Q.1 Where are you from? What do your parents do? Are they into music too?
My hometown is Shahpura, though owing to dad’s business we moved to Bhilwara (Rajastan) some 13 years ago. My mother is a housewife and my father works in the confectionery industry. He is quite fond of music, but mostly in his own time and to himself. He mostly listens to and enjoys music, specifically Mukesh Kumar, Kishore Kumar, Rafi Sahab.
Q.2 Tell us about your childhood. How did you get involved in making music?
I’ve always been fond of writing. Even back in school, I would write tonnes and would participate in competitions though I never won. There was no passion, so to speak. Then one day, a friend of mine introduced me to Bohemia’s track “Faqeer” and I kept playing it on a loop, kept vibing to it all day. Soon after, the same friend introduced me to Eminem’s “I Need A Doctor,” after which I kept playing his music on loop even though I could hardly make sense of the language. But music has no language– it still made me feel things, and the fact that music could hit me without a perfect knowledge of the language was the best thing for me. Then, in the 10th grade I quit school because I was actively involved in cricket and was often out playing U16 tournaments due to which I missed a lot of my classes. The school didn’t let me sit for my board exams, and at the same time I couldn’t make it past the Rajasthan U16 selections, so I had to leave my education altogether. At the time I was depressed, because I neither did I have education nor cricket, and didn’t know what I was really good at. That’s when I discovered Raftaar and his music, and was enchanted by rap again. I really liked the style, so that’s what I emulated and started rapping and started writing my own verses– though they weren’t any good. But I wasn’t discouraged because I knew that you’re not the best at something you’ve just picked up; It takes time, effort, patience and practice to get it somewhere and realise what works and what doesn’t. So, I started rapping and recording my verses on my cousin’s phone, and started uploading them on YouTube. There were about 20-30 of them I uploaded back in 2016-17 which I have now removed because I was a complete noob then, but was definitely passionate towards something again. Eventually, I recorded my first studio track “Tandav,” after which slowly but surely I got my own equipment and set up a make-shift recording space in my room. That’s where I still record all my music. Since then, I’ve put out two albums and the first one, I wasn’t really satisfied with. However, it became a great stepping stone for me to realise the evolution of my own sound which was apparent in my second album “Jenaveve.” Sez heard a track off that called “She’s Banwari” and was all praises, so much so that everyone from Prabh to Seedhe Maut and other rappers in the scene heard it and loved it as well, and that’s when I started working on my EP, SZN.
Q.3 How did your debut release come about?
Taandav was my debut track and I wrote it because at the time, I heard a lot of music being made on Bholenath and it always had to do with chillum pipes, getting high, and whatnot. I thought I’d do it differently and keep the ‘nasha’ out of it. So, I wrote about Bholenath without using any of that and in a mixture of Sanskrit and Hindi.
Q.4 What do you want to say through your music?
I just want people to know that I am not just a rapper, I am also a singer. Of course, I’m no Tansen but I am not tone deaf either. I can sing low quite clearly, and like doing that with trap music often, the new wave stuff. When I am rapping, I want to tell stories that people can relate to while telling my own. I want them to really listen. When I’m doing RnB, I want people to vibe and flex and just have fun. As a musician, I have to balance the two and offer variety, otherwise, people will get bored easily. The more I experiment with my style, the more I know what works and what it is worth to people.
Q.5 What is your music-making process like?
I have a tight schedule for everything, because I have a job and it is tough to manage the two. Mornings, 8 to 10 AM I reserve for music alone. It doesn’t have to be the creation of a song and sometimes its just consumption of music, or compositions of shayari. Other times, I try to learn how to mix and master properly, learn new techniques, etc.By 11 I rush to the shop I work at and by the time I wrap up and come home, it’s suddenly 10PM. That’s when I eat dinner and maybe record a track that I might have had an idea for earlier in the day. I usually save the ideas I get in the form of melodies that I record on my phone instantly to not forget, and once I get the right vibe for it, I’m done with the song in 1-5 hours. Sometimes, I love a project so much that I sit with it for 2-3 months constantly refining it and making it better for the listener’s ear and that’s my process.
Q.6 Which are your favorite lyricists/writers/philosophers?
I am very fond of Mirza Ghalib, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and lately, Zakir Khan. I’m fond of the way they write and they keep me inspired enough to write daily. Just like physical exercise is important for the body, this little mental exercise helps me keep my brain healthy and creative for projects.
Q.7 What do you think about the society we live in these days?
I feel that hip hop has always been a social movement for change, and that artists who have an influence are quite silent on matters that trouble us under the political climate these days. It’s not that there aren’t artists who speak up, of course there are. But they are a few in number with not as much influence as the bigger artists. That’s not the case elsewhere. In the US, big artists also actively voice their opinions quite often and it does impact people. Here, sometimes the government is wrong and sometimes the people, but all it results in is constant turmoil, not conversation. Artists should therefore focus on saying things through their art to generate conversation.
Q.8 Which Indian bands/artists do you admire?
In terms of rappers, I really like Manisten, Armaan Yadav, Smoke, Rebel 7, Vysakh. They’re all doing great, relevant work!
Q.9 How do you think the hip-hop scene has become after Gully Boy’s release?
There are always pros and cons to something as massive as Gully Boy. First off, it is great that they made a movie of that scale on our scene and that it gained visibility. At the same time, the visibility was selective, because it only focused on the gully scene of Bombay, but was supposed to represent hip-hop as a whole. Now people who didn’t know hip-hop before the film will naturally identify the whole bantai, bacchi, bamai way is the only way of doing hip-hop, which isn’t true. What happens to the new wave rappers? They’ll also be influenced to make content that people are familiar with and will pander to the masses leaving original influences aside. So that’s the grey area with Gully Boy. The Indian hip-hop scene is much bigger than that.