same breath, Massiah takes his girl out around for another cruise around Island City, where he recruits BMW singer, Because. It’s a smooth and sophisticated beckoning to come down and unwind to. The sensual mood goes a notch higher with First Time. Its upbeat Afrobeat instrumentals are infectious enough to have you dancing but not too palpable or energetic.
Higher, one of his earlier singles off Lahi, opens with subtle sounds reminiscent of pared-down rainsticks. Meanwhile, Frequency is another obsessive hiphop track, boasting how two people in the same wavelength stick and blend, much like two peas in a pod. We hear Massiah play with autotune and voice distortions in these tracks, effects that could be unwelcome if not well-executed. But as Massiah thoughtfully places each experiment in the songs, he brings a welcome twist to his hiphop, R&B and neo-soul influences peppered throughout the record.
The mood slows down in Lahi with the ballad Silhouette, his collaboration with fellow semilucent alumni Fern. and singer Cavill. The synth-led song, mixed with ringing piano chords, starts off unhurried and steady. Fern. and Cavill’s soulful vocals lend a layer of passion as the song builds up to the bridge. Here, earthy drums and cymbals reach a crescendo. The mood continues with the somber track, Stay With Me. The chill, almost lo-fi song seeks for more moments before Massiah ultimately lets go of the girl he’s singing about. It’s bittersweet but also basks in the in-between, an act of bargaining before the inevitable end.
Massiah leads us to the album's end by flipping the switch and taking the mood up a notch. Paid for It, which we heard first in 2021, opens with acoustic guitar chords. Then, after the bittersweet yearning, he looks back at his climb to where he is now. Massiah boasts the ride he survived because of his commitment to the grind. Lahi closes with the last collaboration from the track, High off Life with James Reid and August Wahh. It’s a song expected of artists from CARELESS MUSIC, where Massiah’s vibey and easygoing flows bleed towards James’ soft vocals. Nonetheless, August Wahh’s bridge offers an almost dreamy layer to the track. Her feature cements its title as a euphoric high from any current state of mind.
Coming in with his signature sounds mixed with earthly instrumentals, Massiah transports us to the islands with Lahi. It’s free-spirited and sonic, sometimes almost dream-like, providing an escape from the hustle and bustle of crowds and cities. All throughout, Lahi tells a story, from the trials and tribulations of making it and enjoying the ride. It narrates the high of exploration, the thrum of triumph and the bittersweet moments we often don’t expect. The city mindset may overcomplicate things. But Massiah, armed with his easygoing flows and lyrics shaped by his history, shows us how life can still be deemed simple.
Stream Massiah’s “Lahi” on different streaming platforms.
Art Macky Arquilla