So what if I’m smoking weed on stage and doing what I gotta do? It’s not me shooting nobody, stabbing nobody, killing nobody. It’s a peaceful gesture and they have to respect that and appreciate that,” said Snoop Dogg, the famous hip-hop musician.
They may not be doing drugs on stage while performing, but hip-hop is a peaceful gesture to them, and definitely a way of life.Meet Hiphop Tamizha, a group of Chennai-based hip-hop musicians and rappers. For most Tamil-speaking people, hip-hop extends to the 'Petta rap' song in the film Kadhalan, and stops there. But Hiphop Tamizha is looking to introduce its listeners, to what they consider real hip-hop, a culture in itself.
It all began when Adhi, the founder of the band, was introduced to Yogi B, the popular Malayalam and Tami rapper. Adhi, who was then under the impression that rap could only be in English and was nothing more than a couple of rhyming words in a beat, slowly began experimenting with Tamil lyrics. After a few stints in other bands and with the help of Yogi B (the band's advisor) and music director Bobo Sashi, he started Hiphop Tamizha in February last year.
“I used to send some of my underground music releases to Yogi, and one day, I received a call from him, but I thought someone was playing a prank on me. It turned out to be him and he encouraged me to start Hiphop Tamizha,” says Adhi. “It is a network that helps connect all hip-hop artistes and we eventually formed a band out of the group,” he explains.
When Adhi went to judge a college show in 2009, he spotted Bharadwaj Balaji (or BBB). He immediately roped him in, along with Jeeva KRS and Neil Sebastian, whom he knew through the loop. The latest entry is Siraj, who joined the group through a talent hunt they organised, looking for a new voice to represent them in their official election anthem for Tamil Nadu earlier this year.
Jeeva KRS is the producer (of beats); BBB is the beatbox machine who also happens to be India’s first harmonica beatboxer and does rap on the sidelines; Siraj is the singer; Neil plays the piano and guitar; and Adhi sings and raps. B-boy Bravo, the co-founder of Breakguruz, a national B-boy network, performs B-boy—the dance element of the band.
Their passion for their music shines through when they speak about how they write their own lyrics that are inspired by everyday activities. “We are releasing our latest album Hiphop Tamizhan this November,” says Neil, and Siraj adds, “We are also hoping to have our own clothing line soon.” With a large fan-following in Malaysia and other foreign countries initially, Hiphop Tamizha has caught up locally as well, with a large fan count in cyber space.
Ask them what their plans for the future are, and they answer in almost unison: “We want to spread the spirit of Tamil with elements of hip-hop.” The band is beginning to collaborate with other artistes, with Adhi and Jeeva having recently worked with Emcee Call (a popular rapper in the US), on an album 'All I Wanna Say’ that features samples of Michael Jackson hits. They are also in complete agreement that Ezhuvom Vaa, their election anthem, is their best work so far.
A natural extension of their work would be a potential entry into the Tamil film industry, but the group says this is a definite no-no. “But if someone gives us an entire song to portray the true spirit of hip-hop, we are definitely in,” Adhi is quick to clarify.
Until then, their aim is to spread 'true' hip-hop music to anyone, pretty much