Careless Music’s new platform puts the spotlight on Filipino musicians outside Metro Manila

Photos by Zon Lee for Island City


When James Reid first revealed that he’d be starting up a record label back in 2017, naysayers were quick to judge. Who was this artista to say that he could elevate the Filipino music industry without knowing what goes on all around the Philippines?

Now, two years into the game, Careless Music is proving those naysayers wrong. Having recently dropped the “Manila” in their name, the label is focused on dispelling the notion that good music only comes from the Metro.

The greatest proof of their commitment to the cause is the recently launched Island City — a general entertainment platform “for artists, by artists” that aims to help Filipino artists promote their work. While Careless is a record label with artists signed under it, Island City is more of a conscious effort to showcase talents from all over the Philippines and outside of Manila who aren’t necessarily signed under their label. 

Talking to the people behind Island City and Careless about their vision, you get a sense that they genuinely want to do good, and not from an almighty savior perspective. They’ve got the resources and attention, so why not use that to help talented artists who might not have the same opportunities? 


With their new platform Island City, James Reid and Careless Music put the spotlight on Filipino musicians outside Metro Manila.


“We’ve got artists from Cebu, from Dumaguete, from Davao. We wanna feature what’s going on out there because there’s so much other music that we don’t exactly hear about,” says James, who is the chairman of both Island City and Careless Music. “Honestly we’re just doing what we think is right.” 

Stepping into Island City HQ feels like stepping into a secret hideout. Lit with black lights and decorated with neon graffiti, it’s also unexpectedly cozy.

Since their launch last August, Careless Music’s in-house production team has been hard at work making Welcome to Island City: Live. The team personally selects the artists that they feature in the videos, and James says that the process is as chill as someone from the team saying “Yo, check this person out, they’re hella dope.”

“We’ve been inviting big artists, new artists, underground artists alike just to all come here and make content,” he says of the dope performance videos they’ve been releasing weekly. “We just all talk together and we pick artists that are making a lot of noise or are really interesting.”

The result is clean, quality work — think BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge, but instead of a snazzy broadcasting studio, they’re prerecorded in the attic of Casa Reid. They launched with Fern., and even had Syd Hartha and underground rapper Kiyo do their own videos.

Last October, they had femcee and Baryo Berde member Desiree Joy Banaag, a.k.a. DB Tha Girl, over to perform her song Live Evil. We talked to the Cavite-based rapper over email for the first of a series of interviews with Island City featured artists, and she tells us about how she got her start in music, and clues us in on what she’s been listening to.

Desiree Joy Banaag, a.k.a. DB Tha Girl is Island City’s newest featured artist.

YOUNG STAR: Hi, DB! You’re in Bicol right now. What are you up to these days there? 

DB THA GIRL: Exploring. Living, basically. Without the hustle and bustle of the city. You know that feeling when you crave serenity and just want to leave everything behind for a bit? That’s what I did. (Laughs) I love it here; all of you should go on a two-month break in Bicol.


Can you tell us more about yourself? How did you get into music? 

I go by the name of DB, I’m a 23-yearold artist from the PH. I have been spending the last three years being a fulltime emcee and a graphic artist, living off gigs and commission work.

Having had a whirlwind of a childhood, we always moved, city to city, which introduced me to all types of people, lifestyle, music. I’ve listened to a lot of genres, but my heartbeat beats the same as these 808’s. I was always fond of writing, poetry, spoken poetry. Everything rhetorical. How I got into music, I just decided I can do what they do… and did it.


We read that you’re a graphic artist aside from being a musician. How do you balance those two sides of yourself? 

Actually, being both gives me the balance. Whenever I can’t write, I draw. Whenever I can’t draw, I write. And whenever I can’t do both, I chill. (Laughs) The only thing I have to remember is that whichever I do, I do it for myself and not for anyone’s expectations or approval.


When and why did you decide to go in the hip-hop direction?

I guess I didn’t think this through, on when and why. It just happened. I like to rhyme, and flow. Just seems suiting, and I can’t sing. So I rapped. (Laughs)

DB believes in quality over quantity — in taking her time in learning the ropes of the music-making process.

What do you think your focus is right now, as a musician? 

Quality. Not really pressuring myself, I’m taking my time. I’m learning every day, indulging myself in the pleasures of life. I can’t write or perform when I feel lacking. So I make sure that when I create, I’m whole. Right now, I’m just gathering all the elements needed before I completely go ape! (Laughs)


What other collaborations were your favorites (or most memorable) so far? 

The DBTK–Baryo Berde Calle Con collaboration. Me and my crew teamed up with DBTK for a fashion show where they got us to perform. Got cold sweats before entering the stage. That’s the first time I performed for a fashion show with dancers and all that. We rehearsed for a couple of days along with the models and dancers. Felt so mind-blowing with all the creatives in one room just putting in work. It just felt big. This led up to another collab with DBTK, with their Sanrio release. The DBTK team’s super nice.


What’s on your regular daily playlist right now? 

I listen to different artists every now and then, but right now I’m hooked with my girl’s new release – 5000ft. by Nicole Anjela (check her out); Bambu de Pistola, Eyedea, and Gavlyn. A couple of songs for you to listen to: 

Eyedea and Abilities – The Dive Part 1 and 2 

Bambu de Pistola – Gold 

Gavlyn – We On

Watch this space for more interviews with Island City featured artists. Follow Island City @islandcityph and DB @babybopis on Instagram, and check out Careless Music and Island City on YouTube.

#culture #feature #music #profile

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