Philippine pop, or P-pop as it’s primarily known today, is a relatively new strand of contemporary Filipino music. Much of Original Pilipino Music (OPM), as Filipino music is locally referred to, is an amalgamation of genres, ranging from rock, folk, soul, R&B, and others. Which is to say, the introduction of P-pop as a highly systematized approach to artist management and music production largely modeled after K-pop is enjoying an exciting cultural moment in the country today.

This brings us to SB19.

After only debuting three years ago, the five-member act has elevated and effectively subverted expectations for what it means to be genre-defying Filipino artists. The group—made up of Josh, Pablo, Stell, Ken, and Justin—boasts a dynamic stylistic range beyond traditional pop, bleeding into hip hop, electronica, and R&B, peppered with poignant lyricism.

Aside from writing their songs and choreographing their dances, the group follows a long tradition in music, especially in hip hop, of defying odds. We’ve gathered some of the most memorable lyrics they’ve penned, exhibiting their tenacity, drive. and resolve to pursue one’s dreams (English translation included):

1. “What?”

“Daming sakuna, ‘di ko ininda

Andito na ako sa wakas

‘Di na bala para iangat ang bandera

Bara na sa puso niyo na ang tatama, ah”

“All the tragedies didn’t faze me

At last, I’m here

Don’t need bullets just to raise my flag

From now on, these bars will hit all of your hearts”

A formidable cut off their latest Pagsibol EP, “What” is an empowering anthem that celebrates individuality. The track is a force of its own, unveiling a more domineering side to the group with its electropop elements interspersed with gritty rap solos. Throughout the track, the group channels their uncompromising zeal towards success with their signature lyrical prowess.

2. “What?”

“Bente-bente, paulit-ulit

Intelihente, subalit ngunit

Basag ang lente, pinunit-punit

Hinubog ng dalagang bakal, sirit, tsss”

“Twenty-twenty, it keeps repeating

Intelligent but,

Wears a broken lens, torn off

Raised and molded by the iron maiden, hiss (tsss)”

Also from the same track, the group proves their mastery at crafting vivid Tagalog lyricism that resonates with listeners. “What?” is brimming with skillfully arranged wordplay and authenticity that feels undeniably true to the character of SB19 and what they stand for.

3. “Bazinga”

“Come on and test me, you know nothing’s gonna stop me

Bring it all out now

All doors are closed and no light unfolds

So I’ll break the dawn in my home”

SB19’s chart-topping latest single “Bazinga” is their most quintessentially hip hop-influenced track yet. Written directly as a callout towards those who write them off with unwarranted judgment, the track is a powerful testament to their willpower to succeed on their own terms.

4. “Bazinga”

“Last time, I thought I already

Told you that I’m always ready

Come on and test me, you know nothing’s gonna stop me

Bring it all out now

All doors are closed and no light unfolds

So I’ll break the dawn in my home”

The group has undoubtedly made a name for themselves as artists who seek to radiate unfettered positivity and the message of hopefulness to their listeners—a difficult task considering the doubt and pessimism cast upon the group when they set out to pioneer a completely different brand of artistry amidst a cutthroat entertainment industry. “Bazinga” perfectly encapsulates their growth as artists while reinforcing that sometimes, kindness requires fortitude to assert oneself when necessary.

SB19 Bring Hip Hop To The Forefront of P-Pop With ‘Bazinga’

5. “SLMT”

“Sabi nila, ‘di ko raw kaya (hmm)

‘Lang mapapala, wala raw pag-asa

Bukambibig ng madla’y puro panggagaya

Pero salamat sa lahat ng naniwala”

“They said I can’t do it

Wouldn’t get anywhere, it’s all hopeless

Everyone kept accusing us of copying

But thanks to everyone who believed”

While “SLMT” (read as “Salamat” or ‘thank you’) is a departure from their rap-heavy tracks, the song is an ode to everyone who’s believed in the group, particularly their fanbase affectionately called “A’TIN”. The group is known for their humility and honesty about the struggles they’ve faced to attain the success they’re currently at. As much as they exhibit a kind of strength honed by grappling with the lows of life, “SLMT” is a refreshing take on the strength molded by humility and gratitude at its core.

6. “MANA”

“Huh? ‘Di ko na marinig sinasabi niyo

‘Di na nga umaabot dito sa kinalalagyan ko

Ingay pa ng katabi kong eroplano

I’ll go turbo, turning on the nitro”

“Huh? I can’t hear what you’re trying to say

It can’t reach me from where I am

And the airplane next to me is too loud

I’ll go turbo, turning on the nitro”

“MANA” is a highly conceptual R&B- and EDM-influenced track whose title is short for manananggal–a vampire-like Filipino mythological creature whose body is split into two with the upper half flying and its lower half remaining firmly on the ground. Drawing allusions to the nature of the manananggal, the song also represents the group soaring to uncharted heights in their explosive career while remaining grounded in who they are.

7. “Ikako”

“At sino’ng nagsabi buhay magiging madali?

Sisingilin ka niyan araw-araw

Bayaran mo paunti-unti, sulitin ang bawat sandali

Isipin mong mabuti kung pa’no mo gagamitin ang sukli”

“And who said life was going to be easy?

It’ll collect from you every day

Pay a little bit, make the most of every moment

Think hard about how you can use the spare change”

Taking another turn for their more balladeer roots, the group shows off their vocal chops in this moving tribute to pandemic frontline workers. “Ikako” is a portmanteau of the Filipino words “ikaw” (“you”) and “ako” (“me”), seeking to bring solidarity to everyone during a turbulent time that has disrupted us all.

8. “MAPA”

“Kaya ‘wag mag-alala

Ipikit ang ‘yong mata, ta’na

Pahinga muna, ako na’ng bahala

Labis pa sa labis ang ‘yong nagawa

Mama, pahinga muna

Ako na”

So don’t worry, close your eyes

Stop crying, rest for now, I’ll take care of it

You’ve done too much

Mom, rest first

Let me take it from here”

Is there anything more hip hop than wanting to make your mother proud? “MAPA” is another soul-stirring track dedicated to their parents, with its title being another blend of the words “mama” and “papa”. Amidst the glamour and thrill of fame, SB19 evokes the universal experience of wanting to make our loved ones proud.

9. “Go Up “

“Nangarap nang bukas mga mata, yeah

Lumakad nang may bubog sa paa, yeah

Lahat ng ‘yong pagdududa (duda)

Pakpak ko parang kay Garuda (ruda)

‘Cause I’m gonna go up (brah)”

“I dreamt with my eyes open, yeah!

I walked with broken glasses, stuck beneath my feet, yeah!

All your doubts (Doubt)

Are my wings just like Garuda’s (Ruda)

‘Cos I’m gonna go up! (Brrah)”

The group’s debut song “Go Up” still holds as one of their strongest tracks, setting the tone for what would be their extraordinary career trajectory. Armed with polished synchronized choreography, polished vocalizations, and impressive rap flair, SB19 once again showcases their unfailing optimism, matched with the commitment to actualize their dreams.

10. “Go Up”

“Tanging liwanag ang nakikita

Sa t’wing ipipikit aking mata

Bituin ko’y lalong nagniningning sa dilim

Walang makakapigil

Ito’ng aking pinapangako

Hinding-hindi susuko

Kahit pa ‘ko’y mabigo”

I can only see light

Whenever I close my eyes

My star shines even brighter in the dark

Nothing can stop me

This is what I promise

I’ll never give up

Even if I fail”

Three years after this song was released, SB19 has soared astronomical heights for any Filipino act on the world stage. Yet, endearingly, the group carries the same unassuming grace of young artists trying to make it in a world that can often be unkind. Despite constantly being affronted with doubt and criticism, the group continues to forge a path for themselves driven by hope and an infectious resolve to persist.