Sunday, Jul 03, 2022

Cuts Like A Knife: Times When Hip-Hop Spoke Truth To Power

Hip-hop is not politically correct. And therein lies its beauty and brilliance.

Cuts Like A Knife: Times When Hip-Hop Spoke Truth To Power

A  few decades ago, when famous hip-hop performer Chuk D called rap “black America’s CNN”, he spoke for an underclass that had found not just its own voice but its own medium as well. If the hip-hop movement in the US has its icons in artistes such as Mos Def, Tupac Shakur, Ludacris and Chuk D’s Public Enemy, India has is witnessing a revolution of its own. From Assam to Kerala to Kashmir, young rappers are speaking out against violence, farmers’ movement and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, lending weight to mass protests on the burning issues.

Kashmir, where protests against violence have been going on for some 30 years now, has a vib­rant hip-hop scene, not just in English and Urdu but in native Kashmiri as well. As does Bihar where poverty, class and caste divide have given its local artistes enough to be angry about. Some of these songs are wildly popular. Here’s a collection of hip-hop, as an alternative, provocative and perhaps a necessary medium for exc­hange of ideas.

Asaam mein ghusna hai,
Bohot hi asaan hai
Voter jaake, girgirate,
note dete 200 ka
Virodh karo to chalega sulie,
Shaheed hua wo baccha
Jis umar mein bache ghar mein
cartoon dekhe Pogo ka

Getting into Assam, is quite easy
Go to the voter, grovel before them, offer them Rs 200 bill
And if they protest, hang them by the neck
Even a child became a martyr
At an age when they sit at home watch
cartoons on Pogo

—Van M

ALSO READ: Why I Rap: A Hip-Hop Artiste’s Journey From Bihar To Stardom

Pahada jiday hosaly  
Teh senaya ch robh ah
Sedak tsabar sachay
Ohdi mataya ch loh hai  
Shahadata da dor ohi
Mahena utho poh hai  
O put tere ohi ne  
Hukumta ve oo ah

Courage like mountains
And attitude in chest
Faith and patience are true
Anger in forehead
It’s the time for martyrdom
On top of that, it’s the month of December-January
They are your same son
Rule is also the same

—Harf Cheema And Kanwar Grewal
On farmers protest

ALSO READ: Shaheen Bagh, CAA, Farmers’ Protest: Hip-Hop Is The Voice Of Dissent In India

Yahan ghus deke padhne waale JNU pe bhonke
jhonke school paatal main,
murti aasaman main
sangharsh ka ye harsh baithi bagawat pe beti
aawaaz aag ka taap, vidroh ka haav bhaav
kehti bahaav ke saath aksar laashe hain behti

Those who bribe their way through
school make caustic comments about JNU
Meanwhile, the schools rot in hell,
while statues reach for the skies
The celebration of the struggle,
your daughters sitting in protest
Fiery sounds of the uprising fan
the waves of rebellion
And with the flow of words often flow corpses

—Rahul Negi
On JNU violence

ALSO READ: Songs Of Freedom & Redemption

Swaraja piche barigate paaye hoye ne
Jatt ni Punjabo ae aaye hoye ne
Oh bik gaya paave Inda da media
BBC de utte jhote chaye hoye ne

The Swaraj tractors are behind the barricade
Boys from Punjab have come here
Indian media is sold
Everything is displayed on the BBC

—Mankirt Aulakh and Jass Bajwa
On farmers protest

ALSO READ: Wu-Tang Manual For Indie Homies

Huwa CAB abhi CAA, par tu layega kaha?  
Crore’on me jo log ayenge, basayega kaha?
Khilayega kaha?  
Naukri dilayega kahan?  
Apne logon ko to pehle berozgaari se bacha

CAB became CAA, but where will you bring them?
The crores who come where will you settle them?
Feed them?
Where’ll you get jobs for them?
Save your own people from unemployment first

—Vayu Vrse

ALSO READ: Clash Of Cultures In Smalltown Bihar

The problem with the present is the burdened MSP
The setting of the prices and the owner of the seeds
The farmers gonna die  
Then where you gonna feed.

—Young Daku
On farmers protest

ALSO READ: Hip-Hop’s Strongest Asset Is Its History Of Rebellion And Truth-telling

Jannat nahi hai ye hai jahnum
hain jalte hum
khuun kharaabi aur baimaani ka hai jashn
kyun na dikhe tumhe zakhm jo kabhi bhare nahi
kyun na nikle hum jalso mein, dekho hum mare nahi

This is hell not heaven
where we burn
where we raise a toast to violence and corruption  
why can’t you see the wounds that have never healed
why shouldn’t we come out in protest, look we aren’t dead, we can still feel

On Kashmir

ALSO READ: Hip-Hop Found A Connect In Pain Of Kashmiris

Sentiments of a broken nation
separated by religions
and the hesitation
vote banks, industries
and corporations
filthy pockets of the rich and famous
at the cost of poverty and desperation
pellet embedded faces of desperation
let us face and breathe the blatant
truth of celebration
Happy Diwali, New Delhi

—Sumit Roy
On socio-political scene

(This appeared in the print edition as "Poetry on Pavement")