The calm, waiting silence that fills the jampacked and dimly lit room suddenly dissipates once he drops the beat, where his lines tug at relevant political issues, mixed with visions of 90’s anime culture portrayed by his words. The lyrics, the rhythm, all these are displayed with dominance over his domain in the form of words.
When you find yourself placed in a room with 23-year-old producer, rapper, and spoken word poet Ninno Rodriguez, or known simply as NINNO by his fans, it is quick to notice the aura of placidity he carries with him.
The rising star, also one of the founders of the art collective Logiclub (which includes some of the country’s best DJs, producers, and musicians such as singer BP Valenzuela and rapper Curtismith), was featured in different websites such as Scout Magazine and Pulp for his song “Simmer,” a three-minute musical commentary of his sentiments about the infamous war on drugs in the Philippines, all while portraying victims from different eras of violence in our country’s history.
Photos by Manolo Tan
During gigs, his appearance makes it easy to see why most people could easily perceive him as calm and collected. Unlike the stereotypical portrayal of rappers wearing gold chains and loose clothes, NINNO radiates an impression of approachability and an absence of intimidation.
Instead of boasting about his house, car, or wealth, his pride is found where it is best put: his skill.
Once he steps up to the mic, the stillness takes a rather intense turn. Accompanied by the ensemble of beats and synthesizers created by his trusty Akai midi pad, NINNO brings out a burning, finely forged passion that has been well-kept by his meekness. The interaction between the electronic instruments and the collective of words masterfully conveyed by the man himself is definitely a breath of fresh air in a world where “mumble rap,” a cultural categorization of rap that shares inaudible lyrics as its defining quality, is prominent.
His myriads of lyrics are put together with a certain quirk, one that is “reminiscent of his youth and topics that are nearest to his heart,” as he says. His words are recited with a mix of blistering speed and clarity that stays true to the original version of his wordy lyrics; two things seemingly exclusive only to instrumental virtuosos and skillful rappers. NINNO’s ability to seamlessly freestyle is attributed to his background in performing extemporaneous pieces in competitions hosted during his tenure in the Ateneo de Manila University High School, which would later be enhanced during his stay in the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde as a Digital Filmmaking student, a skill seen in multiple ad libs he places in his performances.
However, he took his signature melodic flow from performing spoken word poetry, as seen in the way he powerfully enunciates every world with raw, intense emotion, a hobby he shyly says “is something [he] had picked up while trying to impress a crush [he] had back in high school.” Staying true to his roots, NINNO incorporates a spoken word piece into every set he performs, showcasing not only his verbal mastery, but also his creative prowess.
Contrary to popular belief, his interest in rap and music came before his affinity for spoken word, one that is quoted as something that grew alongside him being “a performer at heart.” The motivation to make the move from producer for the tracks of Logiclub’s artists to a performer himself also emerged from his desire to tell the stories of his experiences over the years, with rapping and performing in general being the only ways for him to convey these stories to his listeners.
One song isn’t enough to gauge his skill level and promise; every song off his debut solo album “Third Culture Kid,” which debuted in 2016 on Apple Music and Spotify, gives a better perspective into his promising talent and leaves listeners with excitement and anticipation for what he’ll be able to put out in the future. Give him a listen on Spotify, Apple Music, or his Facebook page, NINNO.