Ralston Gee was working double time.
Not only was he WLFTOWN, the Filipino rapper, writer and producer, he was also half of Balisong, a duo project with RaeRae Bancod-Roman. After years of preparation and a wardrobe of pseudonyms, he had finally been able to release his own tracks into the world—but then that world shut down.
Gee caught COVID-19 in October 2021, losing his taste, smell and strength. For over a week he battled coughing fits and nights when he couldn’t even breathe.
“I survived that shit,” he says.
As he recovered in his room, he wrote as many songs as he possibly could and resolved to never take his days for granted.
The next month, he booked a flight to New York to join his best friend, Kenneth Shirley.
A MATTER OF TIME
Shirley, a native dancer, filmmaker and entrepreneur, along with his dance group, Indigenous Enterprise, were headed east to perform at the George Theatre for a week.
He invited Gee to come along and take behind the scenes footage. By day, they would do the touristy stuff, and by night, they would hit the clubs.
“I just lived it up there,” he says.
But it was the act of traveling alone that really got to Gee. His previous travels were always with a girlfriend, family, or friends, but never on his own. Once he knew what it was like—the freedom to do whatever you wanted when you wanted how you wanted—how could he go back?
While in New York, Gee and his friends filmed the music video for his single, “Matter of Time,” which they later edited at Arizona State University.
“We were at the Hayden library for 4 hours,” he says.
“Matter of Time” was added to the playlist “PH Fresh Finds” on Spotify.
He didn’t stop there. In December he released “Odyssey,” a sonic retelling of his own journey as a little boy with dreams of making it big: “My journey and my story leading up to now,” he says. “What I see myself becoming.”
Balisong, Gee’s unapologetically Filipino musical collaboration with fellow Fil-Am artist RaeRae Bancod-Roman, returned to stages like they never left. At the time of this interview the duo had already performed at the AZ Drive in Film Festival and AZ District Night Market, as well as the WISH 107.5 bus in Los Angeles.
Their songs, boom bap hip-hop with bars in English, Tagalog, and Illocano, take inspiration from their own lives: “Barriers” grapples with immigration, “KWARTA” tears into greed and corruption that they’ve witnessed in the Philippines, and “Real Ones” shows love to the real people who have supported them through all their endeavors.
But according to Gee, the ambition that helped him and Bancod-Roman start Balisong in the first place is a double-edged blade in itself.
While Gee has been juggling shows and new music on top of work, Bancod-Roman is still in charge of her Mesa dance studio and team. Then there are their other projects, and their own personal struggles with plain old life. “It’s been tough to navigate,” Gee admits.
“It’s an every day process. I’m learning to just like, focus on my art. Focus on getting better mentally, physically, emotionally.”
He follows with how he’s reading more about self-improvement, healing and growing—even if that means growing apart.
“I’ve had to learn to keep people who are really there, and it’s just a handful. I just try to wish them the best, but I’m not gonna be around you,” he says.
Your biggest supporter is always going to be yourself. He understands that even more now that he’s 26.
“I’m dealing with a lot of adult shit—quarter life crisis or whatever,” he says. There’s the vague, familiar pressure of finding something stable and accepting the changes that brings. Currently he’s working per diem as a patient care technician, which allows him to invest more time and money in his music. The trade off? Leaving Arizona.
“I would have to, it’s inevitable,” he says. “Obviously I want to stay here and build, but if this helps me in my future and helps me in the long run…”
He trails off. He’s not much of an overthinker these days, choosing to follow his intuition or first instinct. It’s a 180 from how he used to be, but it’s the same philosophy he’s currently using for his projects.
“It’s like a drill that I’m developing,” Gee says. “I’ll write for 10 minutes, this is what it’s gonna be, and I’ll go back to it later.”
Those projects include writing for film and TV, a new endeavor that he’s been working on with a music producer and supervisor for HBO Max’s show, “The Hype.”
“I’m going to be making songs, curating songs, composing, trying to get as much songs as I can into the show,” he says. “The supervisor had 2 songs on there last season. I’m also trying to get my name in those episodes. Get exposure, get paid. You know how it is.”
WLFTOWN’s next song is set to release September 23, 2022 and will be featured on season 2 of “The Hype” on HBO Max. Keep an eye out for more Balisong Musik, as well as their upcoming performance at the Kamayan festival in September.
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