Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Brown pride and dark underbelly

I've often heard hip-hop is best left to the blacks. Apparently, the whole genre loses its sheen when Indians try to imitate the art form. Which is also why Mumbaiya rappers get derided for their unflattering attempts. I counted myself as one of the critics not very long ago. I found Bombay-based hip-hop artists way too wannabe to be taken seriously. This was before i stumbled upon Divine and Naezy. These young artists are brilliant not just in their expression but also with their substance. There is an undeniable volume of honesty in their work. They speak about the place (read: chawls) they come from and that too in a language their neighbours understand. They don't seem to be putting on a cape to look cooler than they already are. 

For instance, check these lyrics from Divine's Jungli Sher:
Chhota sa main ladka
Chhoti cheezon pe main bhadka
Mere daal mein nahi tha tadka
Ghar mein baap ke roz ka lafda
Dafna mushkilon ko
Meri maa ki kamaai ne
Baap wala role nibhaya mere bhai ne
Tairna sikha khaai mein
Isiliye shabdon mein gehraai hai
Zindagi toh ek ladaai hai
Jo paiso mein samaayi hai...

And here are some from Naezy's Haq Hai: 
Mumbai ka mai chokra
Ye nagri hai ayyaasho ki, ameero ki
Sitaaro ki, funkaaro ki, ghumkhaaro ki
Gareebko ki, fakeero ki
Bas daal roti ki bhi kadki hai, majboori hai
Maal daaro ki tadki hui tandoori hai
Bhadki hui maa ro ri hai
Khaa k maa ki lori wo
Ladki bhooki so rahi hai
Wo tarsi hui si thodi hai
Khaane ko bhi wo ro rahi hai...

Both of them seem to draw inspiration from their surroundings. They observe and they feel and they write about stuff that really matters to them. Poverty and illiteracy are some of the two recurring subjects addressed without any resort to self-pity. There is anger in their voice but it's tempered by their inward looking attitude. It's remarkable how the words chosen somehow maintain the balance between the problems exhibited and the solutions proposed. 

They collaborated for a song titled Meri Gully Mein and you don't even need to have a past in the slums (like i do) to get attached to these engaging lyrics:
Tere shooterooo ka khaas
Meri gully mein
Poore shehar ki awaaz
Mere gully mein
Pray aarti ya namaz
Meri gully mein
Maa pe gaali tho chamaat
Mere gully mein
Police aayi lagi waat
Mere gully mein
Ek number saari baat
Mere gully mein...

I'm a copywriter by profession and i basically write for the graphic designers. So far, i've made it a point to NOT pretend to understand design. Similarly, i stay focused on lyrics and pretend not to understand music. To me, words matter. The sincerity behind them matters more. And in the above mentioned cases, that's evident in abundance. It'd be great to see many more such rappers emerge from the darkest of underbellies that are left unsung. They shall be brown and they will be noted hopefully. The way a white guy named Eminem was 20 years ago. 

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