This story is part of “Serving You Style and Substance,” a video series where we get to know bold Filipino creatives with idiosyncratic styles through their influences and the narratives that they choose to explore.
“My commitment to the movement is the only thing I own / 7107 islands codes embedded in my bones,” Vancouver-based Filipinx artivist Kim Villagante raps in one of the verses they’re most proud of. Known professionally as genre-hopping emcee, singer-songwriter, and visual artist Kimmortal, they’re proudly reclaiming their Ilocano and Visayan roots—as well as the power in being an outsider.
Apart from writing and producing tracks for their albums such as Polaris-longlisted “X Marks the Swirl,” Kimmortal has also toured extensively for theater, worked as a poetry and claymation facilitator for youth, and has animated several music videos, including Tegan and Sara’s “I Know I’m Not the Only One.”
In our third episode of “Serving You Style and Substance,” we had a chat with the multihyphenate about decolonization, color blocking, and so much more.
Hungry for more? Here are snippets from our conversation that didn’t make it in the show.
Congratulations on your recently concluded mini tour! Considering how hyperpersonal your music is, were a lot of tears shed?
I came back from my first tour in Europe. I went to Norrköping, Sweden and Hamburg, Germany as well as Berlin. It was such an amazing experience to share my music internationally ’cause I’ve been performing in North America for a really long time. My music talks about my experience—all the facets as a queer, nonbinary Filipinx born here.
A few people actually came up to me and told me how my performance meant a lot to them. They weren’t the only ones that shed tears. I also shed a lot of tears, especially [for] my last performance because I gave it my all. I sang from my heart.
On your Spotify artist’s bio, “outsider art, decolonization, and spirituality” were listed as your interests. How did you grow passionate about these three?
These are all things that go hand in hand. Outsider art is like the art of the subconscious. It’s like the art of channeling memory. With decolonization, it’s about going to our roots before we colonized and understanding how connected we are as Filipinos to the earth, to each other, and to community. With spirituality, it’s about what makes me feel connected to myself. All of these things come through in my art and music.
As a nonbinary rapper and illustrator with a politically charged body of work, have you encountered antagonism against your art?
Definitely. [But] I feel [that] in comparison to how much I’ve been reached out to by my fans who express appreciation for my work, the ratio is very uneven. I try not to focus on the antagonism. But in times when there has been hostility, it’s been moreso from people who are questioning their own identity and their relations to others. They’re people who are curious and are like, “What do you mean by this?” For the most part, I really think I’ve received more support, love, and care from people that relate to me in how I express myself.
What’s your favorite look featured on your Instagram?
There’s a photo of me wearing overalls that were custom designed by a fashion designer based here in Vancouver who goes by the name of 10710 Shop. It’s a pair of blue overalls with red and yellow shapes. There’s a photo of me in Sweden when I wore them for the first time onstage.
Can you describe your personal style?
I’m very drawn to bold colors. I really love color blocking. I love clothes that I feel comfortable in, [allow me to] let my belly out, [and] make me feel athletic and sporty. But also, pieces that are memorable and dope. That’s what I’m really drawn to. As well as callbacks to the ‘90s and ‘80s.
A choker necklace with overalls and a turtleneck. That’s a very Kimmortal 2019 look. These days, I’m really drawn to suits.
What’s the most stylish album cover?
I would have to say “Whack World” by Tierra Whack.
Which famous person or fictional character’s home would you want to live in?
There’s this old cartoon that I used to watch called “Hey Arnold!” and I really like Arnold’s room. But if it’s not in the cartoon world, I’ve recently been watching “Sex Education” and I’m really into Otis’ home.
I really like the visual art of a local comedian and visual artist named Aaron Read. I also really like the art of ggggrimes.
What’s a literary piece that struck a chord with you?
I recently finished the book “Crosshairs” by Catherine Hernandez who is also a Filipinx diasporic artist. She’s based in Toronto and I really recommend the Audible version of “Crosshairs” because Catherine reads it.
Which of your verses do you want to be remembered for?