As with most adventurous music, hip-hop isn't well known in the Philippines, which is dominated by easy-listening love songs. Kulay is at the forefront of the nascent hip-hop movement here, and while local response is good, it could be better. More indicative is the strong international response to Kulay's music.
Kulay formed in 1991. Boom Dayupay (born Lino) returned that year to the Philippines from Canada, where he had worked the club scene in Vancouver as a DJ. Joining Dayupay was girlfriend/singer Jeannie Oakman. The two formed Kulay, which means "color" in Tagalog, the Philippines' national language. An audition brought local female vocalist Radha Cuadrado.
Kulay signed to OctoArts/EMI, a joint venture between local label OctoArts and EMI, and released their debut album, 100,000 Pesos Worth of Karma, in 1995. Dayupay composed and arranged nearly all the material (there was a cover of George Gershwin's "Summertime"), and also produced the album, a process followed in all of Kulay's releases.
100,000 Pesos Worth of Karma contained a myriad of rhythm & blues styles, including rap, soul, and old-school R&B. However, despite the inclusion of several soulful, presumably radio-friendly songs in the traditional "verse-chorus-verse" structure, as requested by the label, the album failed to hit.
Flavour of da Moment was released in 1996, and though a fine outing, containing heavier doses of rap and funk, it lacked the overall charm and energy of the first album. It also did not sell well, according to the label (there are no album charts or SoundScan in the Philippines).
Kulay then signed with Sony Music Entertainment Philippines (SMEP) and was placed on the Dance Pool label, operated out of Sony's European regional office in the United Kingdom. In August of 1997, Kulay released Vibestation, again encompassing many rhythm & blues styles, but this time emphasizing funk. Vibestation is an outstanding effort, and sets the standard for hip-hop in the Philippines.
Sadly, however, founding member/singer Jeannie Oakman passed away in September of 1997 after an epileptic seizure. Kulay nearly disbanded, but then recruited female vocalist Angel Jones, an American of Philippine ancestry.
Also in September of 1997, an album track, "Delicious," was issued as a radio single in the United Kingdom, and the new Kulay lineup toured the U.K., Germany, and Italy. Kulay's self-directed video for "Delicious" was a nominee for the 1998 MTV Asian Viewers' Choice Award. Despite these international accolades, sales at home for Vibestation failed to match expectations, and the album hadn't reached gold (which is 20,000 units sold) after nearly two years on the market.
Dayupay founded Vibestation Records, signing several fledging rap and hip-hop acts (Kulay remains signed to SMEP). In July of 1998, Vibestation Records inked a distribution deal with BMG Records Philippines. Kulay also began hosting and producing a weekly television program, Vibestation TV.
In 1999, "Burn," another track off Vibestation, was released in the United Kingdom and several other European territories as a commercial single and in the U.S. as a promo single, and featured remixes by top European DJs Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, and Judge Jules. Both "Delicious" and "Burn" and their respective remixes were released in the Philippines in 1999 as Kulay Remixes. Planned releases in the United States and the United Kingdom for Vibestation, however, did not materialize.
Kulay released its second album for Sony Music Entertainment Philippines, Chapter What?, on November 19, 1999. Unlike Vibestation, however, the album was not placed under the Dance Pool label, and the album did not receive an international push. In 2000, female singer Radha Cuadrado left the group. Instead of recruiting a new member, Kulay disbanded, leaving behind a legacy of the best hip-hop the Philippines had known.