They rap against corrupt cops and want marijuana consumption to be legal. Tony Sebastian, Agnel Avinash Benson and Rajesh Radhakrishnan are the Dopeadelicz. They tell Deepali Dhingra that their songs are about real people
Okay now, jump,” shouts our photographer. Tony Sebastian aka Psycho and Agnel Avinash Benson, aka Ben Z, leap in the air as Gerome, their band director, stands in the middle and whoops. I, in the meantime, look nervously around to warn them if I see an approaching train.
Agnel Avinash Benson, Gerome and Tony Sebastian. Pic/Suresh KK
We are at the railway tracks, just a few metres away from the Mahim railway station. It’s clear that these guys aren’t nervous. They have, after all, grown up walking alongside these tracks, sitting on them, doping and dreaming. Tony and Agnel are members of rap troupe Dopeadelicz, a multi-lingual, rhythm and poetry group that aims at becoming the first Indian hip hop sensation.
(Left to right) Agnel Avinash Benson, Rajesh Radhakrishnan and Tony Sebastian want marijuana to be legalised
The third member, Rajesh Radhakrishnan aka Rac Dope Daddy, is ill and recuperating in his hometown in Kerala. Having grown up in the bylanes of Matunga Labour Camp and Dharavi, the three are relatively popular in their hood after making a couple of rap videos and putting them up on social websites. But with Qyuki.com, a digital media agency picking them up to record and produce songs, that their dream, of hopefully making it big, seems to be in sight.
Tony, the lanky one with braided hair, is clearly the leader of the troupe. Before we head to the railway tracks, he gives us a glimpse into their world before they became Dopeadelicz. “All of us grew up in Dharavi and Matunga Labour Camp,” says the 22-year-old, who adds that it was in Andhra Education Society that they met and started hanging out together.
“It was after I had failed my HSC, that I started smoking marijuana and the three of us and Gerome would sit and chill at the Railway Dog Squad Garden,” says Tony, while Agnel adds with a laugh, “The code name of that place was Savita.” Was that the name of some ex-girlfriend, we ask, but the boys only laugh, adding that it’s a secret.
Tony developed an interest in music after he started hanging out with the Outlawz, a music crew that used to do gangsta rap. “I would listen to Bob Marley, Snoop Dog and Indian artistes such as Apache Indian and Raghav. I wanted to rap with them and even showed them some lyrics that I wrote for a song titled Stay Doped Stay High, towards legalising marijuana, but they didn’t like it.
I didn’t get the opportunity to rap with them,” he says. So it was when he started hanging out with Agnel and Rajesh, that the three of them would often sit, smoke marijuana and make parodies of songs. “Since we were stoners, I wanted to make music for stoners in India.
We have been listening to Bob Marley in India, but there’s no desi music for stoners like us,” explains Tony. They started downloading free beats from music websites, writing their own lyrics and rapping on them. Later, they even recorded some songs such as Hop on my Ride, D Rise and Ganpati Bappa Morya, and put them up on social websites.
By this time, they had thought of names like Thug Immortals and Dope Boys for their group, but decided on Dopeadelicz. While there wasn’t much response from people in general, the three managed to make their family, friends and fellow stoners sit up and take notice of their music.
D rise of Dopeadelicz
“And this is when the story starts,” says Tony dramatically. One night, while returning from a rappers’ meet, the musician was caught by the cops. “I had stash on me which I hid in my secret place (underwear). The cop kicked me.
I told him I’m a singer but he didn’t listen to me and started going through my phone’s playlist,” he recalls. The rapper got scared knowing that the cop would soon reach the letter ‘G’ and will find that most of the songs are Ganja songs. “But before that, thankfully, he reached Ganpati Bappa and started playing that. I turned to him and said see, this is my song. After that, the cop let me go. It was my music that saved me,” he laughs.
This incident left such a deep impression on the young singer’s mind that he made a Marathi song titled Aai Shapath Saheb (Me Nhavto). “That song made us popular as it went viral on social websites and we started getting calls from people in Delhi, Nashik and Pune saying how they are loving this track.
It became an innocent person’s anthem,” recalls Agnel. And it was this song, that caught the attention of Qyuki.com’s managing director, Samir Bangara, as well. The troupe’s ability to rap in different languages English, Hindi, Marathi and Tamil, appealed to the digital agency, who are now backing their talent. Very soon, their songs and videos will be available on the website.
“What started as a revenge action plan against the Outlawz turned into a passion, as we realised that people like our songs,” says Agnel, who, like Tony and Rajesh, is 22 years of age. But why do most of their songs talk about legalising marijuana? “We are against drugs,” says Tony, who explains that while drugs like cocaine and heroine are chemicals, marijuana is a herb.
“A person who drinks alcohol and kills people in an accident, has a legal place called a bar to drink, while a person who smokes marijuana and harms nobody has no place to go. Why is that?” he asks. And Agnel, who has been the silent one through the conversation all this while, sums it up when he says, “The purpose of our music is to spread love, peace and dope.” Any takers?