Beat in the rhymes
Music producer Karan Kanchan talks about working on the first release by rapper Divine’s Gully Gang Records, the Gully Gang Cypher
A little after the release of Gully Boy, Zoya Akhtar’s film based on the lives of Mumbai rappers Divine and Naezy, Divine announced the launch of his record label Gully Gang Records. The aim of the company was to scout for new talent and support the artists. Merchandise and a music festival was also on the cards.
The company has already signed upcoming talent like Kurla quartet Aavrutti, Mumbai hip-hop stalwarts D’Evil, Shah Rule and music producer Karan Kanchan, who have come together to release the company’s first track called Gully Gang Cypher.
The track features four artists and multiple languages – Punjabi, Hindi, Mumbai street slang and English. Talking about producing the track, Kanchan says, “It’s an honour to be a part of this movement. Divine with Gully Gang Records is leading hip-hop in India to a better future. I feel really lucky to be one of the first one with Shah Rule to produce for the label. It never felt like a pressure, because Divine had given us complete creative freedom. My responsibility was to make the track sound right for the rappers to express their words. This track is about the identity of all the rappers, the character of each individual, and an introduction to who we are and what we are here for .”
Cyphers are integral to hip-hop history— it is a small, informal gathering of rappers, dancers, beatboxers, basically all artists related to hip-hop, to jam together, he tells us, adding, “I never worked on a beat for a cypher. This was a first for me. This track isn’t about a catchy hook/chorus like conventional tracks. The creative process for this beat was a collaborative effort between Shah Rule and I. Rule sent me an idea which he had for the beat, with a bassline to work on. I wanted to have the old school drum breaks to make a commitment to the track,” he shares, adding, “Since a lot of the track has Hindi rap vocals, we added on a vocal Indian chant sample throughout the beat to give it an anthem-like feel. It all blended very well together giving a strong base for the rappers to shine on.”
The track has an old school vibe. “The vibe of Gully Gang Cypher revolves around the artists in it. It’s more of an intense vibe where the artists are expressing themselves and talking about the crew. It definitely feels like a very personal project for each one of us,” he says.
While Kanchan worked with Shah Rule on his track Yeah earlier and has a couple of projects lined up to do together, working with D’evil and Aavrutti was new. “I had heard of D’evil before and really liked his work, but was introduced to him and the Aavrutti boys for the first time in the studio while recording Gully Gang Cypher. I heard Aavrutti for the first time in the studio booth, and was blown away by their writing and flow,” he recalls.
If you’ve heard Kanchan’s body of trap and bass work, you will find that he is heavily influenced by Japanese classical music. Put simply, his forte lies in J-Trap. But we see none of that in this track. “J-Trap is something of a personal project which I like to experiment with, among other styles. But as a producer, I like to indulge in all styles of music. It is my responsibility to do justice to the vision of the track. But I’d definitely love to try some J-Trap with all the talented rappers on board, maybe a J-trap cypher? Who knows!” he grins.
For now, the artist wants to do his part for the much needed hip-hop revolution happening in India. “Hip-hop is an art form. If people can connect with it, it does make a difference in society. Some people write/rap to tell their story, some people write/rap to inspire people to bring a change. Some just write/rap for people to have a good time. The listeners are the one who make it special. Creating art which a person can relate to or finds close to their heart is a very big achievement for any artist, and right now hip-hop has just started in India. It’s in our hands to shape it right for the future,” he says.
His hands are currently full with a couple of tracks he needs to produce for Divine, Naezy, Raftaar, Shah Rule and others. “A lot of J-Trap music is in the pipeline too. And now, having signed with Gully Gang Entertainment, I’m really getting a chance to explore a lot more possibilities for myself as a record producer. But the plan is to just make more and more music,” he signs off.