2023 has witnessed an exponential rise in the relevance of Indian Hip-hop within the country and the global market. However, when it comes to music itself, this year has been pretty dry, both in terms of the quantity and quality of albums released. Additionally, this year has seen the advent of a large number of negative discourses in and around the scene. Artists frequently find themselves having to prove their nationalism, while women in hip-hop face ridicule on social media merely for expressing themselves. This has birthed a negative and hostile space for those who differ from the supposed ‘normal’.It is a paradox that despite such an environment, most of the rising rappers and hip-hop artists in the underground have embarked on a path which is more experimental and different from their usual style, not paying much heed to what the general public has to say.
Sibling duo, Pratika and PrabhuNeigh’s october release ‘Growing Up’ is a perfect example of this ‘punk’ attitude Indian underground possesses. This short 5 song anecdotal EP follows the life of Pratika and Pritesh as they traverse through their childhood trying to make sense of the rights and wrongs of the society, dealing with the shattering of their innocence very early in life.
A certain eerieness engulfs you from the outset of the album, the photograph of 8 and a half year old, Pritesh aka PrabhuNeigh with his 1 year old sister Pratika against the backdrop of what seems like a cursed house, tries to tell you that something not-so-happy is about to come at you. From the intro of the title track itself, this eerieness comes to life as the innocence in Pratika’s monologue is transposed to animosity. She narrates detailed and horrifying personal tales of sexual abuse, stylistically falling into a realm where spoken word meets heavy metal. Her adlibs and voice acting help paint an intricate image of the horrors she faced as a child, not just in this track but essentially the whole project. PrabhuNeigh constructs a quintessential metal beat with distorted guitar riffs and pounding drums complementing the dark lyrics.
“It’s been very tough to be so vulnerable about my personal life and place. But it was time to speak about the things I have because I want women and people to know they’re not alone. I want them to think back and gauge how they’ve been taught to stay silent through some of the darkest times in their lives, and I want them to also know that it can get better; you can emerge victorious, you can work through the trauma, and someday, be whoever you want to be.” Pratika
For those not versed with their history, Pratika and PrabhuNeigh have been a part of the Indian metal scene since 2007 playing in multiple bands across the city. As of late, the younger sibling has been active as a member of an all women hip-hop collective ‘Wild Wild Women’.
The rapper’s storytelling reaches a new height in ‘Lawrie’ as she unapologetically and explicitly exposes the monstrosities of a close neighbour. The beat switches up from industrial boom-bap to high bpm industrial trap via a spooky synth based segment, accomodating Pratika’s unending rage and fiery flows pretty well. She makes an already interesting song more engaging with her emotionally charged vocal modulations. While the previous tracks had more than one gripping element, ‘Same Mistake’ falls flat as a generic traditional concious rap rock cut that didn’t have a lot going on apart from the wobbling synth bass line in the background.
‘Evolution Of Thought’ follows that little hiccup, where PrabhuNeigh puts his talent to display. His use of tribal percussion and it’s arrangement with the guitar samples makes for a great beat for his younger sibling to perform on. Pratika touches upon an interesting and neglected flaw of our society which is it’s inability to unlearn and evolve. The rhymes and her cadence, however, leave a lot of room for improvement in this one.
The rapper goes into an abstract existential deep dive in ‘Survival’, “Indebted to the teller, I’m sitting with a chalice of empathy, sipping on a sacrifice!“, she vocalises over a dystopian dark sci-fiesque beat. Pritesh once again builds the perfect dark atmosphere to evoke the negative emotions of the track and makes it one of the better cuts of the album.
Throughout the 5-track EP, we witness the coalescence of Pratika and PrabhuNeigh’s foundational and newer influences. The latter’s experience with electronic music gives this project an extra edge through the brilliantly arranged bass lines and atmospheric sound effects. I would have loved to see Pratika exploring the metal side of hers some more maybe with some additional growls and screams, akin to her commitment towards rap and storytelling.
Nonetheless, the album represents a sincere attempt by the sibling duo to release all the past trauma and negativity they’ve been juggling since childhood. They are expressing and letting go in unison – one through her raps and dramatics, the other through his DAW.