PLAYERTWO’s origin story wasn’t exactly uncommon—the quintet from Davao, a city south of the Philippines—knew each other at a time they felt they were destined to.
“We all met at the right time in our lives,” rapper-producer Ivo Impreso tells HipHopDX Asia in an exclusive interview. “We were all coming from different issues [and backgrounds] when we got together.”
All five members of PLAYERTWO are established artists in their own right. Impreso, Luke April, and Wave P are the rapper-producers of the group, with Ven Villariza and DJ PUHKEN signing on as creative directors.
Before forming PLAYERTWO together, Ivo Impreso was already making R&B and hip hop music, Luke April started as a musician in a rock band before transitioning into producing, and Wave P was also active in Davao’s local house music and DJ scene.
Likewise, Puhken and Villariza have their roots in the local hip hop and art scene, with Puhken being affiliated with Davao’s Delinquent Society—a hip hop collective that made waves after being formed in 2016.
In 2018, Delinquent Society collaborated with Manila-based rap group Kartell’em with “Mnl2dvo.” Puhken revealed that they had made plans with Kartell’em in Davao, but it was postponed when the pandemic hit.
Puhken and Villariza are also affiliated with WE OUT HERE, an art collective that highlights the booming hip hop and street culture in Davao. In many ways, becoming PLAYERTWO became inevitable for all five.
“PLAYERTWO actually just started out as me and Luke,” Impreso continues. “It wasn’t until we released ‘TALK STRAIGHT’ that Wave P wanted to [be a] guest feature.”
The trio met after Wave P sent an Instagram DM. Things clicked and soon enough, Wave P became part of the group.
PLAYERTWO released their next single “HDYF” in October 2022—a marked departure from their debut. Whereas “TALK STRAIGHT” was a guitar-driven alternative rap number, “HDYF” features booming horns, screams, and a thumping bass line.
Part of the members’ work dynamics—and perhaps one of its most valuable—is their ability to push each other outside their respective comfort zones. “[Ivo] doesn’t really shout, and when we were recording, we told him na kaya niya yan (he could do it), and just let it all out,” Luke April shares.
It’s a testament to how well their different influences manifest as a group. They all have a hand in the production process and aren’t afraid to experiment with different sounds or subgenres. “It’s all pushed by emotion,” Wave P explains, as he describes how they reconcile their differences when making music together. “Sometimes one of us will show an old beat or lyrics that we made before, and then someone will realize that they have a beat that fits, and we just ride the wave.”
While other artists may find navigating the other aspects of a music career daunting—or perhaps even opposed to it—such as promotions and marketing, the Gen Z members of PLAYERTWO not only embrace the process but wield it in their favor.
Part of PLAYERTWO’s engagement with its audience is holding regular live posts on TikTok to keep their followers up-to-date, and not just solely about upcoming music or projects. They understand that they are part of their music, too, and therefore, need to be visible and, therefore, must serve a purpose.
This is why it seems not entirely surprising that their breakout and currently trending single, “THAT’S MY BABY,” are dominating streaming platforms. The official video, which was released just a little over three months ago, is almost hitting 700,000 views on YouTube—a remarkable feat for a group that only started releasing music online last year.
“We wanted to make the music video meaningful, so if you look [hard enough], there are little Easter eggs or stuff that shows off our personality,” Villariza shares. The music video is just that—a love song set to a story about falling in love with a dog.
“We also wanted to make it where [Wave P] is the dog, and the video is about how they love [the dog]. Even though it’s a love song, we wanted to showcase the different kinds of love.”
It’s a mix of personality, authenticity, and a catchy track that skyrocketed the group to millions of streams. Local Internet personality Cong TV also featured the song in a vlog, which has garnered over 2.4 million views as of writing.
“Everything is planned,” Wave P explains when we ask the group how they felt about the success of “THAT’S MY BABY.” What started out as a surprise when they saw it hit thousands of views turned into an opportunity to maximize TikTok for their music.
It was a natural task for Wave P, whose day job already centers around social media marketing. Their latest single—out today—is titled “TIKTIKTOKIN,” which they clarified was not a reference to the app, but the sound of a clock.
Regardless, they have been teasing it on social media, especially on TikTok, as part of their content marketing. It’s this resourcefulness that the group says they’re proud of and that they apply in every aspect of their music.
“Yung [official] photos na nasa Spotify namin, gamit iPhone lang ‘yan. At yung music video for “THAT’S MY BABY,” binorrow lang namin yung camera…we wasted, like, half a day just figuring how to use it!” (The official photos on our Spotify were shot with an iPhone. And the music video for “THAT’S MY BABY,” we just borrowed the camera…we wasted, like, half a day just figuring how to use it!) Puhken and Luke April share. They’re self-professed “DIY kids” and proud of it.
The viral success of “THAT’S MY BABY” landed PLAYERTWO a record deal with Warner Music Philippines, over 4 million streams on Spotify, and an ongoing tour in different cities in the country.
They also are currently under the wing of Paraisla’s Bret Jackson, alongside the network of artists within the Bisaya rap movement. Beyond just releasing more music in the upcoming months, the boys hope to collaborate with other Bisaya rappers, which they were unanimously quick to say, “Midnasty,” when asked who they wanted to work with first.
While rap groups or collectives aren’t necessarily new in the Philippines, the PLAYERTWO boys lean into their Gen Z sensibilities and make it work for them. Whether it’s DIY press photos with iPhones, creating a campaign strategy for TikTok, or engaging with their fans on livestreams, they’ve struck the right balance between friends just having fun making music together and the seriousness that comes with making it in an oversaturated music industry. This immense success as early as their career journey together is exciting, especially given that these boys aren’t “rookies” at their craft. It’s what makes them a group to watch out for.
All inline photos courtesy of Paraisla