‘Rappers in India still have a bad image’

 ‘Rappers in India still have a bad image’

It can be upsetting. It can be heart-wrenching. But the fact is that this storytelling song about a girl who has seen violence on her mother since childhood is truly inspirational. Later when she gets married, she too falls in the same situation and becomes a survivor of violence and oppression. But she gathers herself and stands up against her husband’s toxicity, setting an example for her daughter not to be a victim of violence.
“It might be a harsh way to celebrate Women’s Day but if it can give recognition and identity to even one survivor of violence, it makes for a celebration,” says Underground Delhi Hip-Hop circuit rapper and spoken word artiste
ASHANT ANU, the man behind the rap song and music video on domestic violence, Jalti Hai.



Born and brought up in Batala village of Punjab as Shantanu Salhotra, Ashant Anu is capable of voicing verses in three languages. His interests lie in making mainly lo-fi rap music, often inspired by the lyricism of Urdu shayars. With diverse and deep lyricism being his forte, Ashant Anu has battled in several hip hop events of the country.
In an interview with SAURABH TANKHA, the physics graduate from Delhi University shares how he rap entered his life, acceptability of rap in India and how different is he from other rappers…

 Tell us about your latest rap song and music video, Jalti Hai.
Jalti Hai is a hardcore storytelling rap song about a girl who has seen violence in her family since childhood. Later when she gets married, she faces the same situation her mother faced. From there, she decides to break that cycle to save her daughter from becoming a victim of abuse and violence.

When and why did Shantanu Salhotra turn into Ashant Anu?
Shantanu Salhotra was a person who was always burdened by expectations, responsibilities and duties. Ashant Anu is an escape from all of that. He is a part of Shantanu that is not bound to any limitations. Ashant Anu formed when Shantanu’s frustration was filled to the brim and all that frustration started to flow through Ashant Anu’s pen.

Where and when was your first brush with rap​?
I first came across rap when my cousins challenged me to learn and recite Eminem’s Love the Way You Lie around seven-eight years ago. Then I found Bohemia’s songs in my uncle’s laptop and I started listening to Bohemia religiously and discovered various other rappers later on.

How do you rate the acceptability of rap in India?
Rappers in India still have a bad image. People still think they make songs only about girls, alcohol and money. They don’t know rap music has got the most advanced lyricism. Although many people have started exploring underground Indian hip-hop and that is a sign of progress.



What is the Indian rap scene vis-à-vis other countries?
The Indian audience is yet to explore many underground artistes who are still true to their artform and creating amazing musical pieces. Countries like the USA, the UK and Canada have great lyricists and the listeners acknowledge them, but here in our country, mainstream media is still giving attention to pop musicians and calling them rappers. The Rap Battling is yet to evolve too, both audience and rappers wise, and that all will take time but I hope eventually everything turns out to be fine and people acknowledge what actual rap is and how diverse can it be.

Where do your ideas germinate from?
My ideas germinate from the life I have lived so far, the tragedies I have witnessed and the hardships that all of us face. That is the only source of inspiration for me.

How different are you from other Indian rappers?
Well, majority of rappers today are focussing on creating bangers and songs that can cause moshpit in a show. I like calm and soothing lo-fi music with heart-wrenching lyrics that touch your soul and leave you with a warm feeling.

In your opinion, what is that one thing which is the most important part of a rap?
Lyricism. That is that most important and yet most ignored part of any rap song. A good rap song must have good lyrics.

Is rapping energising or exhausting?
It has always been energising, always been my support system and a thing that I would turn to when no-one is there.




What do you do when you are not rapping?
Well, I’m doing Masters in Physics so you’ll usually find me solving equations. Also I’m an avid reader, I read a lot of novels and poetry books. Plus, late night you’ll always find me listening to Mushairas on YouTube.

Any song/ singer who inspired you to take up rap?
Bohemia was my first inspiration. He used to be such a strong figure of influence in my life that I started writing only because of him. Later on J. Cole became my inspiration and now all I try to do is surpass J. Cole in lyrical abilities.

What does it take to be a good rapper?
It takes a lot, a good knowledge about almost everything. Flexible tongue, strong breath, knowledge of all subgenres of rap and one must know how to use poetic devices.

Do you have any secret talent(s)?
I write ghazals and nazms and sometimes I do spoken word poetry.

One thing you would want to accomplish.
Meeting J Cole and joining Dreamville Records.

Favourite singer J Cole
Favourite song Lights Please
Biggest plus My diversity in art ranging from Rap Battles to Lo-Fi Hip-Hop music
Biggest minus I still don’t have a good hold on English language and I really want to make more songs in English
One thing I want to change about myself I wish would have started rapping a little earlier in life.



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