Anak is the word for “my son” or “my child” in Tagalog, the language of the Philippines. Daniel Estrella’s parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents all call him Anak. “I wanted to make a name that pays homage to my ethnic heritage.” NAK, pronounced as an acronym, is used as his stage name to symbolize how he is a child of God.
NAK recently released a pair of EPs. Ashley Court: Chapter 1 and Ashley Court: Chapter 2. If you have not done so, read about Chapter 1 in our previous article. Chapter 1’s cover art features NAK’s house with an American flag in front, and Chapter 2 features him with the Filipino flag draped from his shoulders on the roof.
“I wanted to have the American flag on the cover for the first chapter as a means to indicate where we are geographically. It’s also a testament to the journey it took to get to that specific location. The reason why I am holding the flag of the Philippines on the top is symbolic of the idea that when you live in America, you don’t really hang the flag of your native country outside.”
You may wonder why he is sitting on a roof. The roof is NAK’s favorite place to write songs.
“Being there holding the flag is a way of reminding me [that] some of my best work was inspired by this journey from this place and I’m holding a symbol of the place that we came from.”
NAK’s parents are from the Philippines, but he was born and raised in the U.S., in Southern California.
The second track of Chapter 2 is “That Nurse” and addresses the stereotype of Filipinos in America being nurses. “I am one of those Filipinos. I wanted to make a track about the experience of being a nurse.” NAK said the song is somewhat of a parody and is also a caricature of a battle-rapping nurse. “It represents a culmination of me being a rapper and a nurse at the same time.”
Though NAK is a Registered Nurse, he does not work in a traditional medical setting. He teaches nursing to students at a trade school.
“I really have a strong passion for doing something to help other people.”
He says that as a nurse he gets to help people with their physical needs and struggles, and as a rapper he gets to help people develop their relationship with Jesus. “I wanted to be able to express love holistically in that manner which is why I chose nursing as a profession as a means to supplement my career as an artist.”
The following song is called “Aswang,” which is the name of a mythical creature in Filipino culture. “There’s a general consensus I would say that the Aswang is a shapeshifting creature.” For the purpose of his song, Aswang is a metaphor for fear. “I believe fear is something that ultimately is what you concoct in your mind.” NAK said that if you are a Christian, you have no reason to fear. “According to scripture, the spirit casts out all fear.” The song has inspiration from personal and family struggles.
NAK’s grandmother suffers from dementia, and closer to the time after she developed the disorder, she called everyone, including her family, “Aswang.” Another reference to the song is NAK’s personal struggle with paranoia that he has experienced in the past few years. “I’m barely coming out of it now but I basically went through this insane bout of paranoia. I still don’t really understand what it was, but I had this crippling depression for like a year and I didn’t do much.”
Chapter 2 continues to address difficult topics. “Like Waves” is a song about his cousin who committed suicide. “Not only was it heartbreaking and not only was I heartbroken about it, but it made me reflect about how effective I am as a person who is supposed to be loving as Christ does.” NAK feels a strong sense of remorse as he wanted to help his cousin suffering from depression but did not know how to.
“I’m at the beach and I’m noticing the waves and I’m seeing how these waves are always coming in, regardless of whether or not you want them to come.” NAK is a surfer and says that when waiting for a wave to come, it seems as if the right wave comes and chooses you to be able to surf on it.
“God’s love is like waves. It kind of chooses you and is persistent and I wish I was able to love like that and I wish I was able to express that to my cousin who took his own life in hopes that there might have been a different outcome.”
“‘Heartmelt’ I believe is the culmination of all the songs from Chapter 1 and 2… It’s as if I wrote an entire album just to make that one song.” It is a song of lament in which NAK searches for his identity and reflects upon crucial moments of his life with regards to that longing.
“I’m lamenting over the fact that I’m being pulled in so many different directions, yet I seem to be failing everyone and I’m failing to live up to the expectations of all of the people [whom] I’m being pulled toward.”