An artist’s vision evolves through time as they themselves grow and change. The more they yearn and ache, the more they want to express. The more they feel and touch, the more their hands feel a need to create. What makes FELIP any different?
FELIP, also known as Ken from SB19, started out his solo activities in 2021 with the single “Palayo.” This is shy of three years after being introduced as SB19’s main dancer and lead vocalist. And since then, the P-Pop group has reached ceilings and broken records—but that’s a discussion for another time.
As an artist, FELIP has evolved throughout the years. As he describes in our interview, he’s the kind of artist who’s “brave, a risk-taker, unique, and experimental.” And while some may attribute this as a present development, I’d say this has always brewed inside him, whether he was known as FELIP, Ken, or even just as Felip Suson who grew up in Zamboanga del Sur. And this year, his music finally reached its peak: FELIP has finally dropped his long-awaited EP, COM•PLEX.
But before we get into that, let’s do a breakdown of what has culminated into COM•PLEX. Let’s get to know FELIP through the language he loves most: His music.
As we all know, “Go Up” was the pivotal (and almost prophetic) single that shot up SB19 into mainstream success. And coincidentally, it was also the only single in SB19’s debut studio album, “Get in the Zone,” where all members participated in its production.
As member Ken, FELIP is credited as one of the songwriters for the track along with Pablo, Stell, Josh, and Justin. And although SB19 has gone in more experimental routes today, “Go Up” is so unmistakably SB19, as a song with pride for the Filipino language and earnestness to inspire others to reach their dreams too. It’s a simple, well-balanced dance-pop track with EDM and subtle house influences. It’s a great listen for a then-rookie group, as it’s incredibly catchy with pretty motivating lyrics.
But, at this point in time, I can say FELIP and the rest of SB19 were at a point of just figuring out their musical identity and their definition of a “P-Pop idol.” The group sound was most likely at the top of their minds before any solo music territory.
“Palayo” came in after SB19’s EP release in 2021 called “Pagsibol.” And while “Pagsibol” was a rollercoaster of pop genres, “Palayo” was a complete 180° flip to the script. The smooth R&B direction was completely left-field from what you’d expect for FELIP at the time. But I think that’s what makes it such a great debut as a solo artist.
FELIP has always been known for his deep and smooth voice, often acting like the “bass” for the group. He’s not a belter like the others, but he’s melodic and charismatic in his runs as he takes on both verses and raps in his group’s tracks. So, it’s not a surprise he started out with an R&B release as the dark horse of SB19.
Written and produced by himself, “Palayo” is sensual, sleek, and mysterious, with lyrics in full Bisaya. It’s completely alluring with its bedroom beats and slow-jam melody. And if the single was any indicator of his vision, it was also a visual feast in shades of black, white, and red. Here, FELIP starts to show off his interest in fashion as he goes for elegant cropped suits, extravagant rhinestone pieces, and sexy lace and form-fitting ensembles (sans a shirt and toxic masculinity) that’s got all the A’TIN whipped. Through the background of an empty mansion, we see him do what he does best: Captivate us all through dance that we simply can’t look away.
“Bulan” serves as FELIP’s next single in his solo ventures. And while the motifs of black, white, and red remain in his core identity, “Bulan” shows us a completely new world. A near yet far departure from his debut.
“Palayo” may have shown us the type of music FELIP is capable of, but “Bulan” captures his range of artistic vision much better—as the single serves as a creative interpretation of ancient Filipino deities. And beyond just historical and cultural roots, it talks as a metaphor for crab mentality and negativity in today’s world.
“Bulan” ventures into hip-hop territory as FELIP fully utilizes his low register through aggressive beats, guitar riffs, and a rhythmic, rap-like vocal line. There’s so much intensity and pent-up rage that you can’t help but get swept into it all. Meanwhile, the production of the music video is mesmerizing in capturing the vision of Filipino lore. We see FELIP channel an androgynous character go back and forth between the light and darkness in the backdrop of the sand dunes of Ilocos Norte. This, being the start of a more experimental route for the solo artist.
Finally, we head to “COM•PLEX.” A culmination of all of FELIP’s artistry throughout the years. “Go Up” is moving, “Palayo” is sensual, and “Bulan” is commanding, but “COM•PLEX” is fierce. It’s confident in a way that only an artist who’s built himself up through the years and gone through hell and back can truly declare onto the universe. There are so many messages of self-acceptance, self-awareness, and self-improvement that it’s truly a journey to listen to.
The genre-bending record mixes hip-hop, R&B, trap, and rock, with some Japanese instrumentations and Bisaya roots. It’s complex as if to say we’re made of multitudes as a person, and through every track, I can’t help but think it’s signature FELIP in every way. Even through the creative direction, there’s so much cool, urban flair that represents FELIP’s current style now. I’m completely reminded of the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Travis Scott.
When asked to describe “COM•PLEX” through a line in a song, FELIP takes a line from its first single “ROCKSTA:” “Roar! Rise! Pick it up! You got to Mic mic - hold it tight!” Why, you may ask? He says it shows two sides in one person: “Let’s say there are two people [inside him] na sinasabihan niya [yung isa], ‘Rise! Pick it up!’ Kumbaga, sinasabi niya, ‘Pulutin mo yung mic mo.’ So, andun yung complexity na [there is] someone who is weak and someone who is strong na ineencourage niya yung weak person to pick it up. Kumbaga, ‘yung mic na ‘yun, don’t ever lose it [because] that will be your biggest weapon.”
“Let’s say there are two people inside him where one is saying, ‘Rise! Pick it up!’ to the other. In that way, he is saying, ‘Pick up your mic.’ So, there is the complexity that there is someone who is weak and someone who is strong who is encouraging the weak person to pick it up. In that sense, with that mic, don’t ever lose it because that will be your biggest weapon.”
“COM•PLEX” is as complex as the name suggests. And the line FELIP mentions captures the true meaning of the EP: Embracing your complexities, leaving all the pretensions at the door, and picking up the mic to start again.
And, what’s next for FELIP’s music? We don’t know. But, what I am sure of is: I can’t wait for the next drop.
Curious what else is next for FELIP through his craft and personas? Catch the full cover story in PARCINQ’s First Quarter 2023 Issue. Pre-orders are now open via parcinqmarketplace.com.
Words by Marielle Filoteo
Photography by Rxandy Capinpin
Assisted by Chicco Rodriguez
Art Direction by Joe Andy
Fashion film by Ian Francisco
Camera Operator Pogs Francisco
Styling by Mark Ranque
Associate Stylist Lalaine Victoria
Makeup by Aaron Guevara
Assisted by Cris Tuquib
Set Design by Jagger Studios
Featuring fashion from LVNA By Drake Dustin (jewelry), Urban Revivo, and RanQ 2023 Collections
Shot on location at Presidential Car Museum
Special Thanks to Team FELIP and Ryan Tan of the Presidential Car Museum