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One pinay has made a name for herself in the Hip-hop scene and is making her way to the top.

Ruby Ibarra is a Filipina rapper and spoken word artist based in California, USA. Her music speaks about the struggles most Filipinos faced in the US and even in the Philippines. She speaks about embracing her brown skin and encourages all Filipinos to embrace their origin. Through an email correspondence, Ruby shares her story on how she built her career in hip-hop.

Can you share with us how you started out in rapping?

I started rapping as a teenager. I initially used it as an outlet to express my frustrations at the time, when my parent’s divorce was quite tumultuous, and I felt like I had no one to talk to. So, I put all these thoughts to paper and for the first time I felt like I had a voice. I think my interest in writing these thoughts in poetry and rap form stemmed from the fact that I was also listening to a lot of Lauryn Hill and Em at the time, and so my fascination for words grew immensely.

What is your definition of success?

My definition of success will always be happiness; I think I will have self-fulfilment in any aspect of my life if I am true to myself. At this moment, I am able to travel the world by sharing my art and I couldn’t be any happier.

What actions and practices have you done in the past that you believe brought you to your budding success right now?

I think the buzz I have right now is ultimately due to the fact that I have always stayed true to myself and my experiences. I believe that when you are authentic with what you do, people will eventually take notice because you’ve built a foundation and anything fabricated will always be temporary.

What is the biggest challenge that you faced as a female rapper when you started out?

The biggest challenge I faced was cancelling out the noise of sexist remarks online. I had to develop tough skin and realized that those comments reaffirmed the importance of what I’m doing— challenging the norms and opening people’s minds.

What is one key lesson you’ve learned along the way?

The key lesson I’ve learned during my career is to not give up. It may seem like a simple and tired advice, but it is the most important for me, especially as a daily reminder. I think often times, when we set goals for ourselves, somewhere near the finish line, we inevitably reach self doubt. I cannot begin to communicate how many times I’ve second guessed myself, but during those times, I try my best to think with a clear head and remind myself why I do what I do and that the journey is part of the process.

What do you think is the reason why there is a limited number of successful female rappers in the hip-hop scene (both in the Philippines and the US)?

I think that although we may not see many womxn in mainstream hip hop, both in the Philippines and the US, there are still so many thriving local acts. Additionally, I’ve been noticing a shift in attention to womxn, and I am hoping that continues. The womxn’s voice, particulatly in the Philippines, is so important because it’s been a historically partiarchal society and it’s overdue for us to challenge and shift that narrative.

Note: womxn refers to females, but it is an attempt to get away from the patriarchal language according to BBC. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-45810709

Can you talk about one woman who has made an impact in your life?

No other woman has made an impact on my life like my mom. I credit my work ethic and drive to her. As a young woman, I saw her raise me and my sister by herself, in a foreign country. Early on, she taught me the importance of fighting for what you want and standing for what you believe in. My mom is the Pinay that I want to be, the very same Pinay traits that I celebrate in my lyrics, and the Pinay story that I hope to inspire others with.

Who is one female rapper that you personally admire and why?

I will always love Lauryn Hill. Her album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, was the soundtrack to my teenage years and shaped my identity as a woman— she taught me about vulnerability, (self) love/worth, and celebrating my womanhood. Her music is timeless and certainly affected me both personally and as an artist.

What advice can you share to aspiring Filipina rappers?

My message for aspiring Pinay rappers is: music needs you! Please share your story. Our identities are so rich in experiences and there is more than enough room on the stage for all of us.

You can watch Ruby Ibarra’s music video about celebrating being a Filipina here:

Featured image from Ruby Ibarra

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