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“I talk about both, the good things and the bad things that are prevalent in Mankhurd”- In Conversation With Vijay DK

Vijay DK, also known as Blue Smoke, is one of the most prestigious rappers the City of Dreams, Mumbai, has to offer. The 22-year-old rapper rose to fame thanks to his hit singles that boasted of his unique musicality. Recently, on the 22nd of November, he released his debut album ‘4Three4Life’. Read more to find out about his debut album, his artistic instincts, and the extraordinary form of representation he practices.

1. Representing has always been a big part of Hip-Hop. How would you describe your style of representing your area, your people, and your life?
Well, we’ve seen rappers representing their areas, their cities, or their zip codes throughout their careers. I come from a blacklisted sort of area, a somewhat infamous one. We’ve faced discrimination because of the region we are from. In my case, during the initial days of my rap career, I would be looking for a job to afford to make music and just because my region is ill-famed for the high crime rates and other illegal activities, I would be blatantly rejected. People had built a perspective that if one is from Mankhurd they are associated with the crimes and illicit affairs it’s known for. I was really saddened by this generalisation and that’s when I made up my mind that I will try to do everything I possibly can so that the next generation of Mankhurd does not have to face this. And I am proud to share that Mankhurd has started getting its long-due respect now. Almost 150-200 people visit Mankhurd just to meet me and It makes me happy.

2. How would you describe the theme behind your debut album, 4Three4Life?
I’d say It’s about 43, my hood. I talk about my journey, and my struggles while emerging as an artist. There are instances where I talk about the people here, and how certain things are still needed to be addressed and acted upon. Like in ‘Sarvasva’ I talk about how certain people don’t treat their parents respectfully, they shout at them and abuse them verbally and physically. I try to change that through my music. On the contrary, ‘Chaar Teen Ki Toli’ is a violent track and shows all the gang shit that runs around here. So I feel it is quite polarising, I talk about both, the good things and the bad things that are prevalent in Mankhurd.

3. In the very first track ‘Adakari’ you sample a somewhat Marathi procession or ‘yatra’ type music, something one might listen to while roaming around Maharashtra. Was that implementation intended to portray the sounds in your area?
Even before I was rapping or was a part of this culture, I used to play Dhol and Banjo during my struggling days. Especially during the Ganpati Festival, I remember playing all those instruments and being a part of the musical side of things. I feel those memories are an integral part of my artistry now and I thought it was the perfect way to represent the sounds you know? Other than that It’s just the creative flow man, one just does what needs to be done.

4. From a composition point of view, How did you paint the soundscape for this album?
I feel it was more about the delivery this time around. As far as the sonic aspects are concerned, I find myself capable enough to use my vocals as instruments, be it voice modulation or the rawness, my delivery was a major part of it. One could make their delivery simple and generic, but I feel that I should give my best when it comes to that. It is a part of my instincts as an artist and a result of all the skills that I have learned while making rap music.

5. Considering your sound, it is an admirable fact that you manage to keep up with your pen-game in certain tracks. What is your creative/writing process?
You know, Divine once said ‘Hum Dil Se Nikale Tere Sir Me Chapa Hai’. My creative process is something like that, I speak my heart out in tracks and what I rap about isn’t uncommon things. I talk about my experiences, the things I see, and the things we all relate to. I don’t stick to one particular style of creating music, sometimes I just feel the beat and then start jotting lines and maybe give it a topic later, the other times I sit with a subject and write about it. I’d say it solely depends on how I feel while making music.

6. The last track is one of the best gangsta rap tracks, quite authentic. It is a great way to depict your stories. What was the intent behind making it a posse cut? Also, What is your vision with West Coast Records?
Ever since I started making rap music, I guess 7-8 years ago, Andy was with me. We both were hustling together trying to make it. By the time we had a fanbase, we had Wesco, D.E.Sidd, and Vijay Dada coming up so it’s like that. These lot are great rappers themselves, there’s no doubt about it and since these guys represent Mankhurd just like me, I felt like bringing them over on the album. The thing is I really want Mankhurd to gain its prestige and giving my peers a platform and opportunity would be something that I’d not miss out on. That is the reason why Westcoast Records is being rebranded into something more exciting now!

7. There is a constant debate between the Bombay rap scene vs the Delhi rap scene. If someone says Delhi welcomes underrated and new sounds then one says that Bombay has better lyricism. What’s your take on this? Do you find any difference between the two?
First off, I’d like to state that I don’t listen to Delhi rap as much. However, I feel that we as artists are the same despite any cultural differences. I mean Delhi has its own vibe, they have their own influences and we (Mumbai) have our own influences and ideas. My personal influence or inspiration would be Divine. I admire his writing skills and I feel that his pen-game is second to none right now. That is why I think that the Mumbai Hip-Hop scene focuses more on the lyrical aspect of a track. But yeah, Delhi artists are doing well too. I believe that every artist in the DHH community should respect each other.

8. Other than Divine, what are your artistic inspirations? Who do you listen to regularly?
Well, I don’t think that anyone in the scene is admirable enough to be ‘Inspired’, for me. You know, having an inspiration is a big thing. But out of India, I’d say Lil Wayne, Lil Baby, J Cole, Lil Dirk, and Lil Tjay would be some names off the top of my head right now. Their drip, lyricism, and cadence are a few things that make them unique, but I listen to a lot of them. Even in India, I try to listen to a lot of underground and up-and-coming artists to know what’s up with the scene and how we have been progressing as a community.

9. What are your future plans? What can one expect from Vijay DK in the coming year?
There will be a lot of collaborations. I am also working on a sophomore album now and hopefully will be releasing that too. There is also a series in the making right now, and I have a track on it along with some other rappers. So yeah, 2024 is gonna be exciting!

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