Recap: A couple of months ago, I came across a video on YouTube with a meagre two to three thousand views. It was a remix rap version of the classic Hindi song Bhora Bhaye Panghat Pe by this artist who back then went by the name Shaitaan. Being a hip-hop junkie, I had to give it a listen. And it knocked my socks right off. Everything about that song enticed me, the way the musician blended the retro vibe of the song with modern tunes and the immaculate rap sequence. It felt like I’ve been transported to the times of the Bombay Vikings.
I did some research and it turns out that I’m not the only person that loved this song, I was joined by the likes of iconic Radio Jockey Bobby Friction from the BBC Asian Network. He loved it so much that he didn’t just play it on air but also interviewed this young Mumbai-based independent musician cum rapper on his show. Another song by him in collaboration with Firaag was the Song of the Week on Bobby Friction’s show.
Fast forward to last month, I was scrolling through YouTube’s endless void and I chanced upon this song by the same artist called Tu Nasha. A melody-driven track that has over 1,50,000 views on YouTube right now. And bear in mind, it’s not a music video, just a plain ole audio piece with a still frame for the video. It was a refreshing change to the indie hip-hop scene. The phonics sounded like revolution. And I was hooked. I heard that song on repeat for days. And then another song from the same artist, titled ‘Badle Tum’ released two weeks ago and in this short span has already amassed 50k views on YouTube.
I just had to speak to this artist. I did some digging around and I managed to get in touch with him. Now known as Dhruv Sthetick, this young artist in his early twenties agreed to speak with me.
The First Verse
“Since childhood the thought of music excited me but I never had any plans of pursuing it full-time. I come from a middle class neighbourhood where most people think dreaming big is foolish and I was living my life with the same outlook, considering music to be nothing more than just a hobby. After learning that artists like Nucleya, Skrillex, Dubtron, Eptic have made stellar music just using laptops, I researched, learned, practiced and finally managed to make an unprofessional but creatively good piece of music using this Digital Audio Workstation called FL Studio,” said Dhruv narrating his story to me.
He continued, saying, “It lit fire to this passion in me and made me more curious about the technicalities behind this complex yet extremely satisfying art of making music. After proving to myself that I had what’s needed, I started taking serious steps towards it where I got major help from two of my mamas (uncles) in every way possible. The most important was helping me build the correct mindset needed to pursue such life goals.” He was so motivated that he moved cities and came to Mumbai, leaving his family and friends in Delhi.
“Music is the only thing that I can do 24/7 without taking any breaks. I grew up listening to the most beautiful songs of all time and I believe melody and rhythm are in my blood. Dad used to sing, mom was the first break dancer in her college, my mamas owned a music store and one of them back then was a disk jockey, and had played major festivals like NH7 Weekender by the name— DUBTRON. I not only had people to look up to but also had big shoes to fill and that’s something that I’m working on”, the young rapper shared.
“I used to have bundles of CDs with RnB/Hip Hop songs and I used to listen a lot of rap music since yesteryears but one day while listening to Raftaar Bhaiya’s songs some words and flows automatically started popping out during an empty part of a random hip-hop song. Since then I had an idea that I can write and perform good flows,” narrated the soon to be sensation, about how he wrote his first verse.
And since then Dhruv has managed to make it to MTV Hustle Season 1’s Top 25. He has been played on international radio, been interviewed by one of the foremost RJs in the world who has interviewed the likes of AR Rahman, Badshah, Bohemia, Lilly Singh, Imran Khan. And has been doing phenomenal work that is generating incredible traction over the internet.
Dhruv Sthetick's Favourite Artists:
The two artists who’ve made a massive impact on my life are Raftaar & Russ. Raftaar’s flow inspired me to write for the first time and Russ’s journey inspires me everyday that the less dependent you be on others, the better it is. Prabh Deep, Prateek Kuhad, Seedhe Maut, Prophec, Protoje and EPR are some of the other artists I love listening.
Dhruv says that growing up he was an under-confident individual and his biggest challenge was convincing himself to take up music professionally. He dropped out of his 3-year Bachelors of Computer Application course in pursuance of this far-fetched dream of becoming a successful musician. He explained, “I was good at computer programming and for me dropping out of college to enter this inconsistent industry with no knowledge of how it works was a big step.”
Speaking about the pitfalls along the way, he said, “Lack of resources back then was frustrating for me but now when I look back I see loads of learning and technical hacks that I figured out by myself be. I learned how to learn and I’m still learning everyday experimenting at my ‘lab’ (studio) merging elements from different genres in search of new recipes. I started out as a music producer, and with no one who could sing, write, compose or mix, I had to learn these skills myself. That changed the way I looked at creating music.”
Most Indian parents are usually sceptical of careers in the arts. Dhruv’s parents were too initially. He shared his experience with convincing his parents to let him pursue music full-time and drop out of college, “At first like all parents they were worried a little too, but very soon they understood and started supporting the hustle as much as possible. Currently, more than it being mine, it’s their dream to see my music reach bigger heights.”
Cue Next Track
Dhruv has decided to change his name from Shaitaan to Dhruv Sthetick. For a musician to change one’s stage name is a tectonic shift, especially one who has managed to make a name for himself. It’s a huge risk. Speaking about this change, he said, “I’ve been planning to change the stage name to ‘Dhruv Sthetick’ (where aesthetic means art) from a long time, as unlike the past now I feel more versatile and also at the same time I see myself managing various art forms like recording, mixing, video work and artwork/posters, of my songs on my own very efficiently.”
He’s currently working on ‘Khayaal’ —a collection of melody-driven songs by him. Two of which (Tu Nasha and Badle Tum) have already released and have gotten some rave reviews. “Art inspires me. I see art everywhere. Sometimes a streetlamp, sometimes a random picture on Instagram, sometimes a ‘khayaal’ (thought) and sometimes just a word induces a specific sound in me,” said Dhurv about how he conceptualized his brainchild. There are also some collaborations and experimental music in the pipeline for him right now.
His goal with rapping is to represent the India internationally and to inspire other artists to realize their goals to the fullest of potential. He strongly believes that if you have the right mindset then anything is achievable. He dreams that one day a stadium full of people will sing his songs word for word and that he’ll collaborate with his icons Raftaar and Russ soon. And if I know anything about Dhruv, then it is that he has the right mindset.
Advice for aspiring Musicians:
A perfect balance of logic and optimism is needed to achieve anything. Learning music and widening the bandwidth of genres you listen can add a new dimension to your music.
About the 21 series:
On the 24th of March 2020, the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi announced a nation-wide lock-down for 21 days to fight the pandemic that is the Coronavirus. Citizens mustn’t leave their homes unless absolutely essential. This series aims to bring to the readers 21 positive stories through this 21-day lock-down. Something to inspire them to keep at it and come back out of this horrific tragedy stronger.
If you have an inspiring story or know someone whose story the world must know, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org