Hip hop veteran artists, event organizers, philanthropists...you name it. For a decade now, Jug Honeyluv and Gazelle, better known as Butta-Flava, have contributed a tumultuous amount of good will to the industry. So much so that they have often put others before them in hopes of providing support for unseen and unheard talents as well as promoting charity for the children born of hip hop families. It is this selflessness and genuine passion that has seen these two through the years and have kept them relevant to all of us. In fact, I feel that they are the Godmothers of Pinoy Hip hop, in the sense that they take in the youth with open arms as if they are these young aspiring artists' second parents. The reality is that hip hop is here to stay and our children must be taught the proper treatment towards the craft and culture; so if our children are able to have these ladies lead by example, then I'm all for it. I believe that's the type of flava that lasts.
|BF with Pikaso at the 10th Anniversary Celebration at B-Side last month|
Read on for my 1-on-1 with BFe head and founder Jug Honeyluv:
The Hip hop in Her: You and Gazelle have come a long way. For those that don't know the story, how did you two get together in the first place?
Jug of BFe: We met through singing and when my former group, 4 EAST FLAVA, decided to reunite in the late 1990s to start working on new projects, we needed a female and male singer. Gazelle was one of my students [when I used to teach voice lessons] and she was eager to take part in our comeback along w/ Layzie Fu of Pinoy Republic (a former dancer of 4 East). While doing that, I decided to start event organizing and helping out young aspiring artists in Laguna. Gazelle decided to help me out as far as event organizing was concerned. We called ourselves Butta-Flava Entertainment. Gazelle would provide back up or lead vocals whenever the boys needed it on a track. Then, I decided to leave my former group and go on a female duo concept as advised by my younger sister when she heard a track from us and she said our voices blended perfectly together and that we should write and record more songs as a duo. That’s how BUTTA-FLAVA, the duo, was formed. We simply called ourselves that, in order to make it easier for people to remember that we are the founders of BFe.
|Buttalicious Thursday back in 2004 at one of the classic spots, Culture Club|
I refer to you guys as "The Godmothers", because BFE established The Pinoy Hiphoppaz and gave voices to a lot of young, aspiring artists without expecting anything from them in return. In effect, they have always been treated as your extended babies. Do they find you or do you find them? Can anyone join the roster or do you have prerequisites?
Jug: I usually meet them through my events and get to know them, first, with TALENT, ATTITUDE, and COMMITMENT, as the primary prerequisites. I usually offer them to be part, but of course, some have also approached me to be a part of our endeavors at BFe. Depending on how long I’ve known them, the work ethics they display, their talent, and overall mission and vision for the Hip Hop community, culture, and industry; I would make a decision on whether to take them in as BFe’s "extended babies".
TheHinH: Artistry > Character or Character > Artistry? Kindly elaborate.
Jug: I do my best to be objective, because my foremost premise is to put the TALENTED upcoming and dedicated artists out there. The PASSION to succeed, meaning understanding the full reality of what HARD WORK truly means, is my #1 reason to keep an artist under my roster. But the CHARACTER is also of utmost importance to me, as I would rather not support an individual w/ incredible or great talent but have disturbing and unacceptable character or behavior. Balance is my objective in taking in and maintaining an artist, RESPECT of each other as co-artists and RESPECT for music, the demands of a performer, and the RESPECT for the name BFe and its founders are of equal necessities in my decision-making processes in handling my artists and staff. I will do everything in my power to maintain the reputation I’ve managed to create and uphold as far as keeping it real within my crew and positive within the community. Negativity must be contained and eliminated and if not, I get rid of it, immediately. Grooming, though, and FAMILY, is what I call my crew/camp; thus, my prolonged patience of 10 years. It’s like having children so you still do your best to love them and guide/support them, no matter what. But I first determine their character and if there is something there to work on, I do. If I don’t feel any, I normally trust my instincts and accept the
reality that they ARE NOT my children for me to waste my time. Hahaha!;)
TheHinH: Audiences tend to be highly judgmental based on first impressions. Do you mold these artists first before putting them out or do you say "f*ck it, do you"?
Jug: YES, when I first started BFe in Laguna in 2001, I did have the opportunity to “mold” them the best way I knew how, as far as work ethics, lyrics, songwriting, and respect are concerned. However, as the years went by, my schedule became too hectic for me to do the same. I merely accepted those who applied based on their talent and hard work and allowed them to grow on a long-term basis relationship w/ me as the leader of BFe. I allowed them to perform and learn from their mistakes. Likewise, I gave them the opportunity to feel the joy of an aspiring performer, as I have felt in all those years. If they suck during an event or album, then they suck. But I’ve taught them to accept criticisms and work to improve. Comments from people, are sometimes more effective in making them realize their areas of improvement. I speak my mind when I have to or want to. Then, I allow the audience to say their piece so that my artists will learn from them. I really have passed the point where I need to have the BEST artists performing under my label. I’m more concerned about maintaining the demands of fulfilling each goal I set in order to meet my vision for the Hip Hop community here in the Philippines. If I have to accept mediocre artists but who are willing to learn and grow into AWESOME artists (even at their own pace) BUT with the ATTITUDE/CHARACTER that is positive and proper, then so be it. First impressions, to me, can always be changed in due time. But that doesn’t mean that first impression isn’t important to BFe. It is absolutely critical and you can ask my artists how strict I can be when it comes to performing.
TheHinH: Are you able to explain what it is about hip hop that made you and Gazelle want to devote your lives to it, so much so that you often shelved your personal music dreams?
Jug: Let me try. :) But I will say that it is the Hip Hop culture, community, and music that has helped me fulfill my childhood dreams as an artist and I’ve made it a lifelong mission to give back to it, as long as GOD is willing to let me do and live it. I’ve always seen the positive side of Hip Hop and been aware of its negative aspects. However, I will always be an advocate of educating people of its true premise so though I’ve been around for a while, I am still learning. Hip Hop to me is INCREDIBLE ART via its elements. ART will always maintain its influence and class. I have decided to be part of imparting the influence necessary to help grow it and uplift it here in our country. Hip Hop has taught me to live the different realities and has blessed me w/ so many friends and followers. I’ve been blessed to be part of making a difference and helping those who need my help. I love the 2-way street it provides. I give, but also take. I take then give back. It’s a cycle and Hip Hop allows us/me to share the blessings we are given on a daily basis. As long as I know that there is still something for me to give, I’m able to shelve my personal music dreams. But I believe after this event (note: BFe was set to do their 10th Anniversary event at the time of this interview), there is not much for me to give any longer; thus, it’s time for me to start working on my personal music dreams, again. That will absolutely give me the strength to keep on again in the future. I am, foremost, an artist. I will never forsake that. :)
|Jug, the usual BFe spokesperson with DJ Switchtrik for Cafe808 on Sari-Sari Sounds|
TheHinH: Every duo/group I've known has openly or at least shown signs of distress and drama at one point or another. That is, except for you guys, who have always seemed to have it together. Was that always the case? If not, how do you tackle hurdles together?
Jug: Oh no! If that’s what it seems, then we’ve been successful in keeping the negativity out of the public. Awesome, then! :) Hahaha! In fact, as I’m writing this now, I’m having some drama issues w/ my crew but Gazelle and I are so close and like sisters that we argue and that’s it. We already know each other so that we know how to deal w/ each other, but manage to keep things going. When I am distressed w/ my crew, Gazelle is my shock absorber. Hahaha! But when she refuses to help, because she’s distressed because of the crew/artists, then its actually harder to fix. I’m more of a forgiver, compared to Gazelle. But collectively, Gazelle and I have always worked incredibly hard to ensure that POSITIVITY will be the driving force of BFe, no matter what the realities are. I WILL GET OUT OF IT ONCE NEGATIVITY RULES MY LIFE. I make it a point to remind my artists NOT TO BE PART OF ANY DRAMA ON FACEBOOK. HAHAHA!
|Fete de la Musique 2005|
TheHinH: Yes and I've also noticed that BFe tends to veer away from controversies in the industry, except for 1 unavoidable incident when someone called you out on your character. What can you say about this isolated case and those that you stay out of, but are able to witness?
Jug: Hahaha! As I’ve mentioned above, I MAKE IT A POINT AND ABSOLUTELY REMIND MY CREW/FAMILY/ARTISTS THAT IF YOU’VE NOTHING GOOD TO SAY, AND IT AIN’T THEIR BIZ, THEY SHOULD STAY THE HELL OUT OF IT. I’ve always told them to maintain class and that debates are better achieved face-to-face and not on Facebook. About that 1 unavoidable incident? Hmm… I actually didn’t know about that until the day of Hip Hop Palooza itself when a few artists/supporters came up to me in the middle of my busy day and informed me of how that individual insulted me. I simply told them: "thanks for letting me know, but I’ve no time to talk about nor think about that now". I have more important things to deal w/ and so many people expect me to deliver. Gazelle and I have confronted that individual about that and that person apologized to both of us. He even promised to clean up the mess and fix things and asked and hoped that things would go back to the way it was between/amongst us. However, nothing is the same, even to this day. The damage has been done to me and there is nothing that can be done to fix that. The message that person gave about me has created doubts in people who don’t know me. Such a shame because I was truly one of those who welcomed that person here which helped him create ties within the community. It really doesn’t matter because I later learned of so many people who’s also helped that person yet that person managed to do the same to them. It must really be his character. Oh well. You simply cannot be friends with everyone you thought you wanted to be friends with because of their charisma, etc.
The other issues I know about very well and witness? I simply stay out of it but use those to make the right decisions. IF I HAVE TO CHOOSE, THEN I WILL. I MAY BE QUIET AND POSITIVE, BUT THAT DON’T MEAN I’M STUPID. :) I CAN BE VERY OPINIONATED BUT I DON’T USE THAT IN WHAT I DO W/ BFe. I NEED TO KEEP IT POSITIVE TO EDUCATE AND ENTERTAIN THE PEOPLE WHO DON’T KNOW WHAT WE ARE ABOUT (when I say “we” I mean, the Hip Hop community, or at least a portion of it.) We all have our views and work towards the same goals here but via different paths/styles/avenues. Hip Hop to a lot of people means dissin’ and “keepin’ it real” by saying how it really is. But to me, Hip Hop is also about keeping it positive, with GOD as the center and that should remind us to use our heads and maintain objectivity and the right relationships. “Keeping it real and positive” is more of what we, at BFe, like to push. WE ARE ALL HUMANS WHO MAKE MISTAKES. PATIENCE AND FORGIVENESS IS NECESSARY TO GROW THIS STRIVING AND DISRESPECTED COMMUNITY. WE GOTTA LEARN TO DO THAT FIRST BEFORE WE ASK FOR IT FROM THOSE OUTSIDE OF OUR COMMUNITY AND ESPECIALLY FROM THE PEOPLE WHO TRULY DO NOT GIVE A F*** ABOUT US. WE MUST BE HIGHLY ACCEPTABLE TO THE REST IF WE ARE TO BECOME THE FORCE WE ARE MEANT TO BE. WE MUST LOWER OUR PRIDE AND SHOW THAT WE CAN LEAD THE WAY INTO BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS WITH THOSE OUTSIDE. IF WE DON’T LEARN TO DO THAT, THEN IT WILL ALWAYS BE THE SAME, NO MATTER HOW HARD WE TRY BECAUSE I WILL GUARANTEE THAT THOSE OUTSIDE, WILL NEVER LOWER THEIR PRIDE TO US. ALL THEY KNOW IS THAT HIP HOP IS BADUY, IS ABOUT DRUGS, VANDALISM, GANGS, NEGATIVITY! How can we change that if we, within the community, are not willing to lower our prides and work together and becoming the MASSIVE force we should be now. IT IS HARD, BUT IT CAN BE DONE. I’VE DONE IT FOR 10 YEARS (BUT NOT PERFECTLY AND BY NO MEANS AM I SAYING THAT I AM THE ONLY ONE WHO’S TRIED TO LOWER OUR PRIDE.) THAT SIMPLY MEANS, IF I CAN, SO CAN THE REST. SO THANKS, MONIQUE, FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY TO WORK W/ YOU AND FOR LOCKEDDOWN. Lowering our pride is of course, dependent on the situation. But if it’ll make things better, GOD will show us the way. I truly believe that.
|Jug, Monique and Gazelle - a "meeting of the minds" regarding Women's Business Hip hop|
TheHinH: I've personally seen you stressed, running on minimal hours of sleep, etc. just to get projects done. What keeps you motivated?
Jug: Beer! Hahaha! Joke lang. :) Well, my passion for music as a young child has never left me. That carried over now that I’m an adult. I do everything I can to keep my word, regardless of how long it takes me to achieve it. I continuously set goals and normally announce it after studying it, carefully. So until I deliver, I don’t stop. I strive for the true meaning of success in other forms and I do not necessarily like to run within the popular race. In other words, I do what I can via other means. Untouched waters, so to speak…unpopular ways but do-able.
TheHinH: Even before you wanted to officially establish The Pinoy Hiphoppaz as a non-government organization (NGO), you guys put together a number of charitable events. How does it feel to be able to use passion as a source of aid towards those in need?
Jug: IT IS THE BEST FEELING. IT IS THE VITAMINS THAT I NEED. IT IS WHAT GOD (I BELIEVE) HAS SET FOR ME TO DO, AS I’VE BEEN GIVEN THESE INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITIES TO USE MY PERSONAL AND COLLECTIVE ADVOCACIES IN HELPING OUT AS MUCH AS WE CAN. I NOT ONLY AM GIVEN THE CHANCE TO HELP MY OWN ARTISTS, BUT ALSO ENTRUSTED TO HELP THOSE OUTSIDE OF OUR COMMUNITY WHILE HELPING MY ARTISTS UNDERSTAND THAT TO BE ONE, ONE MUST ALSO LEARN TO GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY. IT IS AN EYE-OPENER FOR EVERYONE THAT TO BE ACCEPTED, YOU MUST LEARN TO ACCEPT AND WORK HARDER BECAUSE DREAMING MAY BE FREE, BUT TO ACHIEVE YOUR DREAMS IS TO PAY HARDEST.
|BF at the Hustle for Jazlyn event|
|BF with Will.I.Am. back in 2005|
TheHinH: Celebrating 10 years with Butta Flava, is your outlook more of satisfied goals or would you say that there is still so much more you'd like to be done?
Jug: 10 years has actually allowed me to achieve SO MUCH. But there is still much to achieve as I never stop setting goals that will elevate us higher as artists and productive members of society. Of course, that goes without saying that not all of my artists will be in-line with that (due to personal preferences, reasons, limitations, or excuses). At this time, the most important things to me are to continue helping the babies who ask for our help, finish the long-awaited BUTTA-FLAVA tracks, Women’s Business Hip Hop*, help a few select artists under BFe, and begin work/performances of my solo tracks which are an extension of my direction/vision for the Hip Hop community and for my standards as an artist. :) I am an artist who will keep trying to make a difference and communicate via my music. I don’t need to be popular anymore. I just want to share what I have to say, whether it be through my events, my artists, or my music. If people will listen, awesome! If they stop listening but GOD shows me signs of doing other things that will provide me a more effective platform to make a difference, then His will shall be done. Last but not least, I will always want to learn from all my experiences. 10 years with BFe has taught me the lessons that have made me Jugitta. :) I thank those who’ve become a part of us throughout the years. [f]
Download some Butta-Flava goodies for a limited time only:
Relentless feat. Pikaso. Produced by Ted Salinel for Onethedd Productions.
So Jaded 2010. Produced by Keith Martin.
*Women's Business Hip hop is a company headed by Jug of BFe and including a "board" mostly consisting of Pinay femcees.