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Rap with Raftaar

Now MTV has brought India's first-ever rap reality show, MTV Hustle. Raftaar, Nucleya, and Raja Kumari form the judge's table.

  • Published 16.09.19, 4:28 PM
  • Updated 16.09.19, 7:00 PM
  • 4 mins read
Raftaar is a judge on MTV Hustle.

Zoya Akhtar's Gully Boy took rapping into the average Indian audience's bedroom. Now MTV has brought India's first-ever rap reality show, MTV Hustle, to provide a platform to the underground and untapped rap talents in the country.

The show premiered on August 10 and will be on air till October. Raftaar, Nucleya, and Raja Kumari form the judge's table. The Telegraph caught up with Raftaar for a chat.

MTV Hustle is India's first rap show. How has the experience been so far?

It has been an amazing experience so far. A show like MTV Hustle is the need of the hour, giving an edge to the current rap rage in the country. It's not a reality show, it's a real show - right from the lyrics, beats and the compositions, everything is original and created by them. All their hard work and sweat is a result of some brilliant performances we've seen so far, and it just keeps getting better.

How are Nucleya and Raja Kumari as co-panellists?

Nucleya and Raja Kumari are best at what they do and it's amazing to see how they bring their creative expertise to the table. The comfort and camaraderie we share makes it easier for us to work in sync and mentor the contestants in the best possible way.

What can you tell us about the women rappers on the show?

Right now, there are two girls and 10 boys. I'm simply amazed to see the passion and the talent these female rappers possess. Each of them have had their unique sense of style and the way they present their compositions, not to forget the issues and topics. While one of the contestants, Nikita a.k.a. Star Nick gave a message on feminism and women empowerment, another contestant Agrita a.k.a. Agsy raised her voice against child abuse. Their zest and dedication to bring such powerful performances on stage has held all of us in awe.

What's your take on the evolution of rap and its current place in the Hindi music scene?

I believe sometime in 2016 Bollywood started to see the gradual rise of rap where films used to have at least one hip-hop track. The authenticity of the genre has made it what it is today. It brings a personalised touch and cultural realness with it. And now, Bollywood is incomplete without a rap or a hip-hop song. It's one of the fastest growing genre in the field of music.

Any particular performance in the show so far that has really stayed with you?

Given the kind of quality performances we've seen so far, it is really difficult to pick one. The contestants have been highlighting some important issues through rap, such as women empowerment and child abuse that has totally stunned us. One of the recent performances was a beautiful tribute to the courage of Laxmi Agarwal, the acid-attack survivor, while one was a heart-warming ode to the mountains. Each contestant is bringing a different flavour and a different message with his/her performance and what's more important is that they're taking us by surprise with their mind-blowing writing, choosing the right words and the right beat to create a deep impact. I'm proud to see how the youth of today is so thoughtful in taking up strong issues and voicing it through this medium. The future of rap is definitely bright and we are hoping to collaborate with all of them at some point for some great meaningful music.

Who's your biggest critic?

I am. For me competition isn't as important as proving to myself that I am better than what I was yesterday.

Where do you draw inspiration from to make the kind of music that you do?

Mine is like the classic story of struggle to success, from rags to riches or as I term it, "zero to infinity". I worked hard, wrote, motivated myself and still didn't get the credit. So I started back from scratch, worked hard and made my mark. I was deceived by a few and supported by a few. I crossed hurdles and reached a position where I could just focus on my work and try to keep it real while maintaining the high quality. At the same time I had to fight to save a culture/religion called hip-hop in the desi music industry. As a person I have learned to read people and to differentiate between the good and bad, right and wrong. I became stronger as my "brother base" grew... I don't call anyone my fan. I developed the can't-stop-won't-stop attitude. Artists like Mike Shinoda and Eminem were my motivators in the beginning when it was 2003, but then I listened to a rapper called The Game who has been a huge inspiration for me since then.

Do you have any crazy fan stories?

It's constantly changing! I have fans making tattoos of my name, my face and it's crazy but the love is overwhelming.

What are you working on next?

Aside of MTV Hustle and Dance India Dance, I have launched Kalamkaar with my long-time business partner Ankit Khanna. We wish to help carve out a niche in the business, provide a launchpad to artistes we believe in who may not have multiple means of promotions. Currently, we are working with Karma, KR$NA, Harjas, Deep Kalsi & Yunan. When we were brainstorming, the idea was never to open a record label but today when we both see the potential talent just sitting idle because no one is there to guide them, we believe it's a social responsibility. We have to give back to this community of ours and hence Kalamkaar was born. Having said that our goal is to scout some of the most talented artistes out there and provide them a platform so the entire nation and world can see their creative creations.

What's your message to aspiring composers and singers?

I'd like to say that it's an amazing time to unleash your talent in this genre as hip-hop is now being accepted with open arms. Follow your passion, work towards it and create some amazing compositions. Your talent will get its due credit and a platform to showcase it. Just keep hustling!

Favourite song composed by you...

Dhaakad from Dangal

Biggest inspiration in music industry

AR Rahman, Eminem and Linkin Park.

Favourite Bollywood party track...

Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai from Khoobsurat

Favourite rapper of all time...


Singers you admire...

Arijit Singh, Shreya Ghoshal, Sonu Nigam