Coupling rhythmic speech and street vernacular, rapping is a form of music that takes grooving to the beat to a whole new level. Whether it’s Gully Boy with its underdog out-and-out rap or inspirational lyrics to get you going or a commentary that highlights the fallacies of society, rap - a very misunderstood genre of music is popular for being well, the right kind of noise. Is rap moving from being music to more of an expression of societal issues and protest? We speak to the rappers in Mumbai for their take on it.
What effect does rap have on society and vice versa according to the rappers in Mumbai?
Music has always been a way out for some people and in recent years this has become ever more prominent. While rap has had a stereotypical name for being the kind of music that has a negative impact, music that is tangent to the usual, and that is often known to represent issues that society wouldn’t acclaim, rap has changed the young generation in many ways.
Rap affects society, and vice versa is true too. With societal issues emerging every other day that evokes a sense of frustration in a generation that has had enough, rap is often the way to let these emotions out. If you’ve ever paid attention to the lyrics of the rap beat, you’d have seen that these are perfectly strung together phrases (of dissent sometimes) that make a lot of sense, contrary to the notion that people have of the music form.
Yung Clyde, an outspoken Indian rapper and songwriter of lyrics that raise eyebrows, has been around the Indian rap scene for more than a decade. Armed with words as gruesome as they are goosebumpy and songs as profane as they are poetic he says he is constantly fighting a battle with people trying to shame'em for the obscenity in his art.
Rap is about telling stories in an exciting rhyming way and if you want to be called a rapper you have to be both willing and able to do it - Yung Clyde
“We Indians are very good at holding things back due to fear and hip hop doesn't take kindly to such an attitude,” he says. “If you can't stand 100% for yourself and your opinions roaring it out like a lion no one else will do it for you. Our decision to stay quiet or ‘tame it down’ on many things we want to write about as artists is a disgrace to the competitive nature of hip hop. This art form was born outta fierce competition, you can't be a coward and hope to win in it.”
Yung Clyde says he would love to see rappers in Mumbai and the National scene get real for once. Speaking of the song material, he says “I don't want to hear about how rowdy and dangerous you are, or why not to mess with you, or how you get many chicks, etc. Instead, speak about the real stuff.”
What is socially conscious rap?
A sub-genre of hip-hop, this refers to rap that is all about addressing societal issues, culture, dissent, political ideologies, or call for social action. All through rap. Seems like something that you’ve been hearing a lot lately, right? The themes of socially conscious rap can span a varied number. These include conflicts, politics, economy, the current state of affairs and just about anything the constitutes what is affecting people of society like you and me.
Today even in small towns, you have people listening to rap songs which is a very positive change - Dibyajeet Sarkar a.k.a Soch The Rapper
Speaking about how rap has actually started being conscious about these topics, Dibyajeet Sarkar a.k.a Soch The Rapper says that the form of music is definitely a powerful tool to voice your opinions on what's going on around you and create an impact, however, it is completely up to the artist to decide on what he/she wants to rap about. “It has to be authentic and not made up deliberately just to garner views by rapping on trending topics.”
He is also thrilled by the fact that the rap scene has started evolving and being recognised as an art form. “Bollywood has picked up on it big time hence the common man in India at least knows what ‘rap’ is, which was not the case 5 years back. Gully Boy played its part and so did the infamous ‘Raftaar vs Emiway’ rap beef.”
Women rap too! Female rappers in Mumbai speak of representation
Bringing girl power into the hip-hop scene, women ensure that empowerment is something constant and focused on when it comes to rapping. Earlier, the lyrical content of rap was found to be misogynistic and demeaning, but with women stepping up these days, the area has seen a change.
Preeti Sutar represents an all women hip hop collective called Wild Wild Women.
A hip hop enthusiast from a young age, she now feels like she’s completely into it and aspires of contributing a lot to the culture, the art and music community. “Societal issues have been the roots of the birth of hip hop. Nobody wants to talk or hear about sad issues - so I think rapping and music support the message with depth and more meaning and I think that’s the reason it all started. Everyone wants to speak up and be heard. All the artists are being creative enough to get their message out to the world and are being heard by their listeners with similar thoughts.”
Underground is a place where there is the real freedom of speech and every human has the right to do it instead of closing ourselves in a box monitored by the society and its norms - Preeti Sutar
She says the country has seen rapping very differently through commercial artists that barely talk about issues, but the real picture is in the streets and the struggle a common man faces to just LIVE and how he turns his pain into art. “Indian Underground hip hop is spreading and some street artists have so much talent in them that can’t be measured. I think the real beauty lies there and it will never be shown on television because all they do is speak the truth and sadly that’s what they never gonna show.”
Preeti looks forward to making music for women since there is a fistful of female rappers in the country and it’s definitely a male dominant industry she says. “I’d like to see more women coming out, raising their voices, speaking for themselves and breaking the stereotypes and I want to let everyone know that there is literally nothing a woman can’t do that a man can.”
Art needs no validation or boundaries, is what she believes.
What is the cultural significance of rap?
Often associated with negative connotations, rap has become synonymous with violence, crime and more. But is that all it has to offer? But while many attempt to look beyond the surface of rap’s lyrical content, there is profanity and meaning beneath the surface. Bundled in social justice and good lyrical content, modern rap is gaining attention.
Ibex - a rapper from Mumbai possesses a versatile style that drifts from dancehall to rap. He’s built a strong presence online and captures legions of new fans at the places he performs. “Rap is a weapon of words. It can be used in a powerful way to speak on societal issues that news, journalism or any other media may not cover. It can also be used as a weapon to spread peace and has given a voice against corruption, injustice, oppression that people face and it is a tool that helps bring change in the society.”
Ibex says that while there are many rappers in the underground and in the mainstream who are pushing forth and sowing the revolutionary seeds there is still a huge base of rappers that only speak about glamour.
Hip hop is an open art form of expression and we as artists are blessed to speak from our hearts freely and openly on societal issues - Ibex
“I have been through the entire journey of underground hip hop in India and experienced it from the early days when it was in a nascent stage in India to now that it has propelled to the forefront of the mainstream. I would like to see rapper's express themselves, their struggles and bring out their story with this art form in their unique style and delivery to be recognized as true artists.”