Hip-Hop culture has always been about being authentic and unfabricated in all aspects. The genre itself serves as a form of art one can utilize to convey their thoughts, feelings or narrate an incident if need be. Rage Hip-Hop and Gangsta rap have a lot in common, mostly being a sub-genre about presenting yourself as powerful and violent too, in some cases.
However, Raaj’s “Kaal Ke Pukaar” is a fresher concept while being relevant to Rage or Gangsta Rap. It is aggressive but all for the right reasons, rather than unnecessarily bragging about being a big deal, he answers back to the ones who think too less of him seeing his regional background. Released on the 10th of July, the album features 8 tracks including an intro and a skit. The Sasaram-born Jamshedpur-based rapper can be seen rapping his heart out in belligerence while he talks about life in his area, the potential they have, and how proud he is of being from Bihar.
Everything, from the cover art to the sound and the lyrics, projects aggressiveness. The aggressiveness is intended to achieve it all and prove people wrong. He raps about how classists behave with his people, the discrimination Biharis feel and his determination to be the best and represent his community. “Jha Ji(Skit)” features the voice of Kat Jr., a fellow Hip-Hop artist, who rants about the atrocities he has faced being a Bihari, and how he is still persistent towards working on his art and changing things through his art. Raaj’s style remains the same throughout the album; he intends to deliver an effect that makes the doubters reconsider. While his rhyme schemes are simple, his hostile flow carries the vocals of the album.
Sonically, the album poses a refreshing version of grime sound. Produced by Sampliyaha, Harxhit, and Laudrup, the album has features from Harass and Arj Aman apart from a skit by Kat Jr. The overall soundscape seems sinister, there are a few mosh-worthy tracks in the album too, especially ‘Ka Marde’. Simple samples with drums and well-structured elements contribute towards delivering a fierce experience.
“Kaal Ke Pukaar”, Raaj’s sophomore album, sees him curate a project in Bhojpuri for the first time. This is also his first project completely created in the grime genre. His past works, including Ginti with MC Kode and Inquilab with Sez on the Beat are quite different from his musicality on this album, hence this piece speaks of his versatility too. Overall, “Kaal Ke Pukaar” is a callout to all the people who look down upon the people from the Bihar-Jharkhand belt, and a testament to the artistic caliber they have.
“abru is extrinsic ruab on the contrary ruab is intrinsic”
RVAB – Dhanji
With the end of pre-Ruab, and what might be considered as one of the most revered album rollouts in the underground/alternate Hip-Hop scene, Ruab, released on the 8th of August, is undoubtedly the most anticipated non-mainstream project of this year. Dhanji has been teasing the album for a couple of years now, but according to the artist himself, it has been in the making since he was aware of it. Running for a quarter to an hour, the album features 11 tracks.
Personally, I found Ruab as an acknowledgment of Dhanji’s artistry and an ode to his experiences. Ruab is a very personal project to Dhanji and his core supporters, it is a meticulously arranged collection of tracks whose sounds tell a story of their own. I saw Ruab as a film, a non-generic one, a film that not only has highs and lows, entertaining values, and a turn of events but also contains an underlying meaning that is confined within layers of interpretations. The reason why Ruab will stay close to the audience for years to come is the disparate uniqueness and novelty it brings out.
Thematically, I feel that Ruab talks about money, but not as we perceive it, it poses a question of what should be concerning an artist more. Should one choose to be a sellout, are they an artist anymore? And If one retains his integrity, how long shall they sustain in this game? A lot of instances in the album suggest the debate between Paisa and Shaurat, until “1 Khabri / 2 Numberi’. The track starts with a quarrel between Paisa and Shaurat, Dhanji narrates this story as the scene appears to be set in his imagination. Starting with a coin flip, both perspectives debate over the point of what’s more significant for one. This dispute ends with Paisa proving actual existence in the society, but does this end the age-old debate? I believe, Ruab might give you a perspective of an artist in this dilemma, but to be or not to be, is all up to you.
Ruab also features different aspects of Dhanji’s self. A way to put it is the artist is scattered throughout the album, each track features a story of its own, a different outlook while still incorporating a suggested interpretation. It presents his events in Amdavad, a city so close to him, the album also manages to contrast his artistic persona with real-life nature. I found Ruab as a transition between Jayraj Ganatra to Dhanji and vice versa in a few instances.
Sonically, the album is a quintessence of avant-garde in Indian Hip-Hop as we know it. It is a fusion of Funk, G-Funk, a few Jazz elements, and Hip-Hop. A huge part of the sound is inspired by James Brown’s works and Dhanji even attributes the legend throughout the album as well as the cover art. The most noticeable references are snippets of what’s rather called ‘The Most Awkward Interview’ of the late musician. Other than that the album also displays its rareness, from sampling a tune from “Biwi No.1” in ‘Teji’ to experimenting with what seems like the “Respect” sound effect from GTA San Andreas in ‘Jayanti’, the album also has unique intros like a dialogue from “Taxi Driver” in ‘Magaj Ka Beemari’ and a radio skit on ‘Put that on Wax’, and various other elements that credit the idiosyncrasy of the LP.
Ruab is produced by Produced by Circle Tone, Unfuckman, Sammad, EBE, MLHVR, and Acharya with additional production from PSV and Blu Attic. A special shout goes to Circle Tone for setting a benchmark in production and sound layerings, he has quite literally given the sound to the album, understanding Dhanji’s attempt and making it a reality. A very complete sense of uniqueness can be felt in terms of expression in the sound delivered, thanks to instruments such as drums, Saxophone, Trumpet, Trombone, Bass, Electronic Guitar, other sorts of percussion and so much more that one might miss during the initial plays. Dhanji himself has a huge contribution to the sound the LP features. The deliberate intent of making what shall be the most important project of his career yet, in a sound he hasn’t ever worked in previously showcases his meritorious competence of experimentalism. The sound of Ruab deserves a distinct appreciation together, the elements, mostly engineered except for Thaltej Blues wherein a musician/freelancer Manuel Trabucco did an original saxophone score, to the flawless transitions almost halfway through the LP, ending with a very pensive sequencing of the tracks.
While listening to the LP, I noticed intentional aspects that were added thoughtfully to drive the funk soundscape. An example is the scream talk or the shouts that Dhanji does, which is a very important fundamental of the genre. Dhanji, being known for his flow and outlandish vibe on a track, peaks on his forte with Ruab. He fluently gets into the sound of a track and seamlessly transitions between themes and perspectives. The most notable instance is 1 Khabri/2 Numberi, which starts with a skit and then changes into an eerie and bass-driven soundscape. I also saw regular attempts to use vocals as an instrument themselves, only the peculiarity being a non-facile yet effortless one rather than the desperate use of autotune or mumbling. These sorts of vocals also happen to be related to funk and have been seen in experimental projects in the West. The only repercussion this had was a portion of the audience did not resonate with the lyrical content, their complaint being unclear and over complex verse that didn’t make much sense at first. The lyricism of Ruab is yet another example of Dhanji’s caliber as an eccentric storyteller. Other than the simpler bars, quotables, and witty liners the lyricism featured the story of Dhanji, his Amdavad lore, and his ideas. The verses celebrate his philosophies and showcase the constant battle of being an artist in search of his reputation while being a person making ends meet.
Another factor that completes Ruab’s thematic and sonic side is the carefully chosen and beautifully executed features. Every feature is placed perfectly throughout the LP as if Dhanji paints a picture and chooses the colours out of a palette exquisitely to compliment his art. One of the best ones is a posse cut featuring Bagi Munda, Faizan, Arpit Bala, Lit Trust, and Siyaahi, ‘What Would The Credit Department Do?’, a track themed around foreshadowing struggles faced by artists and the state of talents in the scene. Other features such as Gravity on ‘Mulaqat’ and Encore ABJ on the freestyle ‘Jayanti’ that lightens the mood after the emotional and hard-felt tracks preceding it are examples of how well features and tracks are sequenced in the album. Additional vocal features by Pho, 3bhk, Neil CK and Ishan present more to the melodic side of the album. A very special one is Neil CK whose vocals and voices have filled Thaltej Blues, where he worked along with Dhanji on recreating the track with the same stems yet a different and newer version.
Whether one likes it or not, experimental projects have always stayed relevant in the scene for years to come, these projects have the strength to pave a new path in the direction of originality in art. Ruab is the epitome of what one might term as an ‘artistic courage’. Dhanji has a history of always switching sounds and never settling into one, he has never stuck to a genre and adapted it into his musicality. Ruab is also an expression of perspectives and suggested meanings, there is something for everyone to relate to, and because of that one might interpret the whole body of work however they want, as long as it stays relevant for themselves. This is another reason why the LP will stay in the audiences’ mind for a long time. In this case, A project Ruab constantly reminded me of was “To Pimp A Butterfly”, even though it was largely accepted as an exploration of racial discrimination, a lot of people resonated with it with a different interpretation altogether. It also preaches the willingness of a creator to set their pride aside, intricately study a piece of art and transform their artistry around it. It showcases a way to pay homage to your roots and narrate your life experiences whilst relating them to other themes and collectively organizing it to form a larger connotation.
Starting a solo musical journey in 2021, Diya Maeve is out with her debut EP “For The Lovers” with the alternative Indie pop flavor attuned to her aesthetic. The clear inspiration of western music juxtaposed with her Indian classical foundation, reflects in the singer-songwriter’s composition.
With five original pieces up her sleeve, the EP releases on 23rd June this year, with two singles pre-released as a sneak peek into the rhythmic odyssey. True to its namesake, this EP is Diya’s gift to all the lovers and dreamers who face the complexities of love and mend their own selves in the process. The lyrical formation captivates the ear with the delicate melody that dances over the delicious arrangements navigating through themes of self–discovery, love and even overcoming the overall complexities.
Formulating the exquisite blend of alternative nuances with indie pop sensibilities, Diya poetically crafts her work pushing the listeners into an emotional labyrinth. “Me, You and The Stars” starts with static vulnerability introducing its alluring delicacy, and continues with “Jupiter’s Moon”, instilling a profound connection with her audience. Diya Maeve’s enchanting musical voyage continues with her captivating compositions, “Me, You and The Stars” and “Jupiter’s Moon,” where love’s emotions intertwine with celestial melodies.
In the euphoric embrace of “Me, You and The Stars,” the lyrics delicately weave dreams of a blissful union, accompanied by an acoustic-like introduction that sets the stage for a symphony of romance. The chorus entices the listener to dive deep into the melodies, evoking a longing that emanates a profound sense of joy, resonating with all who have experienced the intoxication of love.
In contrast, “Jupiter’s Moon” explores a more melancholic perspective on love, delving into the depths of longing and separation. The poignant lyrics capture the despair of reminiscing about lost love, while the composition offers a soothing indie tonality that embraces the listener’s emotions. Like a gentle lunar presence, the song envelops the heart with bittersweet melodies that evoke both nostalgia and introspection.
Similar to a story, the next three singles, “Achilles Heel”, “Your Love”, and “On The Other Side Of The Moon” paints vulnerability drawing from raw inspirations. The final track is a poem that begins the endgame of the circle of suffering, yet instills a sense of hope and catharsis within the very core of the listener’s being.
Indie pop and alternative genres converge in this masterful EP, showcasing a sonic identity that is simultaneously relatable and refreshingly original. Its technicalities, meticulously honed, embrace a diverse range of vocal tonalities and experimental production styles, creating an intimate and organic sonic artwork. Its lyrical depths explore introspective themes, crafting poetic narratives that invite listeners to embark on a deeply personal journey. Owing to the exquisite craftsmanship, “For The Lovers” stands as a resounding triumph and a harbinger of the boundless possibilities of Diya Maeve within the realm of music.
Diya Maeve’s Debut EP “For the Lovers” is Out On 23rd June 2023