Published: 27th March 2019
Apna Time Aagaya: This Bengaluru-based rap artist is all set to release his multilingual EP
Rap sensation Joel Joe Easow about his inspiration, how rapping completely transformed his life and how his upcoming EP is going to highlight political issues in our country
Do you know when fascination hits 100 per cent? When you see your favourite Bollywood actor playing a role that so many can relate to. Clueless? I am talking about Ranveer Singh in Gully Boy. This movie has inspired rap artists from across India to find their voice and has given a million people a whole new perspective on and a higher level of respect to that genre of music. One such soul from Mavelikara in Kerala — and who is currently based out of Bengaluru and was inspired by the kind of rap this movie had to offer — is Joel Joe Easow. While Gully Boy encouraged many to take a bold step towards rapping, it helped Joel push harder towards the passion he developed a decade ago, when he was 14. Just like Ranveer’s character, even Joel has a story to tell and this is how it goes.
To the beat: Apart from rapping and writing songs, Joel also beatboxes occasionally and also knows and practises hip-hop dancing
While the ideal rap artists for the post-millennial generation are Wiz Khalifa, Drake, Machine Gun Kellly, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B and even Murad from Gully Boy, some of us from Gen Z, including Joel, still look up to our very own ‘Rap God’, who has set the benchmark in this genre. “I was only 14 when I realised that I wanted to become a rap artist. And obviously, I drew my inspiration from Eminem and back then, when people spoke about rap, he was ‘it’! I abbreviate rap as ‘rhyme and poetry’ and Eminem was just the epitome of rap to me. I understood from his life how lyrics can evoke emotions in people and how lyrics with rhythm can even create an emotion,” he says.
Rap prince: Joel brought some individuality to Blackalicious’ Alphabet Aerobics and rapped an Indian version of the track
Putting aside all the inspiration he drew from people, there was something else that sparked a fire in Joel and his pursuit to identify himself in rap music, “I have watched so many people become popular overnight for no good reason. Priya Varrier’s famous wink is just one such example,” he laughs, “This just got me wondering how people like this achieve success for no good reason, while passionate artists still fight for opportunities and recognition. And that made me furious. When I expressed that fury in writing, I realised that expressionism evolves from within and that rap can be a medium through which a certain crowd can be reached with a message. Most stereotypes classify rap as a genre that talks only about girls, cars, sex and money — that is not what rap is to me! It is an artistic expression and emotion in itself.”
First step: Joel’s first-ever original song was a tribute to his college, Kristu Jayanti College in Bengaluru
In some ways, Joel’s life is a personified version of the song Apna Time Aayega. Joel goes on to explain how he dealt with rejection, negativity and failure. “My parents could’ve never guessed that rap was going to be lucrative for me and of course, they were all about white-collar jobs. It was my brother who first stood by me and gave me the support I needed. My first performance on stage was when I was 18. There was a time I was booed off a stage and I was super scared to perform again, but there’s something about negativity and rejection that works like magic on me and helps me pick myself up and start again. Every time someone told me to ‘give up’, I would just shut them up by getting better and coming back stronger, and that is one of the things that motivated me to release an EP,” says Joel.
How he does it: Something as small as a grocery list can inspire Joel to write a rap song. He even posted the rap How to Order Grocery Like a Boss on his channel
Now, getting to what you’re probably eager to hear about — his EP — Joel explains, “I will be releasing a multilingual (English, Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam) EP of four tracks soon. I am so grateful to the team that I work with and SRJ Production that works day and night to make this EP happen. These tracks are inspired by political scenarios and current affairs. For instance, the Tamil track will cover the upsetting Pollachi issue and is titled Thiruda Mattrum Police which was scripted by Arvin Maridas. The Hindi track is titled Jo Jeeta Woh Sikander which highlights the infamous war between India and Pakistan. It’s taken a lot of effort, time and money to put this out there. I had to save up a lot to pay for music production. I also invested in mutual funds to use the returns to pay for EP expenses. There have been multiple sleepless nights and nights of just mere brainstorming sessions. But the sacrifice is totally worth it. Writing lyrics was no less challenging. Do you know how hard it is to rhyme in Malayalam? But that is where I pushed myself to achieve the impossible.” And this is Joel adapting to Eminem’s hit single Till I Collapse when it says:
Cause sometimes you just feel tired, you feel weak
When you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up.
But you got to search within you, you got to find that inner strength.