Rap has always been about singing of a conflicted life. From what started in the 1970s as a commentary on the life of the working class African-American in the Bronx, the genre of music has now become a worldwide phenomenon, and an important form of political protest.
From the bylanes of Assam to protest rap in the snowy hills of Kashmir, hip-pop has become a recognisable subculture in India too. Underground hip-hop and rap has become an important movement that consists of crews rapping about the time and places that they live in. But these artists are on the fringe of popular culture, and are completely different from the likes of the famous Honey Singhs and Badshahs that we listen to.
Now Dharavi has a new, younger superstar to look forward to. Meet the 17-year-old rapper, Noor Hasan, who is wowing listeners with his rapping prowess.
When you meet the skinny teenager on his home ground, the first thing you notice about him are his shoes: golden and blingy, I wondered aloud if they are a must for every rapper and where he got them from. "Oh I do love them. I got these from Linking Road in Bandra," he says and smiles.
Noor's claim to fame was his rap song 'Kal Ka Superstar' which debuted on YouTube in 2016 and went viral. Before the video, he was a young lad with a dream who caught the eye of Divine aka Vivian Fernandez who took him under his wing.
His manager, Hitesh, talks about how they discovered him. "We were at an event featuring our favourite rapper Naezy in 2015. When I met him, he really wanted to become a hip-hop star. So I helped him improve his lyrics, sing better etc."
The duo wrote the lyrics for 'Kal Ka Superstar,' and with the help of rapper Divine, got hold of a studio and a videographer who would help shoot their video for a sliding fee — but then too Hasan saw himself falling short of funds.
Hitesh says about the making the video, "Divine had arranged for us to record the song at a studio for Rs 300, and we got a videographer to edit it for Rs 2000, but Hasan was still in a financial crunch. At that time, he had just given his 10th standard exams and was earning Rs 5000 he got from minding a phone shop in the neighborhood. So he sold his mobile phone to get the funds." he says.
Did the 1 million views help rake in the moolah? Hitesh chips in, "Well, not really. We took copyright free music as a background score so the million views on YouTube didn't help."
But he got into the spotlight, started getting offers for live shows and he even featured on the show Dil Hai Hindustani with Badshah as the judge — but couldn't make it into the final round.
"Anyway TV shows make us run around a lot," says Hitesh. "They make you run around and wait for hours, but nothing comes of it. That's why we are focusing on YouTube and doing live shows. Divine became famous this way too," he says.
Hasan is enrolled in first year of college at the moment and just gave his 11th standard exams. He says, "I practise around 3-4 hours every day and also try to balance my studies with rapping. I also try and improve my lyrics."
What drives him about his passion for music, he says, "I actually started listening to rap music because of a friend. At first I didn't like it, I was quite okay with rap. I didn't think it was anything out of the ordinary. But then, I started listening to Naezy and Divine and their lyrics, and I thought, wow I want to do that."
So does Noor listen to any internationally famous rappers? He says, "Mujhe to angrezi nahi aati, so I don't understand what they are talking about. But I have heard one or two artists whose names I cannot remember and I did like the music. I try and copy their style a bit."
He tells us, as he sits in his family's single room in Dharavi, that he never thought he would achieve this amount of popularity.
The room in Dharavi houses his family (Hasan, his mother, father, and two siblings). His parents prepare and deliver food for 15-20 people a day, and this is their main source of income. Till 2015, he tells us he was working in the mobile store with his older brother, but decided to concentrate on his rapping career.
Hasan says about his family, "My parents don't understand what I am saying when I am rapping. They have hardly heard my music. But that's okay, they are busy with putting food on the table," he says, flashing that smile again.
Published Date: Apr 02, 2017 10:31 am | Updated Date: Apr 05, 2017 06:22 am