Today I have got an eminent, illustrious, prominent, outstanding, famed, celebrious and distinguished personality to sit tête-à-tête with me. Well, to be frank, it was quiet hard for me to pick the veracious and unerring word to portray the image of this Rap/R&B artiste in the very first sentence. So, I decide to put several words matching his persona.
I’m talking about Vansh Mankoo also known as ‘The hk’, is one of the familiar faces in Underground Rap Music. Let’s have a meticulous colloquy about his journey of this combination of Rhythm and poetry with him to know more about the scenario of rap music when he launched his first single ‘Million Dollar Man’ in 2009 and now when he is all set to release his second Mixtape ‘Punjab to Mars’.
So, our conversation goes like this –
Me: Welcome Vansh.
HK: Thank You so much!
Me: First of all I want you to tell me what should I call you? Vansh or HK? I’m getting confused over this.
HK: (chuckles!) Let me tell you something about the name HK, back in 2009 when I was in my mid teens, high on excitement and spirits, I wanted to pursue my passion but sound cool as well, so I adopted Hustle King as my stage name.. Later on, as I continued, I realized that Hustle King sounded stupid & childish and by that time people started calling me HK, so I didn’t change it then.
I like to be called HK that makes me feel people know me from my work, my art speaks for me.
Me: You started rap in 2009 in your 12th standard with releasing your first single ‘million dollar man’ which received decent response. Who was the inspiration behind the move?
HK: I have been writing from 8th grade. I used to do poetry, and during that time, I was introduced to this genre of music by a friend of mine. So, it grabbed my interest since it was all about poetry blended with music. No artist was an inspiration as such.
Me: Poetry? Sounds interesting! You must have fought several poetry competitions? Share the memories with us!
HK: Nope! Never, I have always kept it just for myself cause I wasn’t confident about what I’m doing till the time I was introduced to rap music and finally decided to put my heart in front of the world.
Me: As you know Rap in India was not so popular in 2009 until bohemia’s ‘The Rap star’ was out! Slowly people started to recognize the genre! How did you make your place in the messy scenario of rap in India?
HK: (chuckles!) Actually, I knew that I want to record something, but didn’t know how, so I took my dad’s digital camera and shot a video of me while performing on a beat, converted that into an audio and placed on the original beat. I was out of any idea on how do I sound, how people are going to react to that, I sucked but I did that. Like every other artist, there was a group of friends who supported me for the effort, even if I was whack and all others who made sure that I feel I’m whack.
Me: Quiet astonishing! I mean really you did that? Because that’s something called love for the pursuit! Hats off!
HK: Thank you brother! “Million Dollar Man” was the one I recorded on the digicam, otherwise it was “M So Desi” which was recorded in a studio, back in 2009.
Me: How you used to promote your songs, where you used to share them in 2009, because as far as I know Indians were not much familiar with Facebook at that time?
HK: I used to share them on Orkut by uploading them on myspace. I wasn’t known to everything back then, took me a little while to understand these things.
Me: Honestly, do you believe if facebook wasn’t there, you wouldn’t have been the The Hk?
HK: Of course. For an underground artist, social media is the biggest & probably the only way out we have apart from live performances. Since, everyone in the world cannot perform everywhere; social media puts everyone under the spotlight and gives an artist a fair chance.
Me: Vansh, I am far away from the ground reality! But how was the scenario of underground rap back in 2009 and how is it now in 2013? I think we can call it a tech year because phones are getting bigger as tabs and tabs are getting bigger as starting size of LCD! The number of Smartphone users has drastically improved in India!
HK: (chuckles!) That’s truth. Back then in 2009, everyone was recording at home and the amount of listeners used to be way less than now. Everyone was putting their art on display and it became even more populated in 2010-2011, but in 2013, only few hardworking artists are left with a passion for music and not for the show off.
Now, people like Honey Singh & Bohemia have popularized commercial rap music to the masses. Even our parents are listening to this genre which used to be noise to their ears back then.
Me: But I’ve seen some stereotype listeners considering rap as a conversation killer genre only! What’s your take on this?
HK: I disagree to the statement. I know our culture & society doesn’t connects with the kind of music the youth is listening, but that’s how things are, that’s why the music has always been categorized as THE 70s, 80s, 90s and this will go on like this, the generation I share my thoughts with love Eminem, Lil Wayne, Rihanna, Bohemia, Honey Singh etc they love listening to the kind of music they like.
Everyone likes to listen to the genre they like, no one is forced and no one can ever be forced, people want to listen to this and I don’t think anyone’s opinion or disliking can change this.
Me: As you’re saying youth does like rap genre! But I’ve seen distinct mindset of youth! It happens with me all the time, while traveling in car; I love to play Eminem, Lil’ Wayne or Wale! But my friends start shouting on me to change the song and don’t play rap songs!
Well, this is turning into a discussion!
HK: Hahaha. That’s because they do not feel the genre, you like to listen to rap music, and you do. I told you, there was a group of friends who liked it and encouraged me, just like every other artist and there were others who were asking me to shut up because someone else was better than me.
Me: How do you pick up the concepts for your songs? Do you fulfill desires of your fans who expects R&B songs from Hk or you go opposite to that and pick up concepts like Ammi, Kitaab, Batti balke?
HK: As far as I know, I’m known for my poetry & deep lyrical work. I have done only a couple R&B songs. I want to do everything that comes my way. Be it Ammi, Kitaab or Batti Baalke.
Me: Let your fans know about M-Brigade also known as Mohali-Brigade! How the crew was formed?
HK: Mohali Brigade consists of Sikander Kahlon, Navi Virk and I. It’s been more than 3 years that we have been making music together. We’re brothers now, not just 3 young artists making music together. I feel proud to be a part of the best Punjabi rap clan that has ever emerged in the underground scene. It was a mutual decision, Kahlon & I collaborated on a song called Mohali Souljaz before putting up all the ideas into a group called M Brigade.
Me: I haven’t heard any commercial song featuring you! Why don’t you consider that?
HK: Commercial artists just want to use us rap artistes as filler to their songs, I’m not about those 8 bars in some Punjabi song with club beats and crappy lyrics. I do not connect to that sort of music. 90 percent of commercial artists do not even mention rap artists in the credits to their song and especially in Punjab where almost everyone is recording songs about Bullet, Gehriyan, Disco, Sandals and all that. I don’t think real music or poetry has a space to emerge as something big. I would rather go solo than to ride a ship that’s probably going to sink after a month or so.
Me: Hk, Love-a-holic was a super hit mixtape Of Underground Music! How many downloads it had hit?
HK: Yes, Love-a-Holic was my debut mixtape which was released back in 2011. It has crossed 5000 downloads last month on different websites that I’m aware of. I don’t have the statistics to all other sources which provide listeners with download to my mixtape.
Me: Till now how many songs hk has released? And how many are in only hk’s phone’s playlists that are waiting to go on internet?
HK: I have released almost 2 dozen songs as an individual artist. Been featured on some another 2 dozen songs. Rappers these days are out of content and quite monotonous stuck at that same state of mind. So, that makes me feel that I’ve been out of this jungle with a different sound.
6 singles already have been released off Punjab to mars (your next mixtape) including batti balke! When the whole mixtape is coming out and how many songs are in it and who else is featuring in it?
HK: In Punjab to Mars, I’m working with many new artistes including my home team Kala Kurta Gang. There will be near about 10 more songs apart from those 6 pre-released singles. I wish I could post more details on that, but some surprises are always great to look out for.
Me: Hahahah! That’s enough to escalation enthusiasm!
Okay! if you get a chance to make some changes to upgrade this whole rap scene! What those changes would be?
HK: The first and the most important change would be bringing up more lyrical content & diversity in the music. See, we cannot change what people want to listen but we can surely change an image of the genre we’re holding a passion for. Sticking to all those played out concepts, same lyrical content, and same type of musical approach needs to be changed. Rappers should go commercial but with a content that’s worth appreciation, so that the expectations of our society about rap music can be encouraged.
Me: Last word for the struggling rappers?
HK: We have stages, experiences, lessons and improvement. I’m not big enough to tell anyone what to do and what not, I’m myself seeking the magic trick, but I guess believing in your art is what works but surely takes a lot of time.
Me: That was such an inspirational talk! I’m inspired towards rap music, may be you are going to listen my vocals on any beat! And you’ll catch me going off beat! Just Kidding! All over it was fun talking to you vansh! Thanks for sharing your special moments with us.