Smokey the Ghost | The Hum Hip Hop Project and How it all Started
I picked up the pen when I was 10 years old. It was everything to me, being the only child to my working parents. Who were both too busy to talk at the time and my frustrations and outlet for any kind of emotions was Hip-Hop. When I started off, it was based on selfish motives. I wanted to be a superstar called Smokey the Ghost.
Back then there was no iTunes, YouTube, or even the Internet to put music out in the click of a button to a large audience. What was worse? due to the absence of the above, organizers of events never considered Hip Hop as a sellable feature in India. They just did not want to risk it. As a matter of fact, I remember begging to perform at venues so much that I would get paid 20 thousand a year. But all that soon came to an end, the break out of the internet in India was so important to Indian Hip Hop that it exposed the distribution of quality rappers that existed all over the country. However, human beings always succeeded when Individuals brought people together, be it Hitler or Gandhi or Eminem. Hip Hop cannot be “Sold” without Unity. One would normally think, if I put out viral material on Facebook, twitter, YouTube or similar digital platform, one could achieve Unity, but that’s not true. Extremists in exploiting the digital space alone or the live performance space alone do not go very further. I’ve met so many artists that have thousands of fans but can’t attract 20 people to their LIVE events. What was the problem? I always wondered, especially since digital space was an artist’s ” image ” and LIVE was where the actual money was, considering the fact that piracy is at large.
There are two issues we need to tackle, 1) The Indian audiences do not understand what Hip Hop is. 2) Digital and Live performances need to go hand in hand. The solution struck me when I performed my first show at the Humming Tree, when the Nikhil Barua proposed the idea of starting a Hip Hop property. Both the digital and LIVE spaces exist separately and middlemen in between decide who takes off and who does not. That’s the advantage a label gives you, they are the middlemen that facilitate distribution of your music. There is a disadvantage too, they do not understand what Hip Hop is (Indian labels), further, they are middlemen with a selfish motive to make money and make money alone, which is justified for a corporation. If this was the case, bringing both live and digital together could be the key for an artist, or actually for Indian Hip Hop, as long as someone who understood Hip Hop did it. In my second show at the Humming Tree, I opened for Watsky and the venue could see our potential in comparison to an American artist, this probably gave them faith that we could achieve this India.
On my third show, Hardik Dave (DHH) was in the crowd, he loved the Idea and we sat for a meeting with Suvan of the Humming tree (who I have grown to be very good friends with despite that fact that we started off with a massive fight) who is now also, a huge contributor to this project. That is when we realized that these three platforms were all we needed to be the Hum Hip Hop Project. The Hum Hip Hop (HHH) project is an initiative by The Humming Tree, Desihiphop.com and me, based on the ideas that I created for educating, proliferating and supporting quality HIP HOP I.e. the catchiest of the catchy stuff by bringing both the digital and LIVE performances together, it’s a complete package. Here, Exclusive Artists perform at the Humming Tree, one of the most beautiful venues in India (coming from my experience of performing around the country) and videos captured are uploaded on desihiphop.com and promoted like the videos are of our own. This results in organizers actually realizing the potential this genre holds, the digital distribution facilitates that. Additional to this, the project serves drinks (yes, dem alcohol) based on the songs of artists, screening of movies related to Hip Hop etc. That’s the difference we create, It’s a win-win for everyone: DHH gets its content, Humming Tree gets an attractive show, Artists interact with their fans and I get to see this baby grow. Eminem started off at the shelter… The humming tree was mine. Artists who perform at HHH are given additional privileges, like uploading the best of their songs on YouTube, iTunes etc. Unknowingly I realize that we have created something else here: A networking platform where artists can meet other artists or their fans, which is not possible on Facebook. This is the real world, showing what u are to your fans is equally important for artists and their music to be effective and understandable and defines being “real”.
Hosting this platform is a privilege and a personal affair to me. The Humming tree is my home, Desihiphop.com my brothers and HHH Project my baby. As of today, we have had two editions of the project; the first one had nearly 50 people. Me, Bolt Assaults and the Low Rhyderz performed signifying the unity we had, considering the fact that I beefed with them 8 years ago. As we started the second one featuring Rinosh, Gubbi and Indian 777, my watch showed 7.30 and there was no body at the Humming Tree. We were all worried if people were going to come. What if all this effort was going to be a failure. I tried not to worry too much, told myself not to overthink, hence retreated to the green room. At 8.30 I stepped out of the green room (after my nap of course), to see 150 people, it wasn’t much for most artists but this was my baby, HHH project was growing, Indian Hip Hop was growing.