The hip-hop and R&B duo are the latest to join PARADISE RISING
It only felt like a matter of time before a collaboration between MANILA GREY and a label like PARADISE RISING happened.
For Neeko and Soliven, the men behind the Vancouver-based duo, their Filipino identity and upbringing always influence the stories they tell and how they tell them through music. After their breakout hit Timezones and their equally successful follow-up single, Silver Skies, MANILA GREY continued to find ways to evolve that “east-meets-west” equation, building on their personal experiences as first-gen Filipino-Canadians. Today, representation is baked into their body of work in other ways: whether mixing in quintessential Pinoy cues into their lyrics, sets and performances, or collaborating with other homegrown talents.
No doubt this is what got MANILA GREY on 88rising’s radar and, by extension, that of the company’s Filipino-focused sublabel, PARADISE RISING. In early 2021, the two bridged that connection by sharing their single Island Baby (Maarte) and the rest, according to the two, is history.
In October, the rapper-singer tandem made their PARADISE RISING debut via the EP, semilucent 2, featuring other fresh Filipino talents Steven Peregrina, daze, CA Christian Alexander and Curtismith, and Manila Killa. Ahead, we get to know the two a little better and talk beginnings, closing out 2021 and their favorite Island Baby (Maarte) moments.
Wonder: We always love to start with an origin story. Let’s rewind: How did MANILA GREY come together?
MANILA GREY: [We] came together at a time when we really wanted to double down on our craft. We were brainstorming heavily on how we can create an impact in the game and tell our story as [authentically] as possible. We were also fortunate enough that our homies, our real 1z, are all tied into the creative field which helped push us outside our comfort zone. That was also the year that 1z Co., our Vancouver-based art and music collective, was born.
W: Can you name for us the turning point in your careers where you first thought, “Ok, we’ve made it?”
MG: The SILVER SKIES TOUR 2019—but a moment from that tour that always gets brought up with the homies would have to be XYLO in Manila. That was our homecoming show and everybody in that room made all the hard work and dedication that the team put in leading up to the tour worth it. From that point on, we’ve just been working. And knowing that our fans, our Real 1z are going to hold it down for us like that, is a blessing.
W: What would you say is the biggest change you’ve seen in you both as artists?
MG: The biggest change would have to be [our] confidence. We found our voice through MANILA GREY and being at the forefront of emerging Filipino artists, we accepted that responsibility and that role. We have solidified our chance now to give the youth role models that will say it [like] it is and not sugarcoat shit. No saints 4 life.
W: And how has the pandemic changed the way you two make music?
MG: We unlocked another level of honesty when writing music. We learned to not take moments for granted and live in the present because being a visual storyteller relies on lived experiences.
W: You once mentioned that you felt like you lost a year and now you’re playing catchup. What were some of the goals you two set out for MANILA GREY in 2021?
MG: Our rollout for 2021 was supposed to be tour-heavy. We wanted to see our fans. It’s unfortunate that even until now, there are restrictions and we can’t travel internationally. We get comments all the time saying, “Come to our city.” It’s tough that the situation is out of our control. But once the gates open up, we definitely want to travel and see the fans and bring the MANILA GREY energy to them.
W: Back to your first single now with PARADISE RISING. We’re curious to know. What’s your favorite line from Island Baby (Maarte)?
Soliven: “She knew I rose from the slums and she respect it.” We’ve come a long from where we used to live in the motherland, having a shorty understand and respect that is everything to me.
Neeko: “You looking like a whole [merienda].” It’s a play on the “you lookin’ like a snack” phrase. Honestly, it’s my favorite ‘cause it could be used as a fly pick-up line.
W: And can you tell us about your favorite memory or moment from filming the Island Baby (Maarte) music video?
S: I had the pleasure of directing the music video with Brock Newman. Just remembering the whole process of me writing my crazy vision down this one late night—from representing the spectrum of beautiful Filipina women, incorporating traditional [clothing], art, tuner cars, Dalmatians [laughs] and just the world MANILA GREY lives in. Seeing it from paper to getting executed on set was incredible. Mad love to our team; they didn’t question me one bit. It was all trust. All starters, no bench warmers on the team.
N: My favorite part had to be the atmosphere throughout the two days of shooting Island Baby. Everybody did their thing. We knew we aimed for the stars with this video and it was a lot to take on with the time crunch, but everybody on set brought their A-game and made it happen.
W: To wrap this up, where do you want to take your sound next?
MG: Simply take it to a place even more honest. Sonically, we will push the boundaries again but that’s something ya’ll have to wait for until the next project.
MANILA GREY feels fortunate for the opportunity to cap off 2021 with a tour across Canada. And a bonus: new music is already in the works, too.
Special Thanks PARADISE RISING
Art Alexandra Lara