When Kashmiri hip-hop artist Ahmer Javed met Uday Kapoor, the co-founder of Azadi Records, at a gig in Kashmir in September 2017, little did he know that he would be gearing up for the release of his own album a few months later.
Curiosity about hip-hop among the non-cognoscenti in India has surged since the release of Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy. Riding the wave, Javed is all set to release his first album in April.
To get the word out, he has chosen to remix legendary American rap artist Biggie’s song Gimme the loot and remixed it as a prelude to his upcoming six-track album (video above).
Speaking to Scroll.in, Javed said that hip-hop music holds a crucial place in Kashmiri society today because it can be efficiently utilised as a form of protest. “With this album, our main focus is to introduce the Kashmiri language and culture to a wider audience,” he said.
Javed arrived in Delhi in 2015 to study in audio engineering and music production before committing himself to a career in music, although he had been writing songs since his school days. His rap, though politically-inspired, does not claim to be “political in nature”.
Like many Kashmiri youngsters, Javed also comes from a family that has at some point of time in its past experienced the high-handedness of security officials. Javed, however, said that he does not want to indulge in a political blame game.
Talking about his idols and inspirations, Javed said that he is quite influenced by the late American rapper Tupac Shakur, but the first hip-hop song he ever heard was In da club by 50 Cent. Recalling that experience, he said, “I understood nothing, no lyrics at all, but I really connected with the vibe of the song. But I related most to Tupac Shakur’s work and the way he addressed issues like police brutality and social injustice in his songs.”
With his new album, Javed aspires to give new hope to listeners back in his home state, and instil fresh vigour into Kashmiri hip-hop that is struggling to find representation within mainstream Indian music.