What are your artistic inspirations/influences, specifically regarding how you approach your songwriting?
I remember back when I was around 7 – 8 years old , I barely had any knowledge or clue of what Hip Hop was , what the culture portrayed.
From an early age, being brought up in a family where Indian culture was highly spoken of and glorified my father had put me into Indian Classical singing classes and I must say I wasn’t bad at it. So I had a musical connect anyway. Adolescence had me lose my voice and I almost gave up singing.
Things took a turn when a senior in school introduced me to Rock music, handed over a burnt CD filled with Linkin park songs to me. Although I didn’t understand a single word but Shinodas’ roles in the band caught my eyes. The thing called ‘Rap’ was made clear when I tried and listened to other artists and became aware of the fact that Rap was only a part of the entire Hip Hop culture.
I dug deep into it, went to a net cafe nearby and googled the top 50 hip hop songs and downloaded them. It had Eminem in it obviously , Rakim , Jay Z , Nas , Tupac , Wu Tang , 50 cent , the whole of G Unit , Snoop and Andre 3000 . I was under lyrical rappers / poets who heavily influenced my taste of music today that is lyrical hip hop. Talking of now, rap has changed, it’s more of trap influenced genre than old school boom bap, similarly my music has evolved with time.
I write what my life steps into , I used to write about social issues but I realized until and unless a situation influences a part of my life I won’t be able to pen down my thoughts . A person should relate to the issue he is writing on according to me. So I have songs from being high to mental health issues, speaking of different phases in life and highlighting the bitter truth and reality of life.
What was the best gig you had till date (date/place/preferably describing the ambience, how it was special, the energy)
Honestly speaking I can’t name one. But I remember when I just got into college 4 years back , we had this gig bringing in every major artist from mostly every city in the country and I had the honour to represent my city along with greats like Prabh Deep , Smokey the Ghost , Sez , Cryptographik Street poets and more . Also we had an audience that was diverse just as India is. People speaking different languages came in to witness something that made them one and that was Hip Hop. The energy was mad, felt like the roof would come down that night in Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi.
If you could go open a show for any artist from present or the past who would it be?
No second thoughts on this one, straightly Jermaine Lamar Cole. He is my idol, I did not mention him before in my influences but I have to say, he is the one that I can relate to the most. He has shaped my word play, my thoughts, and my lifestyle in a different way.
We knowing your vocal and artistic prowess in studio and live sessions, what will be the most useless talent that you have on a lighter note?
I barely have anything to offer than my art, I suck at everything else, (haha) . But I produce music sometimes; I work over random samples trying to find a new sound.
If you could share one suggestion in which our independent music scene can be made more solid / one thing you could change about the Indian music scene.
I believe we need sessions that educate people on good music. We need platforms much bigger than it is now for artists in the independent music scenario. We need investments that need to be made in this arena of music to uplift the culture brought in by independent musicians like us. Most importantly, I believe myself as an artist that apart from the audience we need to support each other as independent artists.
What message do you have for your fans during these days of the lockdown?
There are no fans for me. Everyone who relates and loves my music is my family and to my family I request them to stay indoors, be creative and productive, spend their time with their family and themselves, find a purpose to lead life after all this is over .
What’s next for you?
I am working on my first album, which is an Assamese Hip Hop / Rap album, produced by Rick Skillz , releasing next year .
Catch J97 at Youtube.