‘Aankh khol,upar dekh . Pankho ko faila aur bhar Udaan’ (Open your eyes, look up to the sky. Spread your wings and take flight). That’s how the hook of a Seedhe Maut song called Pankh goes. And maybe that can be the future of a few young Delhi MCs if times go right. Here’s an account of a recent hip-hop event at Aryabhatta College.
Aryabhatta College is a humble education institution scattered somewhere in South Campus of the University of Delhi (DU). Last week on 21st February, their fest was in full swing with the usual dance teams and a Punjabi singer as the highlight of the star night. Just another generic DU fest.
However, at noon, in front of the college’s generic looking canteen, something original was brewing. A hand with a mic was drawn on a sheet of power with the words ‘Tera Bhai Seedhe Maut’ written on it. For one who’s slightly acquainted with hip hop music in Delhi, Seedhe Maut, a local duo who’re out with a new album, is essential listening.
Soon, you could see the members of Seedhe Maut showing up here along with another trending rap duo, Full Power, as mics and speakers were being set. This was an event (a pun called ‘Rap-sody’) cut off from the rest of the fest. This was pure hip hop.
Rappers from all colleges in Delhi had assembled to first showcase their freestyles on a chosen beat while battling their colleagues in between. But the enthusiasm was being spit out on the mic even before the event started. Beatboxers and MCs huddled up in a circle and began rapping their best bars. Right then, an aura was born. A rap cypher was born. And probably for the future, several stars were born.
They were dressed in loose jeans, looser hoodies, Yankee caps, chains and some even came with skateboards. It might seem like a pretentious cosplay of 90s hip hoppers but most of the people over there had a flow and spirit, made in India.
From rising rappers in the scene like Smoke and Saby, to many first timers like an Amity student going under moniker Psya, rapped out their original freestyles. ‘Man, I feel nervous as it’s my first performance and my slot also comes early on the list. Yet I feel the crowd here is supportive so I might just pass with a decent performance.’ Psya said, before the showcase started.
The event started with such a showcase of rappers with some battles in between. There were a few memorable moments as mentioned before but not every freestyle was fiery as a few rappers got a mixed reaction too. There were a few raps on a generic ‘boy meets girl-girl breaks heart’ story and one on a ‘gangster party’! Cringe was induced indeed at times.
But that also indicates a certain diversity that underground hip-hop is not monotonous; everyone has something different to rap on. ‘Many of us might have common themes on which we write raps but still the best thing is that we all have a different way of interpreting these themes, different flows and styles to perform,’ said Tushar from Ambedkar University, who rapped a song on environmental degradation.
The big guy, the judge, overseeing this was Kode. Kode, a pioneer in battle rapping in the capital city, hopped around encouraging the performers and hosting this show with vigour. ‘See this competition as Gully Boy and I’m Zoya Aktar in this shit.’ , he yelled on the mic.
Ideally, as a judge, he was supposed to give marks for everyone on the showcase and then select a few for some final rap battles. And that’s what Kode did till he walked again to the centre and did something that would make for a great third act on any Indian reality show episode.
‘This is hip-hop. We don’t do it like this. We gonna battle it out; none of this Javed Akhtar shit,’ Kode yelled again and tore the sheet of paper on which he had written down marks. He chose one of the competitors, another rapper from Swami Shradhanand College called Shantanu and gave the challenge for any rapper to defeat Shantnu in battle.
Three wordsmiths volunteered. The rest gathered around. And what followed was a rapid-fire exchange of personal insults and savage replies. This was no 8 Mile, this was no Gully Boy, this was real.
In the end, Shantanu still emerged victorious in these battles. However, the show wasn’t over. Some fragile canteen tables were arranged at that spot and an impromptu stage was made. Kode, Full Power and Seedhe Maut all took turns to perform. It turned out to be a final display of music for the public as they cheered, jumped, bobbed their heads, and repeated song hooks.
The crowd at Rap-sody wasn’t your typical jampacked college crowd but whoever was there, they got a genuine air of Delhi hip-hop’s present and future. A rap-battle took place at Ambedkar University a week later. And now, another one is upcoming at Hindu College as a part of the North East Society’s fest.
So, definitely, there are more chances now for unsigned student MCs in colleges in Delhi to shine and thrive in a clique of their own…
Featured Image credits- Shaurya Singh Thapa
Shaurya Singh Thapa