Back in February, Axe unveiled a series of master classes entitled “Project You.” They featured four trailblazers of the young creative scene, each speaker a champion of his own industry: chef Nicco Santos, street artist Jappy Agoncillo, fi lmmaker Gino Santos and rapper Curtismith.
The second of the series had Curtismith sharing his secrets on baring your soul through lyric and narrating your experience as a creative. With him was spoken word artist Serge Gabriel, who gave a talk on telling your story the way only you can. This was delivered to an audience of 19 aspiring artists hand- picked by Curtismith himself. They all went through an extensive application process against hundreds of others, all for the chance of learning from one of the scene’s heavyweights.
Some insights from his talk revolved around starting with the beat, or instrumental; the lyrics or vibe had to come from the backing track. “Whatever I get from the beat, I write it… choosing the right beat is half the battle.” Curtismith took Drake’s Over My Dead Body and broke down the verse, showing how this specific track taught him to write about his own life. He also cited other songs like Rigamortus, off Kendrick Lamar’s “Section.80,” as a prime example of virtuoso flow.
Serge Gabriel came on to discuss storytelling, using zany examples like taking insight from the specific garments of Dragonball Z’s Goku, Gohan, Vegeta and Trunks chose to wear in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, revealing their character. His advice was all about recreating your own experience for others who’ve never felt what you have. “How do you describe chocolate to someone who’s never tasted it before?”
After the talks, the class was given an hour to work on a 32-bar verse to one of four chosen instrumentals. The only task was to incorporate Axe’s credo “You got something,” and tell your own story of talent, work and hardship. From here, the competition was whittled down to the best five rappers who then delivered their own verses or freestyles, this time to any beat or lyrics that they wanted.
There could only be one champion, and the crown went to Stephen Lim, who delivered with an icy-cool R&B flow and witty punchlines. The prize up for grabs was a chance to produce a track with Curtismith, and perform it together at upcoming gigs. “‘Di ko na- expect na mananalo ako kasi nagsisimula pa lang,” he said.
Curtismith, along with Axe, came to inspire this young, scrappy generation of artists and creators to stay driven and hungry to express and embrace their truest selves. He wanted to remind not just his students, but everyone else that they’ve got something in them, and all they need is to bring it out. “Just keep going with whatever it is you’re doing, whether or not people are aware of your hustle. What matters is whether you’re putting in the work.”