Illest Morena is reclaiming her narrative while Ballin’ her way to the top

Apr 28, 2023 0 comments

Illest Morena is here to slay, and she's not messing around. Angelica Pola Layague is taking the local music scene by storm and looks good doing it. Do you want confidence? She's got an unmatched swagger. Do you want style? Just check out her Insta feed - she's rocking the latest looks like nobody's business. With talent and drive like hers, there's no denying that she is the one and only illest morena in town.

With over 194.6k monthly listeners on Spotify, Illest Morena is effortlessly ballin’ her path to becoming one of the most sought-after hip-hop artists in the local music scene. Her bars always hit home, touching on everything from love and heartbreak to personal growth.  Something about her artistry keeps your ears peeled for her next banger. 

But every great story has its challenges, and Illest Morena's journey to the top was no exception. In an exclusive interview for Metroscene Profile, she shares the raw and unfiltered account of her path to redemption. From the highs and lows of the music industry to personal struggles that threatened to derail her dreams, Illest Morena pulls back the curtain and lets us in on the real story behind her rise to fame. Get ready to be inspired because this is a story you won't want to miss.

The birth of the Illest Morena

What's in a name? Well, for Illest Morena, it's a statement. Kicking off her legacy to reclaim the power of morena girls, the 21-year-old singer-songwriter is embracing herself and reclaiming her own narrative in creating the best personification of her confidence. 

“​​‘Illest Morena’ was my twitter bio back in 2016-2017 because I’ve always been bullied for having darker skin,” she said. “It was my way of reclaiming my ‘flaws’ and owning my biggest asset which is being a Morena. When it came down to choosing a stage name, I opted for it because I knew it was something that screamed “me.” It’s my brand, and I love it.”

Now arrives the current Illest Morena, who has become one of the most promising young RnB artists in the local music scene. Illest Morena’s stage name is positively bringing impact to her listener but her music is what truly makes her unique, she cautiously innovates her poetic side into songs that weave intense lines together. Her art and music influences heighten her passion for writing from one single to another, and just by these, the world has open access to her talent. Morena skin? Redeemed! 

The illest awakening

From her bars and flow, Illest Morena is able to showcase her fascinating and imaginative mind through her verses and lines. But what is even more fascinating is how her inspirations influence her musical prowess. 

“Even back when I was a child, I’ve always loved singing and writing poetry,” she said. “I even used to do spoken-word poetry in high school because it encouraged me to release all my repressed emotions and turn it into something beautiful. So when the pandemic started and an opportunity to start my own music came around, I grabbed it and I never let it go ever since.”

Illest Morena’s passion for writing started to bloom when she tried performing spoken-word poetry and something was awakened within her. But according to her, her ways with words are gifts of gab since childhood. 

“My emotions influence my art a lot. I think what makes my music great is that with my songs, I never have to hold back on the things that I want to say,” Illest shared.  “It gives me freedom to express myself and to say things out loud that I never would have thought I’d be able to admit in public. Seeing people connect to my art and relate to it makes me feel that I’m not the only one.”

Illest Morena is ballin’

Illest Morena didn’t quite have it easy. With the growing number of fresh artists, she had to go on a hundred to paint her number in the industry. The young artist pulled herself up from the bottom, now she is definitely ballin’ her way to score!

Balln’ — that’s how Illest Morena describes her state of mind at the moment. And it's true! The proof of her hardwork is vividly present in her current success. “That word pretty much sums up my life lately cause I’m always on the go and I’m either working or enjoying life,” she said.  

The up-and-coming artist’s career has been positively taking off in the past couple of years that she’s been making music, but much like every artist, it wasn't an easy feat. But thanks to TMP Music Distribution Network’s CEO Douglas Brocklehurst and her own artistry, her music career took off. 

Though she has not been in the industry that long, Illest Morena’s skills are fronting the genre and even matches the pace along her fellow artists. Her sound is not that of a novice, but rather on par with her peers. Her recent single ‘Soul Ties’ is well-received by her fans and now has over 18k views on YouTube. When asked about the creative process of the song, she says, 


“When I was writing my latest single, called “Soul Ties,”I had one thing on my mind. Vibes. My past songs were very lyrical and creatively written, so in this track, I decided to take a break from overthinking the process and let the song write itself.” 

In her recent video, Illest Morena teased her fans into releasing yet another mesmerizing song two to three months from now, but here’s the catch…the song she is set to release has a different flavor and touch to her branding! This time, she is to capture her fans’ emotional side as this song is about heartbreak and moving on. We are all excited to belt out her new heartbreak anthem!

Her bold music style recently landed her in the Spotify’s RADAR roster which features 12 Filipino artists, including DENȲ, another fresh new female face in the RnB music scene. Her music on Spotify also paved the way in attracting TMP Music Distribution Network. That never stops there, Illest is relentless with 8 singles and one song set on the horizon. 

Being a woman in a male-dominated industry

Young female artists like Illest Morena have to take a giant leap of faith to be valued and credited in the industry. She is aware that women in the industry are often sidelined in a patriarchal mindset. That’s why she’s bringing the balls in her own hand. Right? Ballin’!

Her career did not miraculously happen overnight and that has pushed her to strive twice as hard with her sound and visuals, which men usually don’t need to do. As a fresh new face, they’re not as welcoming as they are with male artists. She says there aren’t a lot of women to look up to because society tends to listen to men more, despite some of them being mediocre, pushing women to the bottom of the barrel. She also addresses one of the major dilemmas of being a female artist: “You either had to be pretty, unimaginably great, or both to be recognized.” 

Pretty or not, Illest Morena’s path only goes linear and steady. Her ultimate cape in flying above her doubters is being a woman in the industry, all the more being herself. She will not easily step down just because she is being intimidated by her peers. 

From the culture of silence that renders women’s voices nonexistent, Illest Morena found her own sound. After all, being morena is not the only thing she’s redeeming, but also being a young female artist.

Illest Morena’s message to her core fans

As we end our conversation with Illest Morena, she left a heartening and earnest message for those who are set on entering the music industry.

Illest says that starting is actually a good approach to knowing if you excel at something, like testing the waters. While she also pointed out that the gradual improvement should lead to the feeling that ‘it doesn’t feel like work anymore'.

She adds, "It can be frustrating when you think not enough people are listening, or not enough people are paying attention, but it just means that you’re not on the level that you want yet." She also values consistency and sincerity in doing art. Her message mirrored her experiences within the industry. Her words were coated with warmth, like an older sister giving you advice.

The zenith of her dream, just like any other artist’s, is to flourish in her music because, as she says, she’s not someone who was born into a family with generational wealth. Other people would be able to share her sentiments on her goal to live independently while at the same time being able to support her family.

Illest Morena has let us peek into her narrative. The music industry is not always starry-eyes with a dash of fame and glory. Sometimes it’s cruel and unjust, but Illest has always been in the game of who’s the illest and the toughest. Braving the giants in the industry has molded her into becoming the illest more than her stage name impresses. And to that we now know she is the one and only Illest Morena and you’ll know who the f*ck she is!

Written by  
Christiane Sybil Dizon, 
Jazper Erik Zaguirre, 
and Mark Baccay
Photo by 
Mick De Leon 
Styled by Edrich 
Designed By Er

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