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Thursday, Oct 24, 2019

Meet the hip-hop hopefuls who put the rap in rapid

How fast can you sing a hip-hop song?

more-lifestyle Updated: Oct 12, 2019 20:40 IST
Puneeta Mahadevia
Puneeta Mahadevia
Hindustan Times
Tofik TC and Addy Nagar have earned their fame as fast rappers.
Tofik TC and Addy Nagar have earned their fame as fast rappers. (ILLUSTRATION: UNNIKRISHNAN AV)
         

If you’ve watched Gully Boy and are cheering over its Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film, you probably have some idea that hip-hop is huge in India. Most young artists will take pains to weave lyrics about a hard life into a sick, catchy beat. But a small section of them is obsessed with chasing another goal entirely: speed. Their aim is to sing a rap song, original or a cover of a hit, as fast as they can – regardless of whether they’re being understood.

On YouTube, a slew of videos have artists showing off how fast they can get through the lyrics. Many are shot on camera phones – musicians hoping to get famous quick, real quick. Some however, are well shot, well produced and surprisingly well thought out.

In March, Shubham Chandel, a first-year BDS student from Himachal Pradesh, got his name in the India Book of Records, for performing Bohemia’s 4-minute 20-second single Charso Bees in 45 seconds. He takes quick breaths – he has to – and his delivery is lightning fast, leaving you bewildered but oddly impressed.

CHASING THE BEAT

No one knows who started it, but competitors have sprouted fast. Tofik TC, in a 2015 YouTube video, promises in Hindi: “This video is not fake. Nor has it been sped up. Here’s my stopwatch!” He then jumps into a super-fast rendition of part of Raftaar’s Swag Mera Desi. The lyrics roll by on screen, but less than a minute later, before you’ve settled in, the song’s over. And Tofik’s crowned himself the fastest rapper of the moment.

The rapper is modest. “It’s God’s gift. I don’t do any exercises,” says the 25-year-old video editor from Ahmedabad, who dedicates his non-working hours to hone his skills. “Your capacity increases as you rap more.”

While quick delivery doesn’t fail to impress, clarity and lyrics also play a big role in this art form. “In general I think rap itself has become a trend and fast rappers form a subculture. There’s more to rap than speed but those who do focus on speed do a commendable job,” says Ace, the leader of Mumbai’s Finest, one of oldest Indian rap crews in India.

THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS

It gets serious. When the Guinness Book of World Records entered Chicago rapper Twista in its 1992 edition for being the fastest rapper at 11.2 syllables per second, words began to fly. The record went to several other rappers before Rebel XD, a rapper from Chicago, silenced them all with 852 syllables in 42 seconds in 2007. El

Chojin, a Spanish rapper, broke this record in 2009, with 921 syllables. Rebel, however, was enraged and said it was unfair – Chojin sang for a whole minute.

For most singers, speed-rap is about fast-tracking yourself to fame. Addy Nagar, 23, from Ghaziabad, uploaded a YouTube video titled Fastest Hindi Rap in 2017. It has garnered over a million views. “When I started out in 2013, rap wasn’t very common in India and I wanted to do something different,” he says. “I wanted everyone to know that I am the king. Even today, I don’t receive the same appreciation for my new songs like I did for my fast rapping video.”

When it comes to language, rappers in India have it easier – on the whole, native words are shorter, and there’s license to slip in a bit of English when words fail you. “English and Punjabi are easy because it’s easy to rhyme in those languages,” says Addy Nagar. “Chaste Hindi is difficult because most young people won’t understand a lot of the words.”

While these artists have moved onto creating their own content, the quest for the fastest beat continues.

First Published: Oct 12, 2019 20:40 IST

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