Journal Entry #5

I researched the sonic elements of Kottayam, Kerala (where my parents are from). Kerala is a tropical South Indian state where hip-hop is not a scene that is regarded or acknowledged much at all, but is evident when you walk through the streets.

Looking for a rap scene in Kerala, India (where my
parents are from) was already perplexing to me, knowing that the scene is
almost non-existent. There isn’t much support for it in India, and especially in
southern states like Kerala.

Febin Joseph, under the rap name Fejo, is considered a
trailblazer for the rap scene in Kerala. His video for the song “Vere Level”
(Another Level) gives the viewer a feel of what Kottayam looks like.

In an interview with Times of India, Fejo mentions:  “Like in other countries or even other parts of India, it’s near impossible to release a Malayalam album with rap songs and make it a success. That’s why it’s important to have rap in movie songs to popularize the genre among the youth. The confidence of the music directors to include a rap song is what encourages singers like [me]. The young music composers are now trying to experiment in a lot of ways.”

Recently I watched a Malayalam movie called “Varathan”
with my mom back in Vancouver, and it was the first time I heard a song that
sounded like it had influences from hip-hop or EDM. The movie itself tackled
social issues around violence against women, and featured streets that had a
taste of hip-hop aesthetics.

Being a backwaters state, the hip-hop aesthetic of
Kottayam is very natural yet grunge. Waone, a Keralite mural artist, is very
much informed by the landscape and area that he’s making art in.

All of these artists contribute to growing the hip-hop community in a state that doesn’t regard it on the regular, and commonly shuns it altogether. As films (being a major industry in India) progress and grow over the years, we’ll hopefully see more of the hip-hop scene being represented and normalized in India.

Journal Entry #4

I recently watched this video published by Genius comparing the similarities of 70’s punk rock to Soundcloud rappers:

“The South Florida Souncloud rap is all of these things—the songs are rarely longer than 3.5 minutes, the sound is brash, and the main players love to shock fans… [and both] fed on economic hardship. In the 1970’s, the genres arose simultaneously out of a crumbling New York City.” 

I thought about other ways that brought the two genres I always kept so separate in my head almost one in the same. The similarities between the genres began to appear more stark, especially after reading an article on Control Forever titled “The Punk Era of Hip-Hop” by Gabriela Menegus. Menegus talks about their epiphany about hip-hop being punk after seeing punk bands and hip-hop artists sharing a stage at the Musink Tattoo Convention & Music Festival.

“A big part of the punk ethos is its DIY nature. When punk first came around in the 1970s, all the bands self-produced their own albums and distributed them through small independent record labels, or would create their own label to distribute their music. The band would just do everything themselves, from producing to distribution.”

This quote immediately made me think about print publication and
self-promotion. From punk zines to beat productions, both genres have been
about authorship and being self-made. Self-promotion has always been a major
staple in hip-hop and punk rock, alongside shared anti-authoritarian messages.
These strong similarities helped me draw a closer connection to these two
genres that I previously never noticed.

Journal Entry #3

Maria Qamar, also known as Hatecopy, is a Pakistani-Canadian artist that uses pop-art graphic styled work to make social commentary on “Desi-culture”. Her work focuses on immigrant families, complex intergenerational relationships and diasporic struggles. A lot of her work references Bollywood movies, South Asian pop-culture and globally relatable immigrant family issues.

Even though her work clearly references traditional ben-day dot comics and Roy Lichtenstein, her work is definitely inspired by and influenced by hip-hop as well. Comics and hip-hop have a history of crossing over, for example, Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree (as pictured above).

Hatecopy’s work is social commentary. Her work is often a direct critique of diaspora culture and authority, which aligns seamlessly in the realm of hip-hop as well. This piece in particular, Get Me Out, has a very post-apocalyptic fear concept that isn’t too dissimilar to themes explored in hip-hop. Hatecopy briefly explains her thoughts behind the design in an interview with Applied Arts Magazine: “It kind of screams danger, the red has a lot of meaning to it, ignites fear and anger.” 

This design has been produced as phone cases and clothing to rep on the streets.

(As an aside, I am not a fan of her work at all. But she’s a brown woman making bank, so it’s fine.)

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