Nasty: The New Age Of Hip Hop
Nephop has had its highs and lows, from the likes of GP (Girish and Pranil) and Laure to Lattu Hiphop. We’ve treaded into the culture sometimes with caution and at other times with embarrassing hysteria. Despite many cringe-worthy instances, the hip-hop culture has had a gradual but persistent growth in the music industry. Things have been looking up a lot lately, and one particular album underscores the great leaps that the music genre has been taking: ‘Khatra’.
The launch of, what will be seen as, the defining album of an era was marred by the tragic death of Yama Buddha. However, released under TEC Records, ‘Khatra’ has set the benchmark for the future of hip-hop in Nepal. Apart from some seriously good bars, the album dropped some of the freshest beats in the industry. And the person responsible for that is the prodigal artist who goes by the name of Nasty.
We talked with Mr. Abhishek Baniya aka Nasty the Executive Chairman of TEC Records about how he started in this industry, the challenges he faced and his undying passion for his craft that made the album Khatra so khatra.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO MUSIC?
As a kid, I was into sports, especially football. I thought about becoming a football player but the idea fizzled out because it didn’t seem a likely prospect. Then I got into music. Towards the 9th grade I started listening to a lot of hip-hop. The first rap track I remember listening to was Eminem’s debut album: Marshall Mathers LP. After some time I started penning down my own verses. By the time I was finished with high school, all I did was scribble down rhymes and verses.
TELL US HOW TEC RECORS FIRST STARTED. WAS IT SOMETHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO DO?
I was always into music and it was always something that I wanted to do, TEC is a fruition of that. I have my own company where we produce beats for established rappers and also focus on new and aspiring artists.
IT’S A BOLD MOVE, GETTING INTO HIP-HOP IN NEPAL.
I was very determined to make it big in the industry but there was nothing to start with. The market scene didn’t favor the hip hop culture in Nepal because it was sometimes frowned upon. Other music styles were there and were doing quite alright for themselves so naturally we were unsure of what to start in order to make an impact in the market. But then, we decided to stay true to what we knew best and felt passionately about. Initially we started with three people, a laptop and a microphone. Then we kept on building our company from there.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE NEPALI HIP-HOP MARKET? HOW IS IT EVOLVING THROUGH THE YEARS?
Through the years, we have seen a lot of hip hop artists come into the scene. Getting into hip hop has both good and bad aspects to it. In most other genres of music there is a band and you compose music with various different instruments. To start off with hip-hop you have to start making beats and sampling and things like that. But I would not say there were no platforms, to start with; we had Raw Barz and a saturated group of artists like Yama Buddha, Uniq poet, the Underdogs, and also us who are very good at what they do. Besides that, there is a lot of room for improvement for all of us. That being said, some come to the market with a bang and some don’t do that well but whatever it is, we have to sustain because one day you are a big shot and the next you are gone. It is so competitive that you have to push through and maintain the quality and try out new things.
WHAT MUST BE DONE TO IMPROVE ON THIS FIELD IN YOUR OPINION?
I think the most important value that we all must learn in the music industry as a whole is standardization. Yes, you can try out things that are mainstream but it should have a certain level of standard and that should be maintained at all levels. We need something that authorizes the standard in the audio, video, the marketing strategies, promotions, all the aspects that forms the final product must be up to a certain mark. And at the same time, we need to learn from these things and be open about what we want to do.
“HE WAS VERY OBSERVANT IN WHAT HE DID AND WHAT OTHERS WERE DOING AROUND HIM.”
YOU HAVE MADE SOME INCREDIBLY GOOD MUSIC AND HAVE COLLABORATED WITH YAMA BUDDHA WHO IS ONE OF THE PIONEERS OF THIS GENRE. HOW DID THIS COLLABORATION COME TO LIFE?
We met around 2011 when his single ‘Saathi’ had just come out in the market. I was a huge fan. But we never had a proper conversation even though we used to go to the same recording studio. So, I used to ask around about him because I really liked his music. I was one of the very few people then who knew his real name.
One day I was returning from my college and I saw him with a movie director that I knew as well and I just went up to them and asked “K cha Anil Dai?”, he was so shocked that I knew his real name because at that time he was keeping his identity quite low key. So, then we started hanging out more. We also then collaborated on a few things on social media and got six hundred likes in three days. And this was the time when we could not boost posts with money and get more likes like today. So six hundred likes was a lot and we felt like celebrities. And Anil Dai noticed that. He was very observant in what he did and what others were doing around him.
One day he called me and asked me to come to House of Music and make music for an artist. Later, he called me on New Year’s day of 2013 to perform, after that we sort of drifted apart because we were doing our own things. At the end of 2014, he gave me a call and asked me how old I was, I was 20 at that time. We caught up for a little while, and while we talked he mentioned not staying in the industry for too long; he wanted me to pick up where he left. This was a long time ago and I just took it as simple conversation, one that led to the question of whether or not I’d make music for him. Being the fan boy that I was, I agreed and it was a big deal so we started working on it the very next day.
WERE THERE ANY CHALLENGES THAT YOU HAD TO FACE? AND IF SO HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?
The hardest thing in the music industry, or any other industry for that matter, is convincing people. Like I said, in the last few years, the hip hop industry has been evolving and it is getting better but if you look back there were more challenges, the perception of the public towards this genre was different and sometimes completely wrong. So, making sure people understood this genre has been challenging . Apart from that, finding people to work for this genre was very hectic. Finding these people and people who actually knew how to do things was a hassle. Putting them in a team and working together took even more time. Many came in and left but eventually we did find a very good team and the productivity of the team reflects in our work.
YOU ALSO HAVE STARTED A NEW EVENT CALLED ‘THE COME UP’. TELL US WHAT IT IS ABOUT?
The Come Up was a concept that we came up with in 2014. Simply put, it is the come up of a rapper that deserves to be highlighted. We had the first season in 2014 and now this is the second season. So the whole thing is, we have created five beats that people can choose from and record a verse using that beat and send it to us. There is a whole competition and we choose the finalist and s/he will get a record deal and will get signed to our label, which will be fully sponsored. VZN is the winner from season 1 of The Come Up.
The Come Up showcases the struggles of a rapper and if s/he has the potential we will provide them with the resources. There is no language barrier or any barrier as such, so it gives you an opportunity in which you can have full control over what you want to convey. The season will consist of rap battles, live shows, and a grand finale where the winner will get Rs.100,000 in cash prize, Rs. 300,000 worth of record deals and Rs.500,000 for the video development.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR STYLE?
My style has changed a lot through the years. When I first started out I used to rap in lots of different voices that may somewhat copy the artist or try to follow someone else’s style. But I now realize that the best way to rap in is my own voice and in whatever beat the song wants. So I adapt to the beat and work according to that.
WHO IS AN INSPIRATIONAL PERSONALITY IN YOUR LIFE?
Steve Jobs, because of his ability to sell anything. He can take anything and create this brand around it and convince people that what they are getting is worth the cost they are willing to pay.
DO YOU HAVE ANY THEMES THAT YOU GO WITH IN YOUR SONGS?
The most common topic that we convey through our songs is success and how it can be achieved if you work hard enough.
WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE GOAL IN LIFE?
To be very honest, my ultimate goal does not end in this generation, so I want to create something that will be there for generations to come and in a time where, if a kid goes up to his dad and tells him he wants to make music, I want that dad to feel as proud when a kid now aspires to become a doctor or an engineer. So, to establish music as an esteemed profession is my ultimate goal.
HOW WAS IT WORKING WITH YAMA BUDDHA? WHAT DID YOU LIKE ABOUT HIS STYLE?
Yama Buddha is the only rapper in this country who can make Nepali rap sound cool and relevant. He was always pushing me to my best, and as a producer he made me realize that above everything else, one’s work ethics comes first, and he was able to instill that in me and others around him. So, as I look back on our journey together, although it was a short one, I got to learn these amazing things from him as a professional and as a human being.
DO YOU HAVE ANY FUTURE PLANS TO MAKE MORE MUSIC OR ANY OTHER ENDEAVORS?
For the future we have a few things planned out, right now we are working on our clothing brand and it will be out soon. We are also coming up with an album called young kings which will be out in July and we will be hitting the roads soon for the promotion of the album. We have a video app called Ampersand that we have in the pipelines. We are also coming up with a live streaming app.
WHO DO YOU SEE AS COMPETITION?
I don’t see any competition around and there is a reason for that and I genuinely feel it. First of all, the team we have is a blessing and that is one of the biggest advantages I have against my competitors; and the next thing is I study everything. I observe what others are up to and when they are planning to do things, I will be planning to outdo them. Lastly, in the past six years I have worked in this industry, I was privileged to work with one of the best rappers in the country and I got to work on myself so much that it will take any of my competitors two or three years to reach where I am now and they will always be behind.
What most people know is that we have a recording studio, but they don’t know what we actually do. What we do is we publish music, we promote music and we monetize music. We don’t rent out our studio to someone else and make money. We have signed a lot of artists like VZN, Tyrant, Lazybones, Alexx, Breezy and so many more. And I am also very glad to say that our company has a female CEO and we have started signing female artists like Preeti Rana, Paramita Rajya Laxmi Rana, and Cristina Allen who is an artist based in the UK. We started out as a very Hip hop based company but now we are diversifying to various other genres like EDM and Indie Pop.