Sunday, Jun 26, 2022

Straight Outta Kochi: How John K Sunny aKa Wayword Overcame His Inhibitions Of Rapping In His Mother Tongue

Cochin based rapper John K Sunny, better known as Wayword, writes about his fascination with the world of hip-hop, which led him to writing his first ever hip-hop song in 2016.

Straight Outta Kochi: How John K Sunny aKa Wayword Overcame His Inhibitions Of Rapping In His Mother Tongue
John Sunny aKa Wayword

Every hip-hop artist can probably tell you that moment when they fell in love with the art form. That one song that they heard, that was the gateway drug and got them hooked. For me it was a seemingly pedestrian hype track in the Hollywood movie ‘A-Team’ that I saw when I was 15-years-old. The Game's 'House of Pain' that played to set the tone for BA Baracus's (Quintin Jackson) entry, over the revving engine of an orange Lamborghini, was something surreal and it instantly had me grooving.

I immediately dug deeper into The Game's discography. Little did I know that I had found my favourite genre of music or that I'd be making songs in the same genre a few years down the line.

For two years after that, I religiously listened to any hip hop record I could get my hands on – ‘Ready to Die’, ‘Straight Outta Compton’, ‘E.1999 Eternal’, ‘The Slim Shady LP’, ‘All Eyez on Me’, ‘Capital Punishment’, ‘Get Rich or Die trying’, all of these were on heavy rotation playing in my headphones. In the beginning I just listened to the beats and how the vocals sounded.

Then I started actively paying attention to the lyrics and picking up the nuances and technicalities of the craft - how the syllables were arranged and stressed, how rhyming gave the lyrics an element of suspense and so on. I would rap along to some of my favourite songs, either under my breath or when no one was around, and it took me a couple of years of doing this, before I convinced myself that I was good enough to do it in front of someone else.

I decided to try penning down my first song in 2015. I was in my first year in college with a lot of frustration and anger to vent, and I soon got addicted to the catharsis that jotting my feelings down provided. Somewhere around the same time, I happened to watch the prominent Kozhikode-based rap crew Street Academics perform live during a college fest, and that was the moment I decided that this was something realistic I could pursue.

I soon got myself a bedroom mic setup and started recording myself to see how I sounded playing it back. Due to my training as a pianist, it was pretty easy for me to pick up on the musical aspects of creating an instrumental along with which I refined my mixing skills. In 2016, I released my first original track called 'The Earth Ballad' wherein I talked from the perspective of the Earth.

Ever since then it has been an iterative and incremental process of making little tweaks and improving upon myself with every song I put out, be it from a song-writing standpoint, the choice of sounds, or my vocal delivery.

Also, I stuck to rapping in English exclusively, until early 2020 when I started discovering a burgeoning hip-hop scene in Kerala with plenty of rappers rapping in my mother tongue, which is Malayalam. I was not very confident about my Malayalam writing skills until that point, but, decided to overcome my inhibitions and give it a try. And I managed to surprise, not just myself, but everyone else, with my first Malayalam song, ‘Aazhi’.

I discovered that there was a large language-agnostic skillset that carried over directly from my experience rapping in English to my Malayalam songs. Since then, I've released several more songs in Malayalam as well as English and have fully embraced my identity as a bilingual rapper.