Elyon Barrera, the Jakarta-raised Manila-based Filipino artist and rapper behind Young Cocoa, has made a refreshing splash in the Southeast Asian music scene with the release of his OFFMUTE debut single “Zesto”. Intending to be nostalgic and hopeful, Young Cocoa says his latest track is an attempt to express his FOMO on what could have been a perfect summer season.
As a local artist claiming both Philippine and Indonesian cultures, food takes a significant role in many of his songs. With the mention of leche flan in “Quezon Don”, tempe and sauce in “Manila”, and most recently Zest-O, an 80’s drink staple for many young Filipino kids, Young Cocoa touches on these very real references for the purpose of relating to both heritage in order to take him a step further in affirming his own identity.
“I think food is relatable to everybody, and a lot of me doing my music and shouting out Manila, shouting out the Philippines, is also me tryna get in touch with my roots,” he states.
Having lived most of his life in Indonesia, Elyon flew back to Manila to study Industrial Design. But with the organic emergence of music in his life, his 2020 track “Seasons” presents a 24-year old artist contemplating the pursuance of either rap or design.
“Right now, I think a lot has changed since then,” the young artist shares. “The answer’s getting a little bit more clear for me on which one should be the bigger thing in my life. At the end of the day, as much as I wanna do both, I think the reality is, I can’t do both forever. [Seasons] was a lot of self-introspection and that’s something that I’m still dealing with. I currently work as a full-time graphic designer so I get that question a lot in my day to day. I’m not gonna say that I’m claiming music more but definitely that’s where my heart is at right now. But design is always gonna be part of my life, and I always wanna keep it there.”
With the success of his hit single “Manila,” Young Cocoa was set on a completely new OFFMUTE course.
“It’s overwhelming in a good way, just to have people in your corner. I guess it’s a complete 180 degree from being an independent artist. You learn a lot of new things about how music works, and I feel like I’m also understanding or getting a grasp of my own music’s impact.”
Young Cocoa says that his purpose feels rooted in his search for self, with authenticity at its core.
“I make music as a way for me to navigate my feelings and talk about my life in the hopes that the sound and the content are relatable to listeners as well. I guess in a funny way it’s quite self-serving, but strives hard to always be considerate of its audience.”