Hip Hop With A Heart – Punk And A Class Apart

Distinctive personalities. Unique styles. An abiding love for their music. Our pick of 5 Tamil rappers and hip hop musicians are a groovy, fun lot. In this exclusive, they talk to Ritz about a range of topics from their craft to the use of profanity and even their fashion sense. With June 12 marking the World Day Against Child Labour, we ask the artists about the menace and find that they are also all heart, as they emphasise on every child’s right to dignity and life through education.

Punk And A Class Apart

Happy, un-guarded and spunky – that’s the other side to the don’t-mess-with-me persona that Lady Kash dons. Her grit and free spirit have made her the poster girl for all that’s rad with women rappers in the industry. Having started out in music at a rather tender age, this punk-rock looking celeb has evolved and is set to restart working on her originals after a break.

A couple of collaborations later and all the more musically wiser, Lady Kash talks to RITZ about what truly makes her, her!

How did Kalaivani Nagaraj become Lady Kash?

I always wanted a stage name that would establish a fine line between my professional and personal life. It was something that I had meditated upon and one night I received my stage name in a dream, where I was being presented with an award. I took that as a sign and went ahead with Lady Kash.

Would you say that South Indian rappers are a little tame for profanity, which is norm core abroad? Many seem to want to deliver social messages. Are you open to trying a sexy, fun rap number without a social message?

Well, it really boils down to every artist as an individual and their take on it. As for me, I try not to use vulgarity in my songs. I am open to all sorts of styles of songs, so long as it connects with me.

Hip hop and rap are from the West. How far have you had to Indianise your music to suit our audiences?

I do make a conscious effort to at least have a tinge of my culture as a Singaporean-Indian in all my music. However, the song decides its treatment, hence I let what comes to me naturally translate into my songs.

Who are your favourite artists internationally and why? And what do you think defines a great musician?

Some names off the top of my head would be… Pharrell Williams, AR Rahman, Jessie J, Ryan Leslie. In my opinion, a great musician is someone who keeps it real, no matter what and puts out art sincerely, not just for the sake of popularity or fame. It is also one who would not step over others just to get where he/she wants.

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How important are drama, awe and a carefully cultivated persona to the overall success of pop culture artists? What is your unique image?

Well unfortunately, people are very drawn to the drama going on in the lives of artists, although that’s really not what should be of importance. Having said that, I can’t deny that drama does sell in the industry. I hope that ends. People should focus on our art, more than our personal lives. We’re all human at the end of the day. What makes me unique is just the fact that I stay who I am. I am not trying to be anyone else and am evolving every day. The same applies to my fashion sense. I’m more about style and comfort. It’s important to look good when you are a public figure but that only really comes when you feel good and shine from within! That’s what matters to me.

How important do you feel is writing your own lyrics and making your own music? Also tell us about your favourite quotable lyrics.

I love writing my own lyrics. I think it is a beautiful thing to be able to write your own lyrics as you can express yourself extensively. But at the same time, sometimes life just gets you and there are points where you can’t express yourself. I am open to working with songwriters for my songs. I think an exchange of creative energy is awesome.

My favourite lyrics are

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.” – Bob Marley

“I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints; the sinners are much more fun.” – Billy Joel

Have you ever faced gender bias as a musician? Have you ever been asked to dress a certain way, sing a certain kind of song etc. just because you are a woman. How have you dealt with it?

Too many times, unfortunately. I cannot stand stereotypes. I stand to break them and stand by equality.

So that’s what I do. I just refuse to give in, even if it takes away a project or an opportunity. Sometimes, you just have to make sacrifices for a bigger vision. It will be worth it in the end, I believe.

Where do you see yourself in the music industry 10 years from now? Do you want to make a mark internationally?

I am working towards taking my music global, taking it further than I have done today. There is a long way to go and this is just the beginning. In all my music, I want to cherish my identity of being an Indian girl, even if it is just a tinge at the end of the day.

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How international are Indian musicians today? What do you think the future will be like for us?

We have so many musicians and artists of Indian origin. It’s a wonderful thing. I’m sure we’re all going to make some real noise in the planet in the time to come… soon! (smiles)

What is your biggest plus as a musician?

I get to meet all sorts of souls from all around the world.

Who would your dream music collaboration be with and why?

I’d love to work with Pharrell Williams. Just his energy… I don’t know… (smiles)  I just connect with his work a lot.

Present and future projects.

I have completed a couple of international collaborations with artists from Switzerland, Malaysia and India and they are set to release this year. Apart from that, I am also working on my originals, after a good break.

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The social issue closest to your heart.

Inequality in the world. Lack of clean water and education. Climate change.

Some words on the issue of child labour? 

It’s got to end. Every child deserves the right to a good start – exposure to education and that too, on a holistic level. Every child has something special to offer our world and it is heart breaking to see them suffer through child labour and most of their cries go unheard. It’s a personal dream of mine to provide education for a child in the future when I am financially stable and more able to help.

Some compliments you have received for your music.

Well, the biggest compliment would be AR Rahman sir telling me that “Tamil girls should rock the world too.” That, to me would be the most moving words I could have heard from someone as inspirational as him. It showed me that he had immense faith in me and that my vision is something he looks forward to.