We discovered Pakistani emcee Jinn the Rapper last summer online through mutual friends. He was set to perform at a small festival in Ethiopia – and we knew there had to be a story there. Both Pakistan and Ethiopia are have very young hip hop scenes and we wanted to see what was going on in Pakistan and how these paths crossed. Jinn exchanged some emails with us for this interview.
by Greg Schick (for World Hip Hop Market)
World Hip Hop Market: How and when did you first learn about hip hop?
Jinn: In 2003, I started to make rhymes but it wasn’t enough for me to call myself a Hip-Hopper/Rapper/MC.
So, through the internet I downloaded many hip hop songs. Not every hop hop song attracted me but some of them really attracted me to get into this genre.”You Can’t Touch This”, “This Is How We Do It” and the list goes on. I listened each song for about 2 to 3 hours continuously on repeat mode to observe the style, rhyme, topic, and music. Through the list of hip hop songs, a few things that I noticed were like: the words were free, hop hop is about delivering a massage, to let the people know what we want and how they feel the same thing. Day by day I was learning from the biographies of artists, their songs, and their appearance. Now as I’m in this rap game, so it doesn’t mean like I know everything about hip hop. I’m still learning. Every day when I learn something new, the next day I feel like it was nothing. I need to learn more and since the age of 16 and I’m still learning till now.
What led you to become an MC?
When I was a child, I was a quiet and shyness was in my personality. But one thing really bothered and hurt me is that, almost everyone (relatives, neighbours, teachers and my classfellows) criticised on my complexion. And because of that I always remained behind the things which I really wanted to do. In school I always wanted to sit in the first row to take active part in my studies and bring good grades, always wanted to be in sports but no one gave me a chance to do so. Unlike my school, my relatives and neighbours, always taunted and criticized that “You’re a BLACK”. And they never wanted that I do something good. With all these things I had one good friend who had no problem with me. But as he was older than me so I spent my limited time with him.
The only way for me which I found to survive in that time was to sit back at home and do my things in boundries. So as an activity besides my education, I use to make sketches, play with puzzle games, write happy poems and sing my poems.
In 2002, when I was 15 – the first time I knew about the Hip Hop genre – when my friend “Hamood” played a rap/hip hop song “I Need a Girl” by P. Diddy featuring Usher and Loon in his car. Its beat and the way P.Diddy, Usher and Loon performed in it, it attracted me a lot to know about the song. I asked my friend “What kinda song is that and from where did you get it?” He said “Mohsin (Hamood’s friend who moved to USA after his high school graduation) gave it to me when last time he visited Pakistan and its a hip hop genre and by the way, why don’t you give a try on hip hop, people will get new thing from you and the most important thing is, that the rapper is a black, people like him and he is a famous. Your worries are gone buddy, so just chill and work on yourself to become a rapper.” As I was already a player of words, so I made them in rhyme like rappers do.
What types of things do you rap about? Where do you get your inspiration?
I keep things in balance. It’s not like I’m going in one direction. I talk about hard, tough, and serious issues of life, Party, Dance, Rides, Military, Girls, Guns, Love, Drugs, and Imagination about things. But personally I like to rap about the life and my own point of views about the different personal or current situations around me. So I take the topic and fill the deep words inside it. Sometimes I even use rough and harsh words to put the feelings, to let the listeners know that how I really feel about it and try my best to write my words in a realistic way so the listener feels like its their own story. I got my inspiration from few rappers, like Ying Yang Twins, Busta Rhymes, Tupac, Bushido, Eminem, Ludacris. I don’t know how and why, but the pitch of my vocals change everytime when I try to adopt a new style. That’s the reason why I got inspiration from different style artists and I’m capable to go with different styles.
What language(s) do you rhyme in? Is that common or are other languages used?
Being a Pakistani, I prefer to rhyme in my own national language Urdu because that represents from where I’m and besides that Indian Hindi language speakers can also understand it. In Pakistan? Yes it’s common, almost every person can understand it. From India, Bangladesh and Nepal, if a person can understand Hindi language then they can understand Urdu as well. And number of people who migrated from Pakistan and India to United kingdom, Europe, Australia, and America, they can also understand Urdu language. I can also rhyme in Sindhi language which is my provincial language and in English. I’m trying to get fluent with Punjabi language so I can make rhymes in that language too. As a matter of fact, I have collaborated with Punjabi rappers from Saudi Arabia and India, and maybe soon I’m gonna collaborate with Mexican rapper from Mexico. I’m doing this because I want to spread my language through the rap and also want to introduce new language(s) in Pakistan. It’s like, I want to make a connection so the ways for Pakistani rappers can be opened.
How did you connect with the Ethiopians to go and perform there?
Through Facebook I got in contact with Carol O’Connor, President at Rhyme-N-Reason Foundation. I don’t know how she found me but I must appreciate that she is a good with talent hunting and she has a wonderful, friendly nature and personality. We introduced ourselves to each other, there she told me about herself that she is running an NGO in Ethiopia which supports hip hop and graffiti artists. I got interested to know more about her work because what I know is hip hop and graffiti art is a sign of freedom and being a rapper from Pakistan, it is a new thing for me that there could be an NGO to support hip hop and graffiti art. One day she asked me the same questions about hip hop and graffiti art in Pakistan. I gave the answers and after couple of weeks or a month she asked me like what if she find a sponsorship then would I be interested to perform in Ethiopia? I said yes, If someone can sponsor me then why not. I will be glad to be a part of her cause and it will be an honor to be around hip hop lovers. In other way I can also promote my language and represent my country Pakistan.
Have you performed outside of Pakistan before? Where?
Unfortunately, I have never been to any country before, neither I have performed. In my country? Yes couple of times.
How have people reacted to you performing hip hop in Pakistan?
Till now I have performed around 3 times. I still remember each of my performance, because I got better with every performance and learned something new. My first performance was in KFC (Private party) there I performed infront of 100+ people. The reaction was above my expectation because people who came there, they went crazy, I had a big shoutout, they were dancing and the funny part is almost 98% of my pictures were blury because the camera guys were also dancing and no one had time to record my performance because they were enjoying. My second performance was in Szabist University (Rap party) there I performed in front of almost 100 students. But the students were crazier than the KFC crowed. They were out of control. And again the funny part is like the DJ said “F**k the turntable, I wanna enjoy man”. My third performance was in LUMHS University (Carnival) there I performed in front of 800+ students. Yeah! There I got in trouble with few students before my performance, they were misbehaving and tried to attack me but fortunately I was in safe hands, so nothing happened. After when I started to perform I saw the same guys were enjoying my rap with rest of the audience. After my performance five African guys came to greet me and one of them said he is a rapper too and wish that I could collaborate with him one day. From my performance and people’s reaction, what I have learned is, audience, venue, and language, really matters.
Tell us about hip hop in Pakistan. Are there B-boys? DJs? Other MCs? Does anyone do graffiti writing?
Hip hop is a fast growing genre in Pakistan. If you put your attention over it then everyday you will hear something new. Graffiti art has never passed from my eyes but B-boys, DJs, MCs, and Hip hop producers? Yes, there are many and every day a rapper is being born with a new rhyme. With hip hop things, everyone is experimenting without any professional training, assistance or experience. Because they want that people should accept it and upgrade their music taste so the artist can get a platform to perform and achieve their goals. As a matter of fact, nowadays many rappers are making funny raps and they are making fun with hip hop music because the truth is, Pakistanis like more funny rhymes than the real rhymes on life. Otherwise they don’t take much interest in hip hop.
How is hip hop accepted in Pakistan?
For all over Pakistan, hip hop is a new genre. Still people are integrating their music taste and mostly people don’t understand what a rapper is rhyming about. That’s why I said audience, venue, and language really matters. If the audience is Urdu, Sindhi, Balochi, Pashto, or Punjabi speaker then hardly 10 to 15% will understand the English rap, the rest will enjoy the beat and artist’s performance. Besides that thing its not only about English rap which they don’t understand. Its about the integrity of taste and fluency of rhymes which they are not used to, even if those rhymes are in their own language, they will not get it easily. Pakistani Hip Hop first took root in Pakistan during the early 2000s with the introduction of American television and distribution of Hip Hop music within CD shops. Online social networking such as Orkut and Facebook also played a heavy role in bringing together various underground Pakistani rappers together in sharing their music. By the middle of the decade, hip hop artists of Pakistani origin such as California-based Bohemia, Netherlands-based Imran Khan, and Waqas Ali Qadri of the Danish band Outlandish had started exploring lyrics in Punjabi. Other rappers in Pakistan: Islamabad and Rawalpindi based such as Gangsta rapper R.M.J.Z.K they rap in English a real language to express this genre. Taking the lead towards Gangsta Hardcore Rap which promotes style, high lyrical rhyming as well as education to other uneducated people as often seen in the streets of Pakistan.
What cities or regions is most of Pakistan’s hip hop centered around?
Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, and Karachi. These are the cities where you will find many hip hop artists.
Are there a lot of hip hop concerts or parties in Pakistan?
Yes, nowadays the hip hop concerts are getting common. Everyday in Pakistan youngsters are organizing a concert or private hip hop party but sad thing is, people just want to be in an event to enjoy, yes that’s what the event is all about but what I mean is, after the event is over you will notice the same people will be listening to pop and classical genre. It means they don’t support 100% hip hop. Why? Because they don’t watch real hop hop at mainstream. Maybe nowadays 1 or 2 songs are been played on TV but they ain’t real hip hop/rap.
What web sites or TV shows promote Pakistani hip hop?
In 2008, Play TV (Pakistan) hosted a live freestyle battle show “MC Clash” which attempted to bring exposure to Lahore’s underground hip-hop talent such as STT, Haider Z, Bobby “Digital”, and others. During the same year Pakhiphop.com was created as a platform for rising Pakistani rappers and producers to showcase their music on the internet. An ecosystem of websites including HiphopPakistan.net have also popped up to promote the music. Most recently, Ali Gul Pir and Young Stunners have come out of the Karachi music scene with their singles “Waderai ka Beta”, “Taroo Maroo”, “Burger e Karachi”, “Maila Majnu”, and “Laam Se Chaurha”. Their rapid-fire Punjabi Urdu lyrics using Karachi street slang are seen as a sign of growth of the genre in the country.
Are there any record labels in Pakistan?
Hip Hop Record labels have started to emerge which are attempting to bring a platform for Pakistani Hip Hop Artists and Producers. In 2011, Urban Prince Records was formed in Karachi as Pakistan’s first Hip Hop record label which consists of members Shahzad Saleem A.K.A. Shaz, Capo Status, Ali Ansari, and AYJ who is a professional beat boxer and has performed on the Sahir Lodhi Show, alongside many others. Islamabad and Rawalpindi are currently viewed as the most active cities for its Hip Hop music with Rap Engineers gaining around 200 live concerts, Adil Omar planning to release his first album The Mushroom Cloud Effect in Winter 2012 and Osama Com Laude is slated to drop his debut EP also this Winter 2012. Notable Producers have also emerged such as Talal Qureshi, Webster, Mast, DJ Danny, Haris Qureshi, Huz and more. Hip Hop is continuing to grow in Pakistan and is slowly reaching the level and influence Rock & Pop has on Pakistani mainstream music.
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