November rain started pouring as an audience huddled at Eastwood Central Plaza on the 4th. In their hands were copies of a newly released EP with a colourful mural on the cover, Gloc-9‘s Rotonda.

Lirah Bermudez and Davao-based trio Zhalia opened the EP launch with their renditions of some of the rapper’s popular songs, such as “Hari Ng Tondo”.

Alternative indie band Agsunta followed soon after and got the crowd swaying along as they performed several OPM hits, before finally being joined onstage by the man of the hour himself.

Gloc-9 did not dawdle at all once the microphone was on his hand. He briefly greeted the audience and the band before going straight into performing one of the tracks off the EP, “TRPKNNMN”. Introduced by Agsunta as “tunay na makata”, the rapper melded a seemingly mundane and highly relatable narrative on the traffic situation in the country with thought-provoking lines like “Lumang sapatos na pilit mong pinapagkasya, pangarap na ‘di mo mapaliit ang distansya” and  “Dito po tayo tumawid pero nasa kabila, tapos nagtataka bakit ‘di umuunlad ang bansa.” Agsunta reinforced the feelings of frustration induced by the song with the hook “Gusto ko nang umuwi.” As for the fans in attendance, no one seemed to be leaving anytime soon as even more people were gathering around the area to witness the show.

The weather became increasingly colder as the night progressed and Gloc-9 matched it with the song “Ice Tubig”, which he performed with Mike Luis of Freestyle.

After a relatively light song about love, or lack thereof, the next performance took a sharp turn towards a social issue of heightened relevance for the past several months: the country’s war on drugs. Gloc-9 teamed up with Shanti Dope, DJ Klumcee, Abaddon, and J Kris to perform “Norem” live for the very first time. In an interview with BillboardPH backstage right before the show, Gloc-9 named this track as his personal recommendation for his listeners to check out and as they sang “‘Huwag nyo akong tularan’ sa tabi ng kanyang pangalan. May dugo na namang bumaha sa daan na kailangang punasan” with great conviction, the song proved itself to be an exceptional choice.

At the end of the song, the rapper was alone onstage again, but he wasn’t truly alone. Aside from his two-piece but seemingly full band, he performed “Hoy” in the company of fans with whom who eagerly took photos with in between delivering his lines.

Lirah Bermudez rejoined onstage for some of Gloc-9’s much older hits from across his 20 years in business, such as “Upuan”, “Magda”, and “Sumayaw Ka”. As he was beginning with the first notes of the massive 2012 hit “Sirena”, his collaborator on the recorded track Ebe Dancel surprised both the rapper and the crowd as he sauntered onstage in a black “Gloc-9” shirt.

As the night reached the final song on the set list, Gloc-9 performed the late Francis Magalona‘s “Kaleidoscope World’, seemingly expressing his gratitude to the Master Rapper, the audience, and everyone alongside him in his two decade-long journey in music.

Before the launch drew to a close, a lucky audience member was picked to bring home an airconditioning unit. “Mag-arkila na kayo ng tricycle!” remarked the ever jovial Gloc-9 as he congratulated the winner and announced a meet-and-greet session for all those who purchased his EP.

As he says in the track “Rotonda”, “Kaliwa man o kanan ang iyong daanan, iisa lang ang papupuntahan” and after so many years, Gloc-9 still reminds us that whether it be about mundane daily activities, socially charged commentaries, or poetic expressions of humanity and its ideologies, everything can and will go back to what you put your heart into —in his case, music. “Sabi ko nga, parang relationship mo sa taong mahal mo. Kahit ano pa siya, definitely at the end of the day, mahal mo. Sobrang mahal ko ‘tong trabaho na ‘to at marami akong ipinagpapasalamat sa trabaho na ‘to,he once said, “I always come back.”

Listen to Rotonda here: