Giving us a deeper glimpse into his vocal and lyrical prowess, Mumbai-based rapper Yashraj’s second EP Takiya Kalaam takes the audience on a journey into self-contemplation. This EP is an ideological sequel to Yashraj’s ruminative first EP Azaad Hu Main, which was released in 2020. Takiya Kalaam is more than just a run-off-the-mill hip-hop record; its lyricism is playfully poetic and intimately personal, written and conveyed in a manner that self-evidently turns ‘Yashraj the rapper’ to ‘Yashraj’, just another person trying to put his stories out into the world.
The EP intimately reflects the 22-year-old artist’s core values. Yashraj reiterates that this Takia Kalaam is the second chapter to Azaad Hu Main. “I had dropped many singles in the past two years, and every single track is a documentation of my headspace that I had at that time,” says Yashraj.
I’ve been brought up in a middle-class family with a certain set of privileges. I have no single story to tell; rather, I have a lot of them.
He believes that the life he has lived and experienced since dropping his first EP has contributed significantly to his growth as a human being. “As my perspective evolves, the lines I write at one time hold an altogether different meaning in another. There might be some intention of writing something, but as time passes by, the interpretation of those very words changes,” he says.
Takiya Kalaam is the evidence of Yashraj’s passion for poetry and his ability to spit verses with clarity. One could say it is a motley collection of Yashraj’s diary that he has knowingly released to the world to listen to. The record, spanning eight tracks including an intro and two interludes, is written and performed by Yashraj and is produced by Dropped Out, Akash Shravan, Lambo Drive, and Karonik.
Yashraj does not identify with a singular story, but calls himself a raconteur with many stories to tell. “The essence of this EP is that there is no one story. I have no “I-used-to-be-here-now-I’m-here-and-going-places” kind of narrative. I’ve been brought up in a middle-class family with a certain set of privileges. I have no single story to tell; rather, I have a lot of them. That opens up the canvas so much for me,” he says.
But opening up to the world demands honesty and authenticity of the artist from himself, and Yashraj was no exception in the process of giving voice to the stories kindling inside of him. He tells A Humming Heart, “Usually, the writing session involves all of us in the studio, together writing the song. But for this EP, I isolated myself from the world. Just stayed home and began jotting down all the ideas I had,” he says.
Those several quiet moments he spent sequestered, swimming in his thoughts, brought Yashraj closer to himself as an artist and person. “I feel like knowing yourself better and who you are as a person is the most advantageous thing anybody can do. Our deepest insecurities come out when you’re writing, and you cannot shy away from them,” he says. And knowing himself better helped Yashraj figure out his priorities and expectations from the EP.
There are no verses from other rappers or performers featured on this EP. I do like collaborating, but this EP felt far too personal for me to do so.
He says, “Back in the day, I believed there was a chip on my shoulder; that I had to prove myself to someone or everyone. Now my approach to my art is more resigned; I feel like what I’m creating is for myself and I hope there’s somebody that would connect. Initially, you look for people, but later you start attracting the right kind of people. I, too, used to chase approval, but now I just hope when the time is right, my art clicks with the right kind of people, and they’ll understand where I’m coming from.”
Given the deeply personal flavour of this EP, Yashraj decided to minimize the collaborations. “There are no verses from other rappers or performers featured on this EP. I do like collaborating, but this EP felt far too personal for me to do so. However, one can find that various producers have graced many tracks with their features,” he says.
A natural performer, Yashraj has been in love with the stage for long, and has performed on it in various capacities. He has been performing as a rapper, however, for the last four years. While Yashraj’s passion towards his craft is proof enough of his love for hip-hop and the culture, he’s also wary of falling into fads. For instance, he’s wary of over-politicizing his music. “Definitely, politics is a part of the community. But I feel that it depends on the record. If there are tracks that have to channelize that intent and thought, then definitely, I’d put it that way. But then if I’m talking about who I am and where I come from, then putting in a lot of political things might just seem forced,” he says.
Lastly, Yashraj has high hopes from the hip-hop community in India. “I feel that bar-by-bar, we’ve started evolving, and rap and hip-hop has become more than just rhyme schemes now. People are getting a taste of what Indian rap is, and I think if we continue in this direction, soon we’ll be releasing our songs on global platforms, to a global audience.”
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