“The courage to be yourself is the essence of hip-hop” - KRS-One.
In an age where multimedia conglomerates determine the content we consume, one of the main questions that arises is the credibility of the stories that we’re fed. India’s mainstream media frequently pimps products and stories that are laced with xenophobia and misogyny. Stories that are manufactured to feed an audience - one that is easily distracted, voyeuristic and ready to indulge the faceless entities that play around with our passions to suit their own needs. We are that audience. Willingly or not, we’ve helped make it easier for them to create an ecosystem that seeks to provoke our most basic instincts rather than educate and inform. We want to be provoked. We want someone to tell us who to direct our anger at - a scapegoat that we can hang without feeling guilty. Without discussing the authenticity of the story.
This lack of authenticity bothers me. Over the past year, hip-hop has exposed me to stories and people that educate us about the issues our society faces on a daily basis at the grassroots. And this is a narrative that I want to explore with Hip-Hop Homeland. I want to highlight artists that give us direct access to the pulse of a community. Artists such as Naezy, who writes about his experience of growing up in a community that lacks economic opportunity and regularly faces harassment at the hands of the police, to MC Kash, who shows us what it’s like to live under the barrel of a state-sponsored gun - a state that claims him as one of their own – have educated me about the realities that millions of Indians face in this country.
The homegrown hip-hop movement is one that deserves attention solely because of the stakeholders who drive it. These stakeholders belong to different communities, have varying political affiliations, ideologies and belief systems. It’ll be easy for them to divide themselves according to the same stereotypes and barriers that we’ve placed amongst ourselves. What brings them together is their steadfast belief in the fact their stories deserve to be heard and that they can make a tangible impact in the society they live in. These artists don’t bow to what the industry wants them to be. They’re not manufactured and built to do the industry’s bidding. You won’t find an artist like Yo Yo Honey Singh here.
Instead, you’ll find Divine, an artist that lived through a difficult domestic life in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Mumbai, talking about the characters that have shaped his community and his city. You’ll find MC Tod Fod, who’s using his art to push forward his seemingly right-of-centre politics. You’ll find Kru 172, two boys from Punjab that are raising awareness about the rampant substance abuse that threatens to rip their state to shreds. You’ll find Prabh Deep Sagar, whose experience of growing up in a neighborhood that was ravaged during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots paints a haunting picture of the fallouts from the Congress-led violence and pride in his culture.
Artists such as these stand tall in an industry that tells them that in order to be successful they need to embody and sell a lifestyle they’ve never experienced i.e to be somebody, anybody, but themselves. In Mark Ford’s 2012 documentary titled ‘Uprising: Hip-Hop and the LA Riots’, KRS-One details the way in which hip-hop transformed mainstream American culture and made African-American culture ‘cool’ – “While they were hitting us with tear gas, batons, etc. we were hitting back with our words. But we weren’t aiming our words at them, we aimed our words at their kids. Who won in the end?”
These artists wish to educate a new generation of Indians about the realities of the issues that plague this country - forcing them to confront and engage with the problems at hand and come up with a solution that benefits all. They’re not dependent on any entity or media conglomerate to help them spread their message - they’ll achieve this on their own terms.
Keeping this in mind, 101India has taken a conscious decision to dive deeper into the issues these artists are talking about. Over the course of the next season of Hip-Hop Homeland, we aim to follow these artists around their communities and highlight the issues and the people that they're talking about. It’s an effort on our part to separate ourselves from the structures and processes that often relegate these stories to the back pages of newspapers and prime time news. Welcome to a world where your community, religion, political affiliations, sex, caste, class, etc. don't matter. What matters is the talent you have, the ideas you propagate, and how hard you're willing to hustle to get your message across. Welcome to Hip-Hop Homeland 2.0.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com
By Uday Kapur