Shanti Dope’s music video for his single Norem will be available for streaming on Youtube on July 23.
Wunderkind, Shanti Dope
Samantha Beltran (The Philippine Star) - July 21, 2018 - 12:00am

He was only 16 when his hit, ‘Nadarang,’ was released. Armed with an Awit Award nod and over 22 million views online, the future looks pretty dope for this teen rapper.

MANILA, Philippines — The crew assembles on the floor of a tiny coffee shop tucked in one of Tomas Morato’s side streets. Shanti Dope and his team settle into the café’s Instagram-ready interiors. A few minutes into the conversation, Shanti’s manager, Thea Pollisco, remarks that the coffee shop was the ideal location for the shoot, as Shanti wouldn’t have been able to shoot at a bar.

Pausing for a beat, it suddenly clicks: Shanti is underage. There’s a moment of clarity for this writer, and a renewed awe for this wunderkind, who, at just 17, has racked up over 22 million views on YouTube with his hit Nadarang, and received a nomination for Best Rap Recording in this year’s Awit Awards.

Pop culture has always favored teen stars, and there’s no doubt: Shanti is a total Gen Z baby. Born into the age of social media, it wasn’t long before Shanti amassed hordes of teenage fans after the release of his track, constantly touring and performing to packed crowds.

The concept of teen stardom is not new to us, yet there’s a certain peculiarity to how Shanti Dope goes about it. Shanti, who is hip-hop through and through, manages to navigate the adult world of rap, finding success both in the mainstream and underground realms.

Growing up in Cavite, hip-hop, particularly local hip-hop, was the music kids listened to, and Shanti Dope (real name Sean Patrick Ramos) was one of them. “Una po akong naexpose sa hip-hop, particularly sa rap music ‘noong ako po ay eight years old pa lang,” the artist shares. “Naririnig ko siya sa mga kalaro ko, nag-ra-rap battle sila sa kalye at kung minsan sinasabayan nila ’yung mga Tagalog rap. Pinapanood ko sila at na-amaze ako. Later on nakisali na rin ako sa mga rap sessions nila sa kalye o ’di kaya minsan sa mga eskinita na pinaglalaruan namin.”

Breaking into rap sessions on the street was just child’s play for Shanti, and it wasn’t until he turned 13 that he decided to seriously consider music as a career. “Noong panahon na ’yun ang lakas din ng local hip-hop scene dito ’noon, naglabasan sina sir Loonie, lumalabas na rin ’yung underground music, ’yung Fliptop sa TV, so ang dami ring na-impluwensiyahan ’noon.” That was also the time when the rapper tried his hand at writing his own verses, which soon caught the attention of his uncle, producer Klumcee, who immediately took the youngster under his wing. “’Noong una, nahihiya pa ako sabihin sa tito ko, kasi inisip ko baka hindi niya magustuhan, baka mamaya hindi maabot ’yung standards niya, hanggang sinabi na lang ng pinsan ko (sa kanya), ‘Uy, si Sean, nagra-rap ’yan,’” Shanti grins.

The name Shanti, Sanskrit for “peace,” is an influence from his father, a practitioner of Krishna consciousness, while Dope was added just because it was “astig.”

He and Klumcee immediately got to work, recording some of his verses onto a demo, which later landed in the hands of rapper Smugglaz. Smugglaz arranged for the young rapper to join him on his 2015 album, “Walking Distance,” alongside Hiphop 22, a collective that includes the likes of Ron Henley and Abra. He recounts, “Narinig ni sir Smugglaz, tapos isinama niya ako sa track niya na ‘Aming Hakbang’ kasama ’yung iba’t ibang artists na underground… noong una kong narinig ’yung boses ko sa speaker, doon ko lalo naisip na, ‘Uy, ito yung gusto kong maging ah.’ Dati, ibang tao ang sino-sound trip ko tapos ngayon, naririnig ko sarili ko. Iba ’yung pakiramdam.”

Success loomed. His track Nadarang, was part of his EP “Materyal” that was launched in December last year, quickly climbing to the top spot on Spotify’s Top 50 viral chart. Aside from Klumcee, This was also when he met his idol, and now-mentor, Gloc-9, a moment which he calls, “Isa sa mga pinaka-makasaysayang highlight sa buhay ko, mapa-music or (real life).” Shanti has a natural introspectiveness that sneaks its way into his tracks. Shanti contends that he’s always been observant as a kid. “Masyado po kasi akong mapag-obserba sa mga bagay. So ’pag may mga ganoong konsepto, mas nagiging curious ako at hinihimay ’yung kada sitwasyon. Parang lahat ng anggulo, tinitignan ko, minsan nagtatanong ako sa iba,” he reflects. “Hindi po lahat ng naisusulat ko ay base sa aking mga naranasan, dahil alam ko pong napakamura pa ng aking edad at ako ay medyo salat pa sa experience ng totoong buhay. Ako po ay tagapagsalaysay din ng istorya ng iba.”

While he can come off as a little precocious, make no mistake: he’s still a teen. When we’re not shooting, Shanti’s on his phone playing some mobile game or texting his friends. He manages, with his prodigious work ethic, to still attend school every day as a 10th grade student in Cavite, while still making it to his shows at night.

Yet it’s exactly his youth that makes the prospect of watching his career soar that’s so exciting. Shanti’s achieved all this at age 17; imagine what he can do 15 years down the line. Now, that’s dope.

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