back when he made us look in the kaleidoscope

So it's been a year since he went away.

Image from here.

I'm not about to make a memorial entry like those that have sprouted all over in which I recount all the ways he changed the music scene and impacted lives, or I make a list of things that people already know about him. I just know it's his first death anniversary today, and I want to give him a place in this blog.

I don't remember how I heard the news of his passing; I just remember feeling a sense similar to but not quite devastation when I did. I was one of those cheesy pathetics who listened to old FrancisM hits and suddenly joined his Facebook fan page just to cope with the grief.

There's even this ambitious sense of "too bad I never met him".

I remember crushing on him as a teenager; I didn't even believe the reports that said he was arrested for possessing meth. Around that time (circa 1996) I was fortunate enough to see him up close at a Consortium (now known as a rave party) - he wore a leather vest, tattooed bare arms and his hair all spikey; he held a bottle of Blue Ice while he chilled. He was much better-looking in person, though I recall being surprised that he was, um, of Filipino height.

I first heard of Francis Magalona sometime in the mid-'80s (I was in kindergarten). He was in the cast of Bagets II (his first movie). He must have been fifteen or sixteen then, just one of those cute virtual nobodies known mostly for having famous parents. I suppose what gained him more popularity was being in Kuya Germs' That's Entertainment.

I guess what cemented his star status was his 1987 Wednesday night gig on Alma Moreno's Loveli-Ness. Through that variety show's Top Ten segment, Francis introduced rap to the Philippines and cultivated a fan base for it as he filled the air with his yes-yes-yo's. Honestly, I always found those yes-yes-yo's annoying - but I gotta admit I tuned in to that segment every Wednesday night. Eventually and naturally, he was acknowledged to be the Master Rapper and was later called FrancisM. Despite being associated with Alma Moreno, he defined a new breed of cool and created a niche for himself - and one only he could fill at that.

FrancisM was the first Pinoy rapper - and the only one among his contemporaries who lasted. Andrew E and Michael V have turned to comedy (which I think they are better at), lesser '90s rap artists like Lady Diane, Denmark et al are now nowhere.

In the early '90s, he came out with Mga Kababayan, which was groundbreaking in that day. He put an edgy spin to makabayan with his clever words and then-unique instrumentation. The singles in that album were heavily played and quick to become hits. People danced and created production numbers to the carrier Mga Kababayan; it was practically the themes song for every school's Linggo ng Wika.

Oh crap... I'm having a memory of that song and sarongs and a school presentation ...

Though Philippine Hip Hop is attributed to him, he sorta transcended genre - he had hits from old school rap to hip hop to funk metal to hardcore rap. In the mid-'90s, when hip hoppers and rockers couldn't bear to be within 50 meters of each other, FrancisM did the unthinkable: he made hybrid music with his Pinoy strain of rap metal - and succeeded.

He even did sappy R&B. Though his most popular "love song" is Cold Summer Nights, my personal fave is Be Mine.

It's been a year today, and I see people wearing FrancisM shirts in memory of the Man from Manila. His family and friends on Channel 7 sang his greatest hits including the poignant Kaleidoscope World. Though the production isn't powerful enough to move me to tears, I gotta admit it almost did.
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