MTV’s Hustle aims to foster aspiring Indian rappers

The progression of rap in India is comparable to its evolution in the United States — its birthplace. The genre began in New York in the early 70s when the MCs at block parties interacted with the crowd between songs to keep spirits from flagging. Gradually, their words rhymed and was in sync with the music. Despite gaining popularity, rap was, for nearly 10 years, dismissed as a craze that would soon fade away. In India too, rap remained on the fringes of mainstream music. Today, though, it has an exclusive reality show, Hustle, on MTV.

The show will track 15 contestants, filtered from over a 1,000, vying for the title. It will have three accomplished rappers from the country — Raftaar, Nucleya and Raja Kumari — as judges.

“I feel like this show was made for me,” says Raftaar, “I think it has a lot to do with the format. For the contestants, it is not about the marks they get. They need to come up with original content and they get votes if the audience like their work.”

Raftaar, before becoming a popular rapper, was a contestant in several dance reality shows.

“My first love has always been rap. I liked dance, too. When I started, the rap scene was just picking up, so I chose the dance route. Today, there is an exclusive platform for rap,” he says.

He believes Hustle will help aspiring rappers launch their careers. “It is not about winning the title here. You won’t become a superstar overnight. Of course, you will be in the limelight if you win, but what matters is what you do with that exposure. It will just be the beginning.”

Transformative stage

Nucleya believes rap in India is in a transformative stage. “About 10 to 15 years ago in India, it was always about party rap,” he says. “The lyrics were in English and it was very niche. Now, it has reached more youngsters, thanks to social media and high-speed Internet. Language is no more a barrier now. And, rap is no longer just a party element; people channel it as an honest attempt to speak about their lives.”

Unlike most music-based Indian reality shows, Hustle requires its participants to come up with original work.

Of this, Nucleya says, “When you sing Kishore Kumar or Mohammed Rafi’s songs, you will always be compared to them. You are always trying to match someone. In this show, we celebrate originality.” Raftaar says that being a rapper has become a career option in India. For this, he credits the works of his predecessors such as Baba Sehgal and Hard Kaur among others. “They have played a big role in popularising rap in Bollywood.”

Nucleya says the recently-released Gully Boy has had a positive effect on rap in India. “The movie has increased awareness on rapping. Now, parents know that it is a viable career option in India,” he says.

Raja Kumari, who grew up in the US, said in an earlier interview, “Hip-hop is very young in this country.” She is keen on sharing her experience with the contestants on Hustle. “I got to work with people like Timbaland and Tricky Stewart. I want to pass on all the knowledge I acquired — not only to contestants, but also to those wanting to be rappers as well.” To aspiring rappers, she said, “Find your own voice and be authentic to who you are. For me, it is about my roots and my classical culture, but for you it may be different.”

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Printable version | Jul 7, 2020 10:55:11 AM |

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