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The Allure Of Pune’s Hip-Hop Scene: Why Does The City Stand Out?

There is no doubt about the significance Compton had on the whole sound of Hip-Hop as we recognize it. Although home to diverse communities, the city has had a large number of Afro-Americans. A community that has literally started and kept Hip-Hop alive to date. Compton was home to a lot of criminals and delinquents, the ethos they created eventually led to rappers, like YG, The Game, Eazy-E, Dr Dre, and Kendrick Lamar. All of these rappers have different sounds and different themes, while MC Eiht and The Game were into hardcore rap, Eazy-E who is literally termed as ‘The Godfather of Gangsta Rap’, Kendrick Lamar was more into activism and conscious Hip Hop. Now why are we stating all of this?

People often term Pune as the Compton of India, primarily for two reasons that make the cities quite similar. Firstly, the crimes, criminal life, and local gangs in Pune. The now metropolitan city has had a history of big criminals and gangsters who defied law and order. Secondly, the rise of Hip-Hop in the city, especially gangsta, with other genres blending in concerning each artist’s musicality. It’s almost evident that MC Stan is the flagbearer of a lot of new sounds introduced to India, be it melodic rap, trap, bounce, or different forms of fusion. He has been into Hip-Hop since he was a kid and has faced a lot of trauma during his childhood. He has spoken about how poverty severely affected his family, how the people in his circle were responsible for the type of a man he became, the crimes he committed, how he repented them, and his messed up interactions with the police that eventually led to his exile.

A lot of other rap talents from Pune have a somewhat similar story, including rappers like YG 400, Nick L, and Pratik Lastking, who used to have good relations with Stan before things went down. These artists work on new school hip-hop and implement fusions and versions of trap in their songs. On the contrary, artists like Devang work with forms of alternative Hip-Hop and choose to be authentic with what they create, even if it results in a road less traveled.

But the sound of Pune isn’t restricted to this template, artists like Shreyas and Started Off Poor chose lyricism and thoughtful themes for their art. A specific case is Ajinkya Shinde (stage name – Started Off Poor) preaches authenticity and embraces the struggles that shape an artist. Other talents include RocKsun, Rada, and MC Dido who work on creating lyrical and thematic pieces. Another artist worth talking about is MC THC, the Pune-based MC is one of the finest talents in the city. His skills of emceeing and creating hits that sound international made him succeed in the industry.

More on the lyrical side of the spectrum, Sambata and MC Gawthi are two popular artists from the city, with millions of views and hardcore fans. Sambata, with only five tracks released till now, is celebrated across the scene thanks to his hard-hitting bars and vibey flows. Recently, he was signed by DefJam India and has been using the opportunity to practice his craft. MC Gawthi is another rhymer that has garnered a huge following. Also having released just five tracks, his lengthy tracks boast about his lyrical prowess. In fact, Sambata and MC Gawthi are two of the very few ones who practice old-school Hip-Hop, having simple beats with very long verses featuring the Marathi vocabulary and the city slang, leading to long tracks. This shows how well-appreciated the genre is in the city. Eavil is another rapper who focuses on primarily creating lyrical raps and is quite old-school with his style, his upcoming debut album will surely be a treat for his audience as they witness the rise of poetic rhymes.

With sounds like Trap, Old-school, Grime, Gangsta, Drill, other forms of alternate, and a lot more, the city’s soundscape never settles to a particular form. The unconventional style of song structuring and storytelling, extended verses with different rhyme schemes and flows, and long-duration tracks with different themes and concepts further add to the unorthodox style of Pune. Producers such as Vedang, Khakiee, YD, and Chetan have the caliber to work with different forms of sonics, creating the perfect music to complement the story an artist conveys.

Vedang, specifically, holds the power to switch his styles and genres as per the rapper he’s working with. Also, being a Pune-based producer, Vedang has collaborated with rappers across the scene and helped them make their pieces. Another talent worth mentioning is ARSLAN, his collaborations with Devang and Shauharty including Jazz-influenced projects and other sorts of sonics they work on are loved by the fans they share. He even works on his own original pieces and posts tapes on SoundCloud. Pune is home to a lot more upcoming producers and beatmakers who strive to be different and relentlessly work their experimentalism.

Hip-hop is not just a genre of music, it isn’t restricted to be a form of expression, it is also a culture, a way of living as some might call it. The ground zero culture appreciation and the passion some Punekars have for Hip-Hop is commendable. With cyphers and shows happening almost constantly, collectives such as Street Force Pune take things to a different level with B-Boys, emcees, and graffiti artists. Other than this, the dressing sense and the lifestyle of these artists could be judged as quite outlandish to the common eye, but their dedication to the craft and custom is praise-worthy. Be it waving the flags of Western gangs and making gang signs, to being a part of local gangs and having political affiliations, a few rappers actually make efforts to live the same life that the Westerners influence. In one instance, Sambata and MC Dido would have an encounter that involved a short-lived fight, due to a beef the rappers shared. This is rather a darker side of the influence these rappers have. Promoting delinquency, flexing their crimes and criminal life, and boasting of how short-tempered and ‘violent’ they are is what makes the scene have a somewhat negative outlook.

Pune literally has the potential to be the most important and premier town for Hip-Hop in India. The sudden growth and expansion of the culture in the city promises upcoming prodigies and talents that are determined to be the flag bearers. With the success of MC Stan, the representation he has brought, and the amazing talents the city is home to, one can expect a lot coming from the city in the foreseeable future.

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