Considered among the most talented rappers in the country and a pioneer in the rap scene in India, Delhi-NCR-based rapper KR$NA is now featuring in Zoya Akhtar directed Gully Boy which is all set for release tomorrow. We had a chat with the young rapper…
How did you land up with the song in Gully Boy?
I was playing a small role (myself) in Gully Boy and they wanted to do a showcase of the main rappers in the movie representing their respective areas. They picked up six artistes and wanted them to represent their lives through a short rap. That’s how we ended up shooting the video in Gurugram.
Where and when was your first brush with hip hop?
I started listening to hip hop music at a young age on MTV (when we used to get the international feed in India in the early 90s). It led to some interest later in life in terms of trying to write my own lyrics. It seemed accessible since rap doesn’t require training, it is mostly a self-taught art form. Once I got the grasp in terms of the technicalities of writing rap, it developed into a hobby and eventually led me to record my first song at the age of 17.
What was the reaction of your parents when you told them that you wanted to become a rapper?
I don’t think I ever told them I wanted to be a rapper specifically. They knew I was interested in it and I tried doing it professionally a few times but there was no real hip hop scene in India at the time and I had to put music on the backburner. The turning point came in 2013 when I got signed to a major label that meant doing music full time. They were very supportive at that point since they realised that it is not every day that rappers get signed in India. Since then I have been doing music full time and now we are at a point where hip hop has exploded in India.
How do you rate the acceptability of rap in India?
We have come a long way in the past five years. Mumbai has set the stage for the movement. However, hip hop has been exploding all over the country. Delhi has a robust scene as well but it is simmering right now and will eventually break out like Mumbai. It is definitely going to be the genre of choice for young, urban India. Hip hop is set to explode with Gully Boy. Every city has its own style and sound.
What is the Indian rap scene vis-à-vis other countries?
Hip hop is finally getting its due in India. There has been a lot of buzz around the movie which has helped a lot of rappers get attention in the past few months. I feel it will find its feet, independent of Bollywood. It has been long overdue though. The great thing about hip hop is that it can be adapted to local cultures and languages easily, is accessible without a lot of money and time investment.
Your association with Raftaar.
Raftaar is like a brother to me. We work closely and I am signed to AK PROJEKTS which is co-owned by Ankit Khanna and Raftaar. I have collaborated with him in the past on a song called I’m Ready and plan to release more collaborations in the future.
Where do your ideas germinate from?
I think hip hop is unique in a way where any topic can become a song. I usually take inspiration from what I am feeling at the moment I am writing. Rap is a great medium to voice your opinion and can be a powerful tool for social change if used correctly. I started off with making socio political rap songs as well and got a great response when it was an issue that the masses related to.
How different are you from other Indian rappers?
I think every rapper is unique in his own way and people tend to gravitate towards what they like in an artiste. I have a technical approach to rap meaning I like to experiment with the flow and how I place my words to have rhymes within rhymes. Apart from that it is important to have metaphors and witty lines in rap which I try and incorporate.
What if your creative work doesn’t get good reviews?
As artistes, I think sometimes we need to separate ourselves from the result or reception of our work. If you let bad reviews affect you, you will lose motivation. I think an artiste should learn from feedback and try and not repeat their mistakes. I try and avoid reading comments on my videos as much as I can to avoid negativity.
In your opinion, what is that one thing which is the most important part of a song?
I think the hook (chorus) is the most important as it is the part that people tend to remember the most.
Is singing energising or exhausting?
I think it can be both, depending on the situation. It can get exhausting if I’m not getting the result I want but it is always a rush when you get things right and it sounds the way you intended it.
How does one market a creative work?
I think it depends on the set up you have. I personally have a management company backing me so a lot of it is taken care of by them. For independent artistes making personal connections with fans is very important, a small loyal fan base is better than a large audience of causal listeners. The more people that are invested in you, the more your song will spread. This is, of course, apart from social media tools one has the ability to make use of in today’s time.
What do you do when you are not singing?
This is a tough question because when I had a regular job, rapping was what I did when I wasn’t working. Now that rapping is what I do, I don’t need a hobby. Music doesn’t feel like a job to me.
Any song/ singer who inspired you to take up singing?
I used to listen to a lot of rap when I was younger as well so Nas, Snoop Dog, Tech N9ne, Eminem, Mac Dre were a few artistes who inspired me.
What does it take to be good singer?
I am a rapper so I don’t think I’m qualified to tell you about being a singer as such. I think having a strong message, great technical skills and wordplay is what you need to be a good rapper though.
Your favourite rapper…
Very hard to take one name, but I guess I would say Kendrick Lamar at the moment.
Your favourite song…
Travis Scott – Goosebumps at the moment.
Your biggest plus
I think I am versatile in terms of the kind of rap and the kind of songs I can make.
Your biggest minus
I am never happy with what I make
One thing you would want to change about yourself…
My voice – I would have liked it to be deeper. I think deep voices have a lot more texture.
Do you have any secret talent(s)?
I make great homemade HOT (chilli) SAUCE!
One thing you would want to accomplish…
Make a song with DRAKE at some point in the future. Love his vibe.
Tell us more about yourself – parents, education…
My parents are based in Gurugram. I went to school in Delhi and then did a honours degree from Hansraj College, Delhi University, before moving to Mumbai for a post graduate course from St Xavier’s College.
Here is a link to an episode from Voice of the Street – a promotional series for Gully Boy that features KR$NA and his journey in the world of hip hop – in his own voice.