We all know the ancient wisdom: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. But with “CIAO”, Joe invites us to live it. And that invitation, is impossible to deny.

/ 2 February 2021

“We need an anthem for the streets, which we haven’t had in a while. This is the one.”

When you’re Joe Flizzow, every song is a manifesto, a totem to monumentality. When you’re Joe Flizzow, you don’t rest on your many laurels. All the years spent at the throne of Southeast Asian hip-hop have served to sharpen his instincts, vision and pen. So, when he strikes now, the effects are reverberating and the stakes, high–exquisitely high.

Enter “CIAO”, his first song of 2021 and the lead single off his forthcoming album Johan, to be released via Def Jam Malaysia. CapitaliZing on the Italian word’s double meaning – “hello” and “goodbye” – Joe brings together two other visionary voices within the tapestry of Asian hip-hop, Malaysia’s MK and South Korea’s Jay Park, to bid adieu to the calamitous 2020 and to usher in the fresh start that is 2021, and toast to the spirit of hustle that powers the streets.

Over a pounding ALYPH beat, dark but radiantly effusive in its dashing, speaker-stretching menace, Joe’s poetry is both mesmerising and devastating. “Selamat petang kepada yang datang / No syarahan ini cuma hanya pesanan / Ucapan pengerusi kejohanan /Latihan buku teks ku sekolahkan”, is that salvo that opens the song, foregrounding not just the authoritative power of Joe’s words but the fact that this experience will be vastly different from what you get with canned formula.

“As with a haiku, I wanted to say the most by saying as little as possible”, Joe reveals about his approach to “CIAO”’s lyrical veneer. And the lethal economy of his diction graces the entire song. Every quote-worthy moment belies the formidable ink which serves his impossible-to-ignore message: “Buku sejarah tebal sekarang / Kita yang karang, menang perang”. History is told by the winners, and as the books thicken with their stories, so do the sturdiness of their spirits and the strength of their resolve. Joe’s biggest gift in the song is that he makes victory – any kind of triumph over any kind of adversity – look so good. In his world, transcendence is the only way forward. And as we dance on the ashes of 2020, we would be doing right by ourselves to keep it moving into 2021 with a constructive gusto: “Tas zass ciao ciao ciao”.

 The inclusion of MK and Jay Park makes “CIAO” a meeting of next-level hip-hop minds, an homage to the game with some its finest and most celebrated players. As Joe says, “The song was great on its own but how do we add more heat?” In their respective ways, MK and Jay Park light blazing fires of intent, and affirm the potency of Joe’s call to action. Jay Park, in particular, makes this abundantly clear: “Joe Flizz, tell the kids / We turn passion into a biz”.

Accompanying the single is the head-turning music video directed by menswear icon and stylist Shahrin Bahar, who makes his directorial debut with this piece. Mirroring the song’s uncompromising message, the visual language of the reel is likewise precision engineered to make you reach for the stars.