Mumbai based rapper Poetik Justis is undoubtedly a veteran of the Indian hip-hop scene who has been around since its early days. Between Poetik’s 2015 album Greatness and this second project of his, Poetik was trying to find the right way to position his Hindi and English releases. During this period his work in Hindi was released under the moniker of Trap Poju. This seven-track project, Green Heart Astronaut, which runs around 25 minutes, resolves this distinction between the two monikers by releasing them both under the name of Poetik Justis. Poetik teams up here with three producers Vedang, Watashi Wa Shinji and Dorian X for this relatively short project while covering a vast expanse thematically.
The album was written and recorded over the COVID-19 pandemic and there is an ecological and philosophical undertone that runs through the whole album while reaching out beyond the narrow confines of earthly pursuit. The album is Poetik’s cosmic communion and calling it that is not an exaggeration. In a review of the stoner rock band Om’s album, Advaitic Songs (2012), a reviewer had noted that the album was a “pan-global mystical music for the heavy-metal demographic”. What I think he was alluding to was that music which communes with the cosmic, ranges across genres. Poetik’s approach to the cosmic is miles apart from what anyone would call religious. And, it becomes clear over the album that Poetik has resolved for himself a notion of God which is far more wondrous than dry scientific rationality or the dogmatic pursuits of ritualized religion.
The opening track of the album “Conversations with God” sets off the thematic concerns of the album. Echoing 2pac’s “Changes”, the track starts from an existential position, “Woke up in the morning and I ask myself / Is life worth living should I blast myself”. The track switches gears quickly to evoke a certain zen-like relationship where it feels to him as if God is writing through him: “Conversations with God / Swear sometimes he been writing my songs”. There is a sense of ease and clarity that Poetik has achieved in his writing, bereft of forced rhyme schemes, while being accompanied with a laid-back delivery which aptly fits the meditative themes that the track touches upon. He writes,
As he keeps posing questions to himself and the listener through the album, he makes no pretense of himself having arrived at the answers to all the questions. As the first track draws to a close, Poetik asks a rhetorical question which he doesn’t answer: “If change is the only constant / What’s constant at all?”
The answer to the above question, which he leaves open-ended, resides in the second track titled “Roses”. Roses doesn’t just evoke love but also death. The track’s hook locates love and death as existing close to each other in life, two aspects that remains constant in human life.
The third track “Sau Kadam Upar” switches to Hindi and abandons earthly pursuits while raising the stakes. Philosophical questions concerning humans’ place and relationship to this universe are asked and no easy answers are found. “Har pal guzarne par badhta mei raaz ke aur kareeb / Par kar pau na kabhi mei benaqaab usko shayad ye naseeb” (with every passing moment, I get closer to the unknown / But I cannot unveil it, maybe that’s my destiny). The hook which likens Earth to a “khula pinjra” (an open prison) announces his departure and rises towards “antariksh” (space) with the catchiest hook in the album.
With all the cosmic talk one risks overlooking the more mundane though necessary concerns of everyday life. But that isn’t the case here. Poetik hasn’t forgotten the more mundane differences and challenges that concern human life. But he resolves these challenges using the image of an ape and not humans who claim to have mastery of their surroundings:
As the track “Mangal” references planet Mars explicitly and Poetik announces himself as a rapper from Mars, Earth is left behind. But the call for becoming intergalactic is not a cynical abandonment or a forgetting of Earth but a call for speculative pondering. A few lines from the closing track of the album “Green Heart Astronaut” sums up the core concern of album,
The initial evocation of God, speaking through Poetik, while being peppered with a significant amount of imagery evoking a sci-fi ambience, sounds odd until this moment in the closing track. This clarification at the end makes it clear that Poetik’s God is not the usual religious creationist, personal, omnipresent and omniscient God rather it’s the unknown. This unknown about which we can speculate, rightfully, evokes wonder and awe. And, it is precisely this awe and wonder that the album is able to evoke while being a pretty damn catchy listen. I only wish the album was a little longer. It felt like it got over a little too quickly. But with the distinction between EPs and albums dissolving quickly, especially in hip-hop, maybe its just my older habits not dying quick enough.