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Home / Brunch / Music: And, it’s a rap with these three unsung heroes!

Music: And, it’s a rap with these three unsung heroes!

Behind India’s rap stars are their producers. In many ways, we should thank them for the music

brunch Updated: Sep 20, 2020, 08:44 IST
Karishma Kuenzang
Karishma Kuenzang
Hindustan Times
Karan, 22, has worked with Divine, Shah Rule, MC Atlaf and Kaam Bhaari, besides co-producing tracks by Raftaar and Raja Kumari
Karan, 22, has worked with Divine, Shah Rule, MC Atlaf and Kaam Bhaari, besides co-producing tracks by Raftaar and Raja Kumari

Think Indian rap and, of course, you think of young women and men telling the world the stories we need to hear.

But behind the stars are the producers. These are the star-makers, and we have three of them with us today to tell us about the universe of rap, why we should look beyond the frontman, how beats and lyrics work together, and why sensible rap is the vehicle of change we need. 

1. The behind-the-scenes Gully Boy

It was sheer accident when Karan Kanchan clicked on a persistent recommendation pop-up on YouTube in 2010. “If I hadn’t, I would not be making music today,” the 22-year-old tells us.

Still in school, he grew curious about how eclectic sounds were created. Researching music jargon became a way of life and by 2010, 12-year-old Karan had collected over 200-300 EDM songs online. Today, he has different beat packages curated for artists such as Divine and Naezy.

“Initially when I mixed, it was just noise,” laughs Karan, who specialised in sound engineering in college. He gave himself three years to make a living via music or it was going back to making 3D graphics.

Game changer

Today, he’s worked with Divine, Shah Rule, MC Atlaf and Kaam Bhaari, besides co-producing tracks by Raftaar and Raja Kumari. And he’s also a record producer with the Gully Gang. Recently he teamed up with Divine for Project Salaam to support the frontline workers fighting COVID-19, besides releasing a track with singer-songwriter Ramya Pothuri.

“Music producers in India are now being credited in the description, which is still not common practice in most American hip-hop music videos,” he tells us. And so the audience is finally learning about the producer’s job behind the track. “It will take time, though,” he says.

“Rap is a form of poetry that tells real-life stories” —Karan Kanchan

So, how do the music and lyrics carry each other? “The beat helps the listener feel a certain way in terms of energy, emotions and rhythm, which allows the rap to flow seamlessly, making it a more immersive experience for the listener,” he explains.

But rappers are the face and the voice of the song and the lyrics are easier for the listeners to wrap their heads around, he adds. “Music is a universal language, if you give it a chance. And rap is a form of poetry that tells real-life stories. It is a powerful tool to communicate and voice your opinion. Let’s not forget that’s why it came into being!” says Karan.  

2. The political hero

Dub Sharma, 31, thinks rap should be used to spread awareness
Dub Sharma, 31, thinks rap should be used to spread awareness

Since 2008, Dub Sharma has been producing music for radio, TV jingles and musicians. In 2016, producer Dub Sharma, aka Siddharth Sharma, released the track Azadi, with clips of a speech made by student activist Kanhaiya Kumar, which became the founding stone on which Gully Boy’s Azadi was built.

“I like rap that makes sense.” —Dub Sharma

The music producer of the Zoya Akhtar flick says, “The content could’ve been more conscious in nature. Instead of focusing too much on the bling, the money or pulling each other’s legs and dissing, the opportunity could’ve been used to talk about a lot of actual stuff. I hope they do that now.”

Political panga

Rather than eyeing Bollywood projects, Dub seems to have moved to politics. In 2017, he did the music for Kunal Kamra’s talk show, Shut Up Ya Kunal.

With a Twitter feed full of poetry, the man behind Jingostan opines, “The idea is king, not the musician or rapper.”

How does he pick his projects? “I like rap that makes sense. I’m glad the tracks I’ve worked on are not full of empty calories but have some story,” he explains.

3. The high-funda mixer

Sez on the Beat aka Sajeel Kapoor, 26, is a self-admitted software geek
Sez on the Beat aka Sajeel Kapoor, 26, is a self-admitted software geek

Who says tinkering around with your childhood hobby can’t blossom into a career? That’s exactly what Sez On The Beat aka Sajeel Kapoor, a self-admitted software geek, did when he heard of Virtual DJ from a friend in school. It was nothing fancy – vocals of two songs blended together to make a short remix.

His “high funda” mixes came later, when he showed his diversity by working with the widest range of people in the circuit – the OG gully boys Divine and Naezy, Bollywood’s Badshah, the revolutionary Ahmer and Prabh Deep and even pop singer Zaeden, Enkore, Yungsta, Lit Happu, Shayan, all together.

Music and lyrics

He started out as an EDM producer, but once he got hooked to hip-hop, Sez knew he needed someone to rap over his beats. Today, with more than 10 years in the field, he begins with chilling with the artist and discussing ideas. “It’s crucial that I get the vibe. We record in my bedroom studio (mostly), after we decide on the content. And then I’m free to mix and master,” the 26-year-old tells us.

While he tweaks the songs, he’s not too keen to get into the lyrical aspect of it. “I mostly ask the rappers to tighten something or find better pockets in the song to tap,” says the Delhi boy.

“Hip-hop is about your perspective of life and shouldn’t be used just to spread awareness” —Sez On The Beat

What drives him is that people move to the music irrespective of what the lyrics are. “If you hear a song in a foreign language, you dance to it because of its groove,” he explains. And when you have artists like Seedhe Maut, you can’t not pay attention to what they are saying. Together, it’s a compelling composition.

Sez says, “Hip-hop is about your thoughts and perspective of life. I don’t think it should only be used to spread awareness though, because sometimes listening to relatable life experiences teaches you more.”

Of course, audiences usually don’t care about how the song is mixed or mastered or produced as a product, but artists do, Sez points out. For example, he experimented a lot with Ikka. “He told me to do what I deem best, which I really appreciate. Trust is an important thing.” Especially for music, that’s honest.

Follow @Kkuenzang on Twitter

From HT Brunch, September 21, 2020

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