Raftaar talks about his latest track in Baaghi and the changing landscape of hip-hop in India
A man of many talents, musician Raftaar admits that before becoming a rapper, life was all about writing poetry. That is when he first realised his love for music. A lyricist, composer, rapper and dancer, Raftaar is not a new name in the Indian hip-hop scene. His latest song Let’s Talk About Love from the upcoming film Baaghi is his tribute to the era of Rock & Roll. In a friendly chat, he tells us about how rapping is emerging as a distinct genre, the current music scene and his controversy with Yo Yo Honey Singh.
How did you find inspiration in Rock & Roll music for your latest song?
I have always been a great admirer of Shammi Kapoor and Elvis Presley and the 70s music. Nobody is trying to recreate the Rock & Roll music now. One day while I stopped by to have tea at a stall in Bandra, I heard the song Aaj kal tere mere pyaar ke charche (Brahmachari) playing somewhere. I realised that no one is composing music like that anymore. I suggested the lyrics, Manj Musik already had the beats and he composed it for Baaghi. The song centers around two rebels who are in love. Since I am a rapper, no one expects me to sing an old school melody. This was out-of-the-box and refreshing for the masses as well as for me.
Is rapping popular in India?
Rapping, specially English rap, is not ingrained in people’s roots here. But rapping is widely accepted. They do have a ear for rapping but artistes do not like to do it much. It is storytelling with a message. Unfortunately, people like songs which have lewd lyrics that objectify people. Loud music is appreciated more than soulful music. So while I do commercial rap songs for my bread and butter, I write lyrics which have a more soulful connect. I write in Punjabi, Haryanvi and I have even rapped in Malayalam since I am a Keralite. But in India, if you are not singing Bollywood songs, you have not ‘arrived’.
How did you get attracted to Indian hip-hop?
I am a writer first. I used to write poetry when I was in standard 9 and I was good at rhyming. I used to carry home CDs of Eminem. It was surprising for me to find that people are making a career out of rapping and rhyming. This is how I decided to become a rap singer.
Do you feel there is a greater need to promote independent music?
Music is being served like fast food these days. Songs come and go but their recall value is short. I miss the time when we had bands like Euphoria and Band Of Boys doing good independent music. People are interested in Bollywood songs, but if you go to Punjab, there is a parallel world of music there. The one thing I like about the current scenario is that films do not have just one singer singing all the songs. Composers are trying out new talents and that’s how people get opportunities. I sung for Tamanchey pe disco (Bullett Raja) and Whistle bajaa (Heropanti) which connected with the youth in a big way.
What really went wrong between you and Yo Yo Honey Singh?
We were part of Mafia Mundeer that had both Honey and Badshah. It was about not giving us credit for the work we did together. Badshah and I equally contributed to the band. I used to write the lyrics and all of us worked together as a team. But when we finally went on stage, it was only Honey getting the credit. Even in the film Fugly, Honey and I had the same issues. I was involved in the song but Honey had my bit removed from the song. He never acknowledged my work. Today, I owe my fame to Manj. It is only because of him that I am here. It’s a fickle world here. Suddenly people make you a star, and the next day you are forgotten. I am inspired by Lucky Ali, Eminem, Cold Play, Jacko, Kendrick Lamar and love the way Vishal Dadlani sings. I hope to work with them someday.