Like Manny Pacquiao, rising rap super-star Ez Mil is fueled by fierce Filipino pride
By Ace Freeman
Thu, 10 Jun 2021
Like almost everything else in life, the boxing world came to a virtual standstill in 2020 as Covid-19 ravaged its way across the globe. With many industries grounded to a halt, a fascinating phenomenon emerged on YouTube in the form of young Filipino rapper Ez Mil. Short for Ezekiel Miller, the 22-year old product of Olongapo, Philippines sky-rocketed to viral fame on the heels of his smash hit performance of his song “Panalo”, belted out live on California’s Wish Bus. An anthem for Filipinos around the globe to unite with pride, the song has amassed north of 60 Million views on YouTube and was recently re-mixed in tribute to boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao.
Within hours of its being posted on Wednesday, it caught the eye of Senator Pacquiao himself, who shared the video on his social media platforms saying:
“I love the Philippines and my countrymen. We may have different opinions on how to do things, but in the end, we all want the same thing, and that is FOR THE BETTERMENT OF OUR COUNTRY. #PilipinasKongMahal #EzMil”
Much like Pacquiao, Ez Mil is small and slight upon first viewing… but do not let that fool you. His passionate delivery and complex rhyme-schemes have drawn lofty comparisons to rap legend Eminem. If that weren’t enough, it also turns out he has an equally stunning ability to sing which has drawn comparisons to superstars like Drake and Chris Brown. Oh, and no big deal, he just also happens to play guitar, bass, and drums… can dance like the Jabbawockeez, could sing as a front-man for a rock or death metal band, makes and produces all his own music and edits and directs all his own videos.
A fascinating online sub-culture of YouTube “reactors” is in absolute awe of the young artist and have made him one of the top viewed and searched-for rappers on the world’s largest video platform. His quick ascension to global fame saw him recently ink a deal with one of the world’s largest entertainment brokers Virgin Music Artist & Label Services | UMG. His wide array of talents is reminiscent of actor / singer / rapper / virtuoso Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) in that every time you see him, he is absolutely excelling at something completely different while making it look effortless.
This was all kicked off with the aforementioned “Panalo” track, which is Filipino for “Win” or “Victory”.
In 2006 I met and interviewed Manny Pacquiao for the first time at the now famous Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood. It was right around the time Pacquiao had released an album of his own headlined by a track called “Para sa 'Yo”. I knew a little bit about it going in but wanted to quiz him on it.
“Para sa 'Yo ang Laban na Ito,” I said awkwardly, trying my best to not butcher his native tongue of Tagalog as a Caucasian Canadian boxing scribe.
“Yea, that’s my song,” he said very matter-of-factly.
“What does that mean?” I asked sincerely.
“It’s for my countrymen,” he said with a serious look in his eye. “It means ‘I fight for you’.”
While this sounds simple enough, in the following years where I followed him and his historic career closely, it would become a mantra.
For the next fifteen years I spent many a night in Las Vegas watching him soar to new heights in the boxing ring from press row… and with each and every fight the message was the same.
“It’s my job,” he would explain. “My job is to fight for my country to make the people happy.”
They say with great power comes great responsibility… and Pacquiao emulated this in his rise to global stardom and in his assault on the boxing history books.
With each fight the audience grew bigger until within a few years it became clear he was carrying an entire nation on his back. The Philippines would grind to a halt when Manny fought with entire families glued to their television sets.
This diminutive boxer, year after year continued moving up in weight classes to take on seemingly impossible challenges… all out of an incumbent sense of national duty. The spoils are often gifted out to extended family and countrymen alike as he uses money from fight purses to buy homes for the needy and build infrastructure in his home country.
I remember one conversation with a Filipino politician who happened to be in Las Vegas when it was announced Pacquiao would be moving up north of 140-pounds (an unheard-of feat for a man who started at 108-pounds) to face Oscar de la Hoya and Ricky Hatton.
“How?” I asked. “Why? Is this real? Are they serious?” (Like many at the time, I was stunned and in disbelief).
“Yes,” the gentleman answered. “It’s his spirit. He has the warrior spirit of Philippines.”
He told me this as though it was a known, factual entity.
It’s something Ez Mil tapped into in ‘Panalo’ with a chorus that is a call to arms for Filipinos around the world to unite:
We are Filipino
No matter the skin color
We are one at heart
Whether Tagalog, Visayan, or Ilocano [No matter what dialogue you speak]
Nothing can defeat the ferocity of our blood
Shout our wins out loud
Stop talking about the negatives
Wherever you are in the world… this is our future: WIN [PANALO]
With his passion and fierce national pride, it is easy to see why the young rapper caught the eye of the boxing superstar and Filipino Senator.
Could we see the ring legend walk out to the victory anthem in his next fight set for Aug. 21 against undefeated American Errol Spence Jr. (in Ez Mil’s transplanted home-town of Las Vegas, Nevada)?
We don’t know at this point, but it would be a great fit.
Pacquiao is once again taking on a seemingly impossible challenge of fighting one of the world’s best fighters in Spence who is younger, bigger and in his prime (while the boxing senator is a mature 42 years young, past his best and several years removed from fighting).
While another historic win for Pacquiao is far from assured… the underlaying and steadfast sense of duty to national pride makes victory [Panalo] in the broader sense - guaranteed.
Ace Freeman is an accomplished boxing writer and journalist who has been covering the sport for over fifteen years. He is currently writing a book about his time following Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather and can be reached at email@example.com
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