Jatin Tambe aka Quest is a bilingual rapper and a video producer from Mumbai and a member of two of the most celebrated music collectives of the country, Gair Kanooni from Delhi and Frequency Time Space from Mumbai.
‘Dushman’ is the debut solo album of the rapper who has previously been a part of the collaborative projects of the two of his crews. Since the beginning of the year, Quest has been releasing music consistently, giving us a taste of the flavour this album holds. His high energy collaborations with rapper MC Amrit in ‘Adidas’ and the with the likes of Dhanji and RevoLekhak in lead single ‘Dakaiti’ were the highlights of his pre-release drops.
The album is set up in a radio station, ‘Gair Kanooni: Aakashvaani, 100.0 FM’, where the host (voice acting by Sammad) and Quest are conduction a listening session of the album; things pick up steam when a caller Kundan threatens the rapper for something he had done in the past.
Without much warning, ‘Gair Kanooni (intro)’ pushes us straight into the world of grit and crime. Sammad’s trademark, dark and bouncy beat provides a platform for Quest to set up the origin story for his protagonist through solid bars and a concert ready hook, which may or may not be inspired by his real life experiences. ‘Skit 1’ brings us to the 100.0 FM studio where Quest is threatened by a man disguised as his fan, for trifling with his love interest, Anjali. It transitions into ‘Sarfaad’ produced by Robu, an industrial hip-hop inspired track with some cool drum work, which disappointingly doesn’t take either of the two storylines forward and is carried solely by the production. Next track ‘Situation’ confirms that whatever is happening in the skits isn’t related to the rap sections of the tracklist. Regardless, the track in itself consists of pretty dull production and mediocre lyricism. Contrary to that, the next track ‘Dakaiti’, a 5 rapper posse cut featuring the créme de la créme of underground, adds a much needed sparkle to a rather lacklustre tracklist. It is hands down the best track of the album and one of the best posse cuts to come out of India.
The listening session is paused and we’re brought back to the studio in ‘Skit 2’ for a pretty funny commercial break. The skit builds into another Sammad production in the form of ‘Jiggy Freestyle’, a song with smooth flows, cadence changes and great bars that were missing all along. One of the major highlights of the album. ‘Bombay Bounce’ a track true to its name comes next which witnesses he featuring artist Tienas flirting with the bouncy beat by Zealotantrik and spitting one of the best verse of the album.
In ‘Skit 3’, the story gets interesting when Anjali drunk dials the FM Studio and is caught by Kundan who vows to teach Quest a lesson, the call cuts abruptly to ‘Badtameez’, an upbeat dance music inspired track produced by Help. The contrasting lyrics and beat provide a great character to the song. Quest manifests his success in the last track of the album ‘Aakhri Geet’, produced by the fellow Gair Kanooni member 3bhk. ‘Skit (outro)’ rounds off the album in a very predictable manner.
Albums based around FM Radios and radio broadcasting have long been a favourite of artists in the west, Weeknd’s Dawn FM being a recent example. Quest and Sammad pull off a similar concept (wth an added layer of storytelling) pretty well. While the skits and voice acting are engaging and funny, the discrepancy between the storyline built through skits and the content matter in the raps prevents the album from becoming a holistic, engrossing experience. The two aspects of the album not being connected isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it feels as if the whole concept is an afterthought, something put in the album just for the sake of it. ‘Dushman’ on paper promises to provide an immersive listening experience to the listeners but Quest’s rather prosaic attempt couldn’t convey that well for me.