With over 280,000 average monthly listeners on Spotify alone, hip-hop sensation Omar Baliw is acknowledged as one of the most influential rap artists in the country today.
Born Omar Harry Balmes Manzano, the Naga City native who developed his street smarts from the gritty neighborhood of Pembo in Makati City is known not only for his riveting brand of rap music but also for the high energy performances that led to his intriguing stage name.
“Kasi nga medyo baliw-baliw ako mag perform. Tumatalon ako sa stage, tuma-tumbling tumbling ako. Sobrang wild talaga, so ayun tinawag na akong Omar Baliw,” Omar said in explaining his stage name during a recent interview with SoundStrip and other media.
Now 33, Omar started making music when he was just a teenager. Even as he was trying to make a name for himself in the hip-hop scene while still in college, Omar took on all kinds of odd jobs to make ends meet including as a gasoline station attendant and at one time, as a guy who cleans rest rooms.
Back then he considered himself as in his own words, a rapper without direction until his college girlfriend and now wife, Dana, gifted him with a microphone that he said pretty much saved his life while altering his career trajectory for the better.
By the time he came up with enough original material, he released his debut album, High Minds Music in 2011.
Since then, Omar’s music and videos have propelled him as one of the more formidable artists not just in the hip-hop scene but also in OPM as a whole.
On Spotify, four of his Top 5 hits namely “Inumaga,” “Kalmado Part 1,” “K&B II,” and “K&B III” have earned over 5 million streams.
On YouTube where his official channel has now over 425,000 subscribers, Omar has generated millions of views for “Inumaga feat. 1096 gang” (29M), “Araguy feat. RHYNE” (14M), “R.O.T.” (7.9M) and “K&B II” (5.9M).
His presence on other social media platforms is equally stronger, with more than 829,000 followers on Facebook and nearly 100,000 on TikTok. Yes, Omar Baliw is pretty much everywhere.
“Utang na loob ko sa wife ko ang success. And up to now, I still pay her for everything she has done for me,” Omar, speaking in mostly Filipino, proudly declared.
Over time, as Omar got better at his craft his wife was not the only one who believed in him. Last year, Believe Artist Services signed Omar to a management contract.
In signing the rapper, Believe Head of Artist Services Waheed Al Jarallah stated, “We Believe in his positivity in music through his lyrics, his struggles in everyday life from past till present, his willingness to share his learnings and how he made it and most importantly his love for music as a whole this made clear to us that he is a strong artist services candidate for Believe Music who stands with our values of Artist Development, Transparency, Fairness and Independence.”
And of course, there are the fans. Omar recognizes that he owes the success and comfortable life he’s enjoying to his fans. “Kung nasaan ako ngayon ay dahil sa mga fans. Sa sobrang dami ng mga artist sa Pilipinas, ako ang pinili nyong pakinggan. Malaking bagay sa akin yun at labis labis akong nagpapasalamat,” he quipped.
Recently, Omar headlined the concert, High Minds, inspired by his debut album which also happens to be the name of his own clothing line. The well-received concert that took place at the Metrotent in Pasig City also featured other big names in hip-hop like Ron Henley, Shanti Dope, and Loonie. These rap superstars along with the equally revered Gloc 9 are who Omar considers as his musical heroes. “Wala nang iba,” he emphatically added.
The concert also served as the launching pad for Omar’s latest single, “Kalmado Pt. 3” released under Believe Music PH. Brimming with the same kind of positive energy and good vibes that much of his output is known for, Omar hopes that the song, as well as the perseverance that led to where he is now, will serve as an inspiration to those who wish to follow a similar career path in music.
“There is no shortcut to success. Hindi naman masama mag-take ng chance pero dapat sigurado ka sa gusto mong gawin. Yung mga parents ko mismo, ayaw nila sa rap. Pero nung Nakita nila kung gaano ako ka-desidido at naging successful naman sa gusto kong gawin, naging happy at proud na rin sila sa kin,” he concluded.
Image credits: Edwin P. Sallan