Meet Alex Bruce, the 12-year-old Filipina rapping about empowerment

Amanda T. Lago
The young emcee is already making waves in the local hip-hop scene – and she's not even in her teens

SPITFIRE. Alex Bruce performs at the launch of Sony Music Philippines' new roster of artists. Photo by Trixy Gosadan/Sony Music Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – Alex Bruce walks onto the stage in front of packed room and catches everyone’s attention before she even opens her mouth. With her perfectly-styled street aesthetic – hair playfully done in space buns, ripped denim ensemble hanging loose on her tiny frame, and gold several chains around her neck – her bright, sunny smile is almost unexpected, and her voice even more so.

Her tone when she introduces herself calls to mind a Disney Princess: innocent, pure, and most of all, happy to be there. She sweetly asks the DJ to drop a beat, like Cinderella asking her woodland friends to help her clean house. And then she raps.

And suddenly, all vestiges of that Disney Princess vanishes, replaced by a voice that spits rhymes at the rate of a mile a minute. Alex proceeds to perform two songs, both originals, at a breakneck pace. And at the end of it all, she thanks the audience, sweetly again. The whole thing – particularly her transformation from sweet little girl to relentless rapper – leaves everyone practically astounded.

EMPOWERED. Alex's original songs speak of finding courage to go after one's dreams. Photo by Trixy Gosadan/Sony Music Philippines

Alex is one of Sony Music Philippines’s newly signed artists. The roster is led by folk pop favorites Ben&Ben, and includes pop-rock band the vowels they orbit, singer-songwriter syd hartha, and Wanderband winner Nathan & Mercury. Alex is the youngest one on the lineup, and the only hip-hopper.

Alex told the crowd at Sony Music’s press conference on July 24 that she started rapping when she was 4 years old – an age where some late bloomers might even still be babbling. Influenced by her dad – who himself was part of a hip-hop group – and her mom, who was an avid R&B fan, the young Alex honed her love for the genre, and, like a true Gen Z-er, turned to the internet to learn more about it.

It was there that she discovered her ultimate idol, Fil-Am rapper Ruby Ibarra – and upon hearing her music, turned to her dad and said: “I want to copy her daddy, can I please be like her?” (READ: The rise and resonance of Ruby Ibarra)

In a way, Alex has made that happen, when she appeared in the music video for Ruby’s song, “Here,” where she lipsynchs Ruby’s rap. She was 11 years old when the video was made, and already, she was doing it like a pro.

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That hip-hop is Alex’s genre of choice makes her even more interesting. After all, it’s a genre known for covering either sex, drugs, and misogyny, or politics, injustice, and grim social issues. It’s a genre characterized by a rawness, rage, rebellion – which contrasts with Alex’s innate 12-year-old innocence.

And perhaps that’s what makes Alex such a compelling artist – because as she goes to prove in just one performance, she can maintain that innocence, while still packing a powerful punch.

Her subject matter, while not overtly political or cutting through complex social realties, is something you wouldn’t expect to hear from the average pre-teen.

“Most of my songs are about me telling the people to not be scared,” she told Rappler in an interview after the press conference.

Case in point: her latest single, “Pull it Off.” As Alex explained to the crowd, it’s about encouraging people to go beast mode in whatever they do. In other words, it’s an empowerment anthem. And her other two songs on Spotify, “Mind as a weapon” and “Dopest” have similar themes.

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But it’s not just about encouragement and self-confidence for Alex. Like a true artist, she also draws inspiration from the world around her – and we can only expect to hear more of it in her unreleased songs.

“I write what I see. Like, a kid playing outside with only a bottle. Parang ang saya na nila sa isang bagay, kahit bote lang laruan nila (They seem to be so happy with one item, even if they’re only playing with a bottle),” she shared.

We can also expect that Alex will keep that air of innocence, even as her music matures.

“Other hiphop [artists], they all rap about the same thing, like drugs, money, you know. I wanna be not like them. I wanna be unique in a kind of way that I don’t say bad words,” she said.

NEW TALENT. At 12 years old, Alex is one of the youngest known rappers in the country. Photo by Trixy Gosadan/Sony Music Philippines

At this point, her ultimate dream is to keep performing – and with a supportive family, a passion for hip-hop, and, her eyes set on the stars, it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing more of Alex in the future.

“I really want to be famous, like a rap star,” she said in her giddy Disney Princess voice. Her excitement is so palpable, you can almost see the stars in her eyes. “I want to just perform, perform for the people who support my music.”

At the rate Alex is going, there will be more and more people who do, and Filipino hip-hop may just be all the better for it. – Rappler.com

 

Amanda T. Lago

After avoiding long-term jobs in favor of travelling the world, Amanda finally learned to commit when she joined Rappler in July 2017. As a lifestyle and entertainment reporter, she writes about music, culture, and the occasional showbiz drama. She also hosts Rappler Live Jam, where she sometimes tries her best not to fan-girl on camera.