Inka time ayega!
We go behind the scenes to shine light on producers who lay the beats for some of Mumbai's biggest rappers
It might still be a bit too early to state that hip-hop music has truly found its feet in India, but it definitely seems to be heading in the right direction. After first emerging on the horizon around 2014, the genre found its place in the sun after the release of Gully Boy earlier this year. The movie made names like Naezy and DIVINE forces to be reckoned with. Then there are people like Emiway Bantai and Raftaar whose videos garner millions of views online.
But while these artistes are the more visible faces of a growing movement, it's the producers who lay the beats to their rhymes who make a cohesive musical offering possible. Their behind-the-scenes contribution provides the nuts and bolts that give solidity to a song's structure. So, even though the spotlight is on the actual rapper, the producers in the shadows are equally integral to the entire process. We take a look at four such people responsible for some of the standout hip-hop tracks from the city, shifting the focus to the crucial role that they have played.
Seedhe Maut Interlude by Tienas
There is a straight-up western aesthetic that Tanmay Saxena aka Tienas brings to the table that is a far cry from the gully rap that certain sections of the city's hip-hop artistes embody. This is in evidence in Seedhe Maut Interlude from O, Saxena's own album (the producer often raps to his own beats as well). For it, the Mumbai-based artiste collaborated with Delhi duo Encore ABJ and Calm. "I had the intro and ending [for my album] and was looking for an interlude. So I sent them around 17 to 18 beats and they chose one over which they wrote their verses," he informs us, adding, "A producer's job is essentially to provide a strong canvas on which rappers can paint their own lyrics. You have to find the colours that will sound beautiful and it doesn't matter how many instruments, or brushes, you use. It just has to sound good, that's it."
Zamana by MC Mastaan
One is a down-to-earth producer from Navi Mumbai. The other is a son-of-the-soil rapper from Chembur. So it was only natural that Sannit Gangula aka BlurFace and MC Mastaan would get along like a house on fire when they first met around 2015. That instant camaraderie later set the ground for Zamana, a straight-up gully rap track that — even though it still hasn't got the sort of traction it deserves — is an excellent example of how the hip-hop wave has washed over the nooks and crannies of this city. Gangula tells us in Hindi, "There is this gully-waalah feel that we try and capture in our tracks. We use Indian instruments and take inspiration from the music that we listen to on the streets. And we also talk about the issues that everyday people in Mumbai face. We listen to what they have to say, and portray their struggles through the medium of music."
The Warli Revolt by Swadesi
The Warli Revolt is one of the most important Indian hip-hop tracks made so far. The song serves as a clarion call for people to take a stand against the injustices that the adivasis in Mumbai's Aarey Colony have faced at the hands of the state government. The hard-hitting lyrics are layered over an infectious groove that Abhishek Shindolkar, producer for city-based collective Swadesi, conceptualised. "It took us around two years to make the track, and it started with me making a basic beat after we spoke to [tribal chieftain] Prakash Bhoir, who introduced us to a traditional wind instrument called the tarpa. So, when I was making the sample for the song, I took inspiration from a random video my dad's friend had uploaded on YouTube, which shows a Warli adivasi playing the tarpa," he tells us, adding that their intention wasn't to cater to just an upwardly mobile, young urban crowd. "We wanted to cut across age groups and demographies," Shindolkar says.
Aane De by Naezy
Naezy is one of the pioneers in the Indian hip-hop scene, who broke through the ranks in 2015 with the track Mere Gully Mein. But he then went underground for a bit, only to emerge with a track called Aane De two years later. The song brought him into prominence once again, and the person he has to thank in large parts for it is Karan Kanchan, who produced it. Kanchan says, "Naezy never writes in front of me; he is in his own zone when he does that. But once when he was in the UK, he suddenly called me and said, 'Bro, I have made a hook and written the verses for a track,' and he sent me an arrangement idea that I worked on before sending it back to him. Then, when he came back, he said, 'Let's go into the studio and record it.'" That's the first time that the two worked together, and Kanchan has since gone on to produce tracks for some of the biggest names in Indian hip-hop, including Raftaar and DIVINE, with whom he worked on Sock Them, the Indian cricket team's anthem for this year's World Cup.
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