Continuing our underground hip hop journey with Rapper Feyago in the lead.
Personal anguish and political strife walk hand in hand on Hip Hop Homeland North East. And shining through that tumult is a search for identity. Seen from the perspective of Feyago, the gifted rapper from Kolkata, the series is, over five serialised episodes, a glimpse into the lives of prominent hip hop artists from the North East, via a detour visiting the traditions of Baul Sangeet and an attempt to synthesise that musical heritage with modern sounds and hip hop. It is, in essence, an exploration of the personal and creative selves of the artists, an attempt to understand their motivations and aspirations.
Feyago collaborates with a Baul singer from Shantiniketan to produce a fusion of Baul folk and hip hop
Here’s how it works: Feyago, our man on the ground, takes charge, visiting Shillong and soaking in the stunning sights of the city. Beyond the picture-perfect, tourism-friendly beauty of the place, though, lie a host of individual stories, real and unsettling and thrilling and enchanting and delightful, that Feyago will uncover on his travels. His aim? To compose a collaborative song featuring artists from Shillong, each of whom will contribute their unique stylings to create a cohesive whole - a hip hop anthem.
So we visit young producer Stunnah, one-half of producer duo/beat-maestros StunnahSez Beatz, laying down the framework of the song. Feyago then heads on over to collaborate with a handful of rap collectives from Shillong: Cryptographik Street Poets, Khasi Bloodz, and Symphonic Movement (the youngest member of which, Iari, is all of thirteen-years-old and already a master wordsmith), while we also get an insight into the influence B-boying has had on the life of Jeorin Kimo.
B-boy Kim uses dance to awaken people
The short documentaries serve as profiles of the artists, as well as a snapshot of the immense musical depth here. Along the way, confessional tales pour out. Stories of descent into drugs, redemption through music, loss of close friends, insurgency, the role of religion, the realisation that politics extends beyond mere leaders - that it’s a movement of the people - all feature heavily. Hedonism and the need to just have fun is always in cahoots with the relentless urge to create change, to make a difference.
But, far and beyond that, remains a true commitment to the art itself. It’s been said enough times before, but hip hop as a subculture incites strong feelings of brotherhood and loyalty, of committing to the cause and putting the greater purpose above all else. Nowhere is that more evident than when we walk in on D-Mon and D-Bok, part of Khasi Bloodz, flipping burgers, and then riding around town to sell them to vendors and stores. The money they make is pumped into their own music - for buying gear, for production costs, for travels, for mixing and mastering. It’s a single-minded devotion to the music that we witness first-hand. The self-belief and the unwavering resolve to keep going forward.
Feyago and 13 year old Iari, using hip hop to be constructive rather than destructive
It’s not all though. Beyond the personal stories, the series is also a behind-the-scenes examination of the actual creative process, the writing and recording of the song. To the fans, the confidence, the swagger, the bullish nonchalance of hip hop displays, on the surface, a certain effortless cool. Like the rappers churning out a million words per second were born with this gift; that this is what they were meant to do. That may well be true, but alongside it, behind that self-assured ability to express, also lie hours of hard work, of practising and honing your craft, of repeatedly messing up and then refusing to stop until each syllable has been mastered to the point of perfection.
Stunnah Beatz, music producer of the 101 Hip Hop Homeland Anthem, North East
Here as well, we witness those rare moments of in-the-studio candour, as rhymes spill over into the next beat, words are skipped and forgotten, vocal melodies are sung a little flat, followed by exasperation and the odd swig from a bottle. And the moments of joy and accomplishment: Stunnah and Feyago just sharing a moment feeling that sense of otherwordly musical connection when they realise they have the groove to propel the song forward. A nailed on rhythm celebrated with a knowing nod of the head from everyone in the room. Hip Hop Homeland North East, really, is just an attempt to understand and, in a way, to participate in this rich musical movement, steeped in a willingness to push the boundaries, authenticity, and an inherent need to express.
Hip Hop Homeland North East is now live with the Anthem For The North East.
Watch it now on youtube.com/101india