Face to Face with Filipino hip-hop artist Nik Makino
The new episode of our "Face to Face" series isn't strictly speaking a "face to face", as four members of the Believe Philippines team visited local rap icon Nik Makino at his home to discuss his expanding career and his most recent successes.
You may not know it, but since the release of Francis Magalona's album "Yo" in 1990, the hip-hop genre has been alive and well in the Philippines. And to say that hip-hop in the Philippines is a mature scene is no overstatement: local acts and artists have flourished over the years, exploring all the genres that grew with the history of hip-hop, from boom-bap to gangsta rap. Several generations of artists have come and gone. And the new wave, with its deep-rooted hip-hop culture, is ready to open up Filipino hip-hop to the world. And one of the spearheads of this new generation is Nik Makino.
Active since 2011, Nik Makino started to gain recognition through a series of mixtapes and EPs, but he became a viral sensation thanks for his two hits songs “Lexi” and “Neneng B”, which garnered 95 million streams. A tireless artist, Nik Makino has been constantly releasing new tracks and projects in recent years, leading him to release Hype One, his first full-length album, in 2022. An album that marks a turning point in his career and in his approach to music: as a young father, Nik Makino is more composed, more lucid, but still full of energy and humor.
At Nik's invitation, Georgette Tengco (Country Director), Waheed Al Jarallah (Head of Artist Services), Pauline Concordia Hernandez (EMP Manager) and John David Laylo (Digital Marketing Manager) came to meet him at his home to talk about the evolution of his career, his vision of music and the business, and his future projects.
Georgette Tengco: Thanks, Nik, for having us and for agreeing to be our featured Artist for Believe's Face To Face. So, tell us about what it's like to be the first signed artist of Believe AS Philippines.
Nik Makino: Well, thank you for taking the time to visit me! I think it’s hard because I'm the first artist, so I imagine the expectation of Believe is high. Also, it was tough at first because I am not that familiar with the business side of music yet, so it was a bit confusing for me, but eventually, I got the hang of it. My experience with Believe is different from the other record labels or music businesses, because Believe gives me the freedom I need as an artist. They will not ask me why this and why that, they will only ask me about the plan, the songs that I want to release… That's why it's fun! And I feel solid, because I am the first signed artist of Believe Artist Services in The Philippines.
Georgette Tengco: I guess what that means is it gives you that freedom to really create the music that is really Nik right?
Nik Makino: Yes, that's the reason why I built my own studio here in the house.
Waheed Al Jarallah: Do you remember what we talked about when we first started working together?
Nik Makino: Yeah, I remember I was very confused at that time because I didn't understand what Believe is. I first searched about it on Google and it said that it was a scam. I asked my manager Patrick if we could trust this company, and he told me “It’s not a scam, we are directly talking to one of their leaders!”. We trusted the Company and now here we are!
Waheed Al Jarallah: After that transaction, we became like a family! Do you still remember our first release? When we were still young…
Nik Makino: Yes! The Aye Mami mixtape, it was the Nik Makino’s transition of from a “f*ck boy” to a good boy who loves dearly.
Waheed Al Jarallah: That's right!
Nik Makino: No, because sometimes it gets boring. What I mean is, when you are in this kind of field, and as you get older, you will realize that you also need to be aware of the words that you put out,
Waheed Al Jarallah: Of course.
Nik Makino: Because for me, an artist already has the influence on the kids that listen to my songs. It's either you destroy their minds, influencing them to drink or do drugs, or you can uplift them. This is the reason why I chose to change, and also because of my kid. I needed to change my theme and system.
Waheed Al Jarallah: Speaking of this, you chose to change your approach in your lyrics and songs. Why is that?
Nik Makino: First, when there's a party for kids, I'm not that happy to hear that they listen to my song “Neneng B”. As a human being and not as Nik Makino, I ask myself why I put out that type of lyrics when I hear my song in those party.
They are young, and then the song that they are listening to is not appropriate for their age, and their parents are having a good time and have no idea. I mean, don't get me wrong I am proud of what I've done, but I also observe how people react and I think that it's not appropriate. That’s why I really changed myself.
Like I said before when your voice already has that influence on other people, I guess you should be really careful of the words you put out. Because there's a possibility that they will learn from you or it might have a negative effect on them, depending on what you say, because they look up to you as an idol. They believe in you.
Waheed Al Jarallah: That's right, I agree. And then it's a signal it is not only motivational, inspirational. It's also viral, so all in connection. I mean, since people are already listening to your music, they will also be motivated like you are. Because you must really work hard every day for your music, so your audience can be inspired by what you do and follow your footsteps, which I think was your plan all along, right?
Nik Makino: Yes. During my first year in Believe, I was really depressed, so I asked myself why I was doing what I was doing. I really reflected on to figure out what is the real reason I do this. And the only thing I could think of was that I really wanted to inspire people. I mean, if your voice already has power, so use it to inspire people. So that's why I changed myself. And I also want people to think that even though we are at different stages of life, the hard work and hustle is still the same.
Pauline Concordia Hernandez: Your Spotify commercial is already out; did you watch it?
Nik Makino: Yes I already watched it, all of my friends also sent it to me and they were delighted to see me on TV, I also saw it on YouTube, so I am really happy that Spotify chose for promotion.
Pauline Concordia Hernandez: How about your playlist covers and billboards, did you see them already?
Nik Makino: Yes, the playlist covers are very nice and for the billboard, I personally went to see it in person, it is very nice and all the photos are new.
Pauline Concordia Hernandez: It is also a good thing that you are active on TikTok, it helped your social networks to grow.
Nik Makino: Yeah, because for me new media like TikTok, Reels, and Shorts help promote your music, that's why I really focus on them. So, when people use their TikTok, I'll be in the algorithm.
John David Laylo: Over the course of our partnership, you showed tremendous growth as a Believe Artist. What can you say about it? Were you expecting this advancement in your career, from “Neneng B” to the man behind the song “Moon”? Like when everyone says "San ka punta?", Nik Makino is the first guy you think of, right? So what can you say about the advancement of your career?
Nik Makino: There is a big difference compared to before, because as you can see I already have it all here in my home, unlike before when I still needed to rent a studio. And the fans don't call me "Neneng B" anymore, but "San ka punta". It was very awkward when they called me Neneng B because I'm a man. And my songs right now are not inappropriate anymore. It suits me more, because now I have fans in the older generation and not just the younger ones.
John David Laylo: Do you remember when we pitched the rebranding campaign from “a not so playable artist from Neneng B” to “now a married man”? What was your initial reaction to that pitch? If you remember well, it was the yacht campaign.
Nik Makino: It is in my plan to really change my image, I don't really like to be the "F*ckboy Nik Makino" anymore. Because my image is also part of the business that's why I really decided to change.
John David Laylo: And here comes my last question. I think you already got your new offer from Believe, so how Believe wins your trust?
Nik Makino: How did Believe win my trust? Well, they have always supported me and my plans, although there are times that they do not agree with some of the ideas because they think it's not right, but most of the time, they do agree with me, especially if I really like the plan.
John David Laylo: Would you say you are an official Believer?
Nik Makino: Yes! I am an Official Believer! When I started as the first AS it was hard for me to trust, because I was used lay out all my plan myself, at first but now I fully trust Believe with my plans.
John David Laylo: We currently are in the third year of partnership with you, we released Aye Mami, Bouncy Head, Censored, and your most viral album Hype One. So, what's next for Nik Makino?
Nik Makino: My next plan is a Netflix movie. Oh wait sorry that's a joke. But seriously, I'm not sure if I will release an album because I'm only releasing singles as of now, but I do have a Multiverse music video that was recently released and that's it as of now. But I have a lot of plans that are already lined up, and the Netflix movie… Oh sorry, I forgot that I'm not allowed to say it yet.
John David Laylo: Thank you Nik for welcoming us in your home.
Nik Makino: Thank you for believing in me, let's go Believe Music!