The rap scene in the Pearl of the Orient is as diverse as the adobo they eat. From joke raps to diss raps, jeepney rap to nerdcore, the Philippines is a hip-hop melting pot that keeps on giving. But not a lot of people know that the local rap scene extends beyond Manila. With the city capital now engrossed by the influence of Western’s chillhop; one young trap queen hailing from the province of Angeles, Pampanga dares to turn Filipino hip-hop inside out. Donna Cotton, more known as S V T V N V S (SATANAS), has taken over the city of Angels and she’s out for blood.
Blowing up with her first stage moniker, G V N D V L X C X X X$ (pronounced as Gandalicious), she marries Atlanta’s trap music with the crassness of urban Pinoy pop culture and the struggle that comes with it. Her bars contains tropical nihilism mixed with the unavoidable Pinoy optimism, getting fucked up on a daily, love for the occasional Ginebra San Miguel, and being lazy yet ambitious. She has went beyond the scene of Angeles and transcended to the streets of Manila. But a sound like hers cannot be contained.
So before this devil of Angeles comes loose, we stroke a deal that didn’t involve giving our souls. We got a chance to pick her brains on matters of hip-hop biblical proportions and some revelations. Here’s S V T V N V S thoughts on the Philippine hip-hop scene, the haters that called her shallow, and abandoning the name that made her big.
“I wanted my songs to express my sexuality, lifestyle, and persona; dark, depressive, masochistic, and fuck everything.”
STATUS: If you have a Tinder profile, how would you write your intro?
S V T V N V S: Socializing is not my thing unless I’m intoxicated. Self loathing is nothing but humor to me. Bad influence. Loves memes more than anything.
S: What’s the first misconception people think about when they meet you or hear you?
$$: Haha. I remember a couple of people said that they visualized me as an energetic and confident in person. They were a bit disappointed that I am awkward and shy in reality. Maybe they assumed that because my music were loud and honest.
S: If you’re gonna put a new label/genre on your sound what will it be?
$$: I don’t think I can answer that question because I am aiming for genuine shit and I don’t want to be labeled so maybe I’ll just let my listeners decide.
S: If you can make a mixtape that defines your sound, who would you put in it?
$$: I’d say Death Grips, Father and Flattish Zombies. Aggressive, intoxicated, self-loathing and full of pain.
S: What was hip-hop music for you growing up?
$$: Growing up, hip-hop was my comfort zone. It’s kinda weird because I listen to RnB than hip-hop when I was younger. I didn’t really like the idea of gangsta rap back then (until now, actually).
I just liked it cause I can imitate they’re accent when they cuss. I’d say I fell in love with hip-hop just by my friends influence when I was in my teens.
S: Is Angeles, Pampanga truly your roots? What’s it like growing up away from Manila?
$$: I am born and raised Angelenian. Growing up here was never boring because the locals has a diverse culture but everybody knows everybody; skaters, metal heads, rappers, producers, people who comes over for free drinks and stuff.
You’ll rarely be judged for what you believe in and that’s awesome if you are a dreamer ‘cause you get all the support you need.
S: How did G V N D V L X C X X X (Gandalicious) came to be? What’s the origin story of that?
$$: GVNDVLXCXXX$ was just a joke actually. I noticed most of the people who’s involved in the music scene named themselves something cool and tough, so I decided to name me something whack or funny. But my music will be dark as possible, something ironic, I suppose. I had no idea that people would actually buy it.
“I don’t wanna pretend I sell drugs and disrespect women ‘cause I’m never down for that shit. I’m not materialistic. Being rich and famous never solved anything. I just want to be an example to people, just honest verses about how I’m feeling without trying to sound smart or anything.”
S: How did you cement your signature sound or is it still evolving?
$$: I started writing verses back in 2012 as Dee Stona. At the time, it was Wiz Khalifa’s scene, stoned cliché. It sounded like a boom bap, humble stoner shit. And then came GVNDVLXCXXX$.
I wanted my songs to express my sexuality, lifestyle, and persona; dark, depressive, masochistic, and fuck everything. I want to give a new idea of what being a “drug addict” is, I guess.
S: What sets Manila and Angeles apart for you? Where do you prefer performing in?
$$: I don’t wanna compare shit cause it’s all the same routine for a gig. Scream for half an hour and get fuck faced after.
S: What made you change your stage name to $VTVNV$ (Satanas)? Is it only the name that has changed or the sound itself as well?
$$: Sudden realizations, maybe? Haha! Hmm, I changed my stage name because this time, it’s going to be the real me. The person I imagine being the “higher version of myself.” The style of music is still the same, I guess. But it’s going to be more authentic.
S: What sets you apart is how witty your bars and rhymes could be. It doesn’t pretend to be something from 88rising or Majestic Casual, it embodies the country’s urban culture and not in a cheesy “p33N0Yy Pr1d3” kind of way. What made you decide to brand yourself that way?
$$: I think it just happened. And I don’t want to use the American format, but I can still give you the quality of the thought. I can tell you how we live in our city without using “gangsta slangs” cause we don’t really speak that way here.
I don’t wanna pretend I sell drugs and disrespect women ‘cause I’m never down for that shit. I’m not materialistic. Being rich and famous never solved anything. I just want to be an example to people, just honest verses about how I’m feeling without trying to sound smart or anything.
S: What’s the biggest compliment that you’ve ever been given about your sound?
$$: The thank you’s from people who related to my music.
S: What’s the most annoying criticism that you’ve ever received?
$$: The people who thought my lyrics are too shallow and don’t make sense. Like; “Wow, I had no idea that music should be poetic and shit when it doesn’t even speak language.”
S: What would you say to the fuckers in the scene that had doubted you?
$$: Two words—FUCK ‘EM.