Rap firebrand Abra came to international attention following his role on gritty 2017 hip-hop movie Respeto. But those who assume his crossover fame arrived overnight don’t know about the long years he endured. Along with his Lyrically Deranged Poets cohorts, Abra was among the first to forge his mettle in the literal sweat and heat of the FlipTop Battle League, trading slings and arrows with dozens of rival battle rappers. The result of all this education on the fly only meant that Abra—born Raymond Abracosa in 1990, he scribbled poetry in grade school and idolised Eminem, Gloc-9 and Francis M—quickly became a seasoned MC, earning his self-proclaimed “Makatang Hibang” title. His 2012 breakout hit “Gayuma” garnered millions of views online and ensured fans would flock to see him compete against other MCs, win or lose. As he dealt KOs like a heavyweight in the rap battle arena, he released a self-titled debut album in 2014 on his Artifice Records. It revealed a surprising depth and maturity, from clever takes on Filipino mores (“Diwata”) to grandiose critiques on human frailty (“Cerberus”), and a signature style that blends East and West Coast with biting Filipino satire (“Midas”).