‘Parvarish’ By naqaab47 & Shoals Is A Hip-Hop Concept Album For Our Generation

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“Ek doob, do doob, yun hi doob gaya” (One cannabis cigarette, two cannabis cigarettes, that’s how I drowned)

“Parvarish”, debut album by Delhi based rapper naqaab47 in collaboration with long-time partners, experimental electronica duo Shoals, is a moment-defining project in Indian hip-hop. A well-rounded body of work with Mumbai based rapper Gravity, classical fusion band Pakshee’s vocalist Tanishque, rapper Harsha and youtuber Prakhar of Prakhar ke Pravachan, rapper shinigxmi, Balbus, Delhi based Rebel 7 and Radence, as features, the album offers both diversity in sound, theme as well as vocal delivery. With 8 tracks on the album, naqaab47 delivers a wide range of emotions, moments of introspection and social commentary layered on headbang-able beats.

The album is a sequel to 2019’s ‘Paidaish EP’ and a continuation of the coming of age narrative of Adi Radia (naqaab47). Inspired by the creative process behind Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ and Kendrick Lamar’s ‘DAMN.’ – each song explores a single theme of universal relevance and dives deep into it, peeling the layers. A distinct topic serves as the guiding post for the lyrical content, subject matter as well as sonic landscape of every track. “While the initial idea was to talk about the general process of growing up in your twenties through the medium of these various themes which are relevant to the lives of all humans, over time I realized that the only way one can talk about something universal is through your own deeply personal lens,” said naqaab47. As part of his creative process, the rapper would engage in long phone conversations as well as Zoom calls with friends and acquaintances to find out those recurring themes that are common to us all in the tumultuous twenties. Once the universe of a song had been established, he would combine his real life experience with the knowledge gained from these conversations to pen down the words.

“It was almost like a therapy session.”

Before the pandemic, naqaab47 and Shoals had carved out a unique niche in the budding Indian Rap scene with their alternative takes on hip-hop lyrics and varied production techniques. In that period, every release they worked on was created with all three collaborators being present and giving their inputs in real time. Life in lockdown forced them to improvise and develop a new style of working where each member worked independently. This had a huge influence on how the album was shaped. “The thing with music,” Sidharth Gupta of Shoals told Mayank Austen Soofi from The Hindustan Times, “is that it is very important to feel the energy of your bandmate right around you…. and yet we have to adapt and change the way we work.”

 “I am fascinated by taking ideas that are seemingly opposed to each other and blending them together, which is why my songs can be kind of schizophrenic at times. What I mean by this is that my lyrics are simultaneously old-school and experimental, serious and whimsical, traditional and modern, crass and polished, juvenile and evolved – the list goes on. Just like the ancient concept of yin and yang, these polar opposites come together and complement each other in my work. For me, being genuine and raw can be a revolutionary act in itself,” said naqaab in a candid interview with us in 2019.

Parvarish is a periscope into the artist’s life. Having not had a traditional family set up while growing up, naqaab47 dedicates the album to the upbringing and captures his life until this moment in 8 broad themes. The album begins with ‘ateet’, a dark drone-y beat and synth focused track, themed around addiction of marijuana on the face of it but metaphorically it speaks to me about inactivity due to any kind of addiction and the comfort it provides whilst abandoning your tasks, rights and duties. The album then transitions into the second track called ‘doori’ that features Gravity, a track about social isolation and introspection. Naqaab’s laid back delivery compliments Gravity’s straight bars and we soon find ourselves onto an experimental track called ‘yaad’. A melancholic and gloomy track that features singer Tanishque’s Punjabi vocals. A track essentially about obsession and heartbreak, Naqaab lays bare a heart that’s bleeding but in a quintessential Delhi lingo. The next track ‘bhavishya’ is an introspective stoppage in the album. Featuring Bengali bars rapper Harsha, the track flaunts haunting production by duo Shoals and exhibits all the benefits of working with alt producers rather than core hip-hop beatmakers. The 5th track is ‘fkp’ (free ki pi) featuring shinigxmi and Balbus, a possible commentary on the privilege of being in your youth and freeloaders in the hip-hop circuit. The next track ‘gulaami’ is a head banger, themed on modern-day slavery of the corporate world. Rebel 7 features on the next track called ‘kala’, a track about what role art plays in the artist’s life. The track not only outlines the misery it often brings but also serves as a warning to young artists to stay away from it. “aisi yeh bala yeh kala’ say the two. The album ends with ‘aatma’ featuring Radence, an upbeat track, different from the rest in the album, a track about the conflict between the individual soul and the pressure of society. Possibly, how one comes to term with it while growing up in their 20s.

“Parvarish” is not just an album. It’s a coherent body of work, a concept album with a relevant umbrella theme in today’s world. The album exhibits the magic that can be created when hip-hop artists/rappers work with alternative producers. “Parvarish” is a listener’s album and that’s why you would enjoy listening to it.