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Addicted to Dopeadelicz

R. R. Rozario
R. R. Rozario Reviews

I remember listening to one of the first Indian hip hop tracks maybe fifteen years ago and I hated it. It was pretentious as hell. India has always struggled with certain genres in music because we simply didn’t tell stories that demanded the genre. Hip hop in India was previously only about style. No! Indians didn’t go around ‘Busting caps’ in each others’ asses, yet the hip hop music of the time was simply a combination of American gangsta lingo. It was laughably pathetic. This trend continued for a decade until one day, in 2014, I was forwarded a music video by a friend accompanied with the words – “I know you hate Indian hip hop and find it annoying and pretentious, but you might like this.”

I was hooked. I was hooked to the stories and the lives of our very own Mumbai rappers. Hip hop has always served as a medium of communication more than anything else. Of stories and struggles, of a search for identity and of dissent – this time in our own languages. And what’s better than Bambaiyya Hindi and Tamil?

Before one knew it, similar groups began to mushroom all over the city. Indian hip hop was having its day. I remember sitting with a group of friends I had made at ‘Hanuman Vyayamshala’, a desi community gymnasium where the ordinary Manoos builds his body. The only music we ever listened to was this sort of music. It filled us with the ‘josh’ needed to pump iron while simultaneously telling us stories relating to dissent, caste, class and struggles with law enforcement that every ordinary Indian goes through.

Today I have spent many hours listening to Dopeadelicz on repeat. A bunch of boys who began hanging around Dharavi and friends who eventually formed what is now known as Dharavi United.

It began when I was asked to review their latest single, ‘Vishama’ or Poison, a Tamil track that must only ever be listened to with a powerful set of headphones. I have spent a major part of my formative years in Tamil Nadu and if there’s one thing I’ve noticed, it’s that Tamil musicians have always been far ahead of their counterparts in other states as far as music is concerned. Their compositions, melodies and lyrics are second to none, in films and otherwise. I wasn’t disappointed. Take Wu Tang Clan and throw them into a blender with Cypress Hill and then throw in a couple of Juggalos and you now have what now sounds like Dopeadelicz. Also, do turn up the horror to a hundred!

But how it sounds is only one aspect of it. Context is the most important and despite closed captions and subtitles, the crux is often lost in translation. My Tamil is horribly weak, so I did the next best thing. I sent it to my friend’s dad, Parthasarathy uncle, who, with his age and experience would give me the ultimate unbiased feedback, also seeing that this genre of music isn’t exactly his cup of kaapi! This is literally what he texted back – “Nice video. It is good. Very relevant to the Coronavirus situation. The singer asks who has put this poison in the air that people are dying, the government is exploiting people, every human needs only 6 feet of ground to get buried. Then why this greed to accumulate wealth at the cost of the poor, especially farmers, without whom we can’t get food.”

Vishama confronts many issues, politics, murder, rape, corruption and the bleeding environment. But the difference lies in the way the track is presented to us and this is where Dopeadelicz shines. Rather than the odd rants that we hear every now and then, Vishama doesn’t complain. It is unapologetically firm and confronts its enemies head on. It’s a gutsy track and much like NWA’s ‘Fuck Tha Police’, it knocks you out of your chair almost instantly. There’s no pussyfooting around with words. Incidentally, their previous single ‘Aai Shapath Saheb Me Navtho’ deals with the Coppers, but I found a world of a difference in the way both songs are delivered to us. Both powerful and yet so diverse, the former being an exercise in biting sarcasm and the latter designed to provoke an immediate response.

I would want to spend a lot more time recommending the song, but as fate may have it, I’m far too busy listening to it on repeat. Watch Vishama on YouTube today and I promise you, you’ll be pacing up and down your living room wondering what just hit you!