Hip Hop in India has transmuted into an unparalleled beast. With rappers raking in millions of views and trending on social media to a legion of brands wanting to jump on the bandwagon to milk this new-found cash-cow, the Hip Hop scene is growing. A lot of artists have taken the limelight but some prominent names from the founding generation of India’s now rich Hip Hop culture often don’t get due recognition. One such man is Poetik Justis aka Trap Poju.
Poetik Justis is one of the names in the Indian Hip-Hop community who has been ‘repping’ the movement since its nascent days. One could go to the lengths of saying that he laid one of the most crucial bricks in the building that is Mumbai’s Hip Hop culture. In the past, he has been associated with major epoch-makers like B3 India and Dharavi’s famous Slumgods.
Every rapper worth his/her dime has either collaborated with this icon in the past or aims to do so in the future. And he’s not just a ‘pen-then-pretend’ rapper, he has mastered the art in all its forms ranging from battle rapping to freestyling and more. Poetik Justis has outdone and decimated countless rappers in battles, and this habit is not set to change anytime soon. He has also performed at major festivals and concerts across the nation; a standout performance being one at Gully Fest with Dee MC.
The First Verse
Poju’s story is living proof that no dream is too big. “My story is about a middle-class kid with big dreams. It's about a 14-year-old kid who got introduced to Hip-Hop and never stopped obsessing over the culture,” started Poju.
The differentiating factor that puts him in a different league is that he is one of the few artists that is not driven by fame or money but by the sheer love of the genre. He says that it provides him a sense of freedom. Explaining, he said, “When I write, record or perform, it allows me to vent, to become much more than I am and fully express my thoughts, emotions, and ideas. It makes this life worth living.”
The world of Hip Hop has to be grateful to CD players because they’ve been breweries for some of the best batches of artists like Raftaar. Another great artist that was introduced to the genre through the archaic CD player—Poetik Justis. “I got it [the CD player] as a gift. One of my friends sent me a disc with some top-charting hits from back in the day and on it was a song by 50 Cent and The Game,” the underground rapper narrated. He continued, “After listening to that song, I ran down the rabbit hole and started my exploration journey of the Hip-Hop world.”
Pen, Paper, and Process
Talking about his process, the young rapper said, “There's no set process. I can write on instinct or I can write when I need to. It's more about letting go and getting into the flow nowadays. It comes easier to me, and in terms of making albums, the idea comes first always.”
“I don’t stick to one theme necessarily,” explained Poetik Justis. He elucidated, “I have ideas that come out whenever I'm trying to create music. My songs or even my albums have different goals; it could be to spread awareness, could be to change the way society thinks, could be to flex my abilities as a lyricist or even vent via poetry.”
Feather in the Flat Cap
When asked about his biggest achievements the optimistic rapper said that his best is yet to come. Apart from his overt contribution to the art form through performing, Poju has been at the centre of a lot of culture-building ventures. He crowdfunding new shoes for upcoming B-boys and B-girls in the Hip Hop heartland of Dharavi. The entire Indian Hip-Hop community came together and pitched in for this cause, making it a golden feather of sorts. The young rapper takes a lot of pride in what this initiative accomplished.
One of his biggest contributions to Hip Hop in India was his role in the founding of B3 (Battle Bars Bombay) India as a battle league. For those new to B3 India, it has established itself as one of India’s top beatboxing battles with participation and support from artists like D’Evil, Divine, Seedhe Maut, Shaikhspeare, and Enkore.
The New New
Desi or Indian Hip Hop in the 2000s was a fairly new sub-culture. Today, it’s the new new. It is not what it was, it has evolved to become more glocal in its approach and style. And there are rappers, beatboxers, break-dancers, disc jockeys, and graffiti artists mushrooming across the nation. With international acclaim and notoriety–which is a major positive–comes the community-dividing topic of commercialization.
Giving his take on the changing dynamics, the rapper said, “It's evolved both for the good and bad, but I'd say majorly it's evolved for the good. I just hope people recognize talent over popularity in the long run.” He added, “Influx of money is good for any music culture; what's more important at this time is building an infrastructure around the industry which nobody is interested in doing on a large scale. Only a few independent labels are doing it right in my opinion. I think a lot of people are inside echo chambers and the industry doesn't care about the music as an art, rather than a popularity/money milking contest. That's something I'd like to change.”
Another major change since the early days of rap in India is that more and more rappers have moved away from rapping in the language of the arts origin—English, and instead are rapping in the language of the region. Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, any language you can think of, there is a rapper out there who is representing it.
But there seems to be an apparent divide between the takers of Hindi and English rap. Talking about this distinction, the multi-lingual rapper opined, “I think we need to stop distinguishing between English rap and Hindi rap first and foremost. English rap has always existed here and some of the finest artists in the country rap in English. I feel in this digital age, English rap can expand its boundaries and attract an international audience - this stands true for the battle rap culture as well.”
More To Come
He is currently working on his album Kala Pani which is set to release soon. This is just the start of Poetik Justis, there’s a Side B on the cassette of his life that you haven’t even heard yet. And that’s where the best music always resides.
As for the Indian Hip Hop Community, there are certainly some torch-bearers that are still trying to keep things like they were in the yesteryears; the fact of the matter is that fixating on what has been is not the best way to take the culture forward. Any culture must adapt to newer norms whilst staying true to its roots. And like they say it in the Hip Hop community—just keep it real.
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 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