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It's not easy being a Muslim rapper, some people called me a terrorist because apparently, I look like one: Aamir Shaikh

This 29-year-old calls himself Shaikhspeare. Residing in the bylanes of Nalasopara, Mumbai, he wants to make it big as rapper

Sreyashi Mazumdar @Sreyashi27 26 June 2018, 5:13 PM
T2 Diaries
Aamir thinks rap in India is getting diverse

Aamir thinks rap in India is getting diverse Image: Facebook/ Aamir Shaikh

Rapping started as a hobby. I started writing rhymes or rather raps when I was 18. And since then, there has been no looking back. I remember listening to Eminem's upfront and brutal rap numbers on TV. I was a kid then and the rebellious undertones of his songs kind of gave me a kick. The way he gave his feelings away in one breath was amazing, and that attracted me. I wasn't much of a talker. I kept to my corner, didn't speak much as a kid. That's why writing raps was a way to vent out my emotions.

I hail from Bihar. My father is a civil engineer and he was finding it difficult to make both ends meet there. I have two siblings; so, feeding all of us was taking a toll on him. In 2007, we shifted to Mumbai. The maximum city helped me nurture my hobby further. Here, I was exposed to a completely different environment. Mumbai is like a potpourri of different cultures. People in college helped me understand the city. 

In college, I met people who were equally crazy about hip-hop and were avid rap listeners. They introduced me to international rap artistes such as 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur, and more. Also, I started connecting with Mumbaikars interested in rapping on social media. I think Orkut came to my rescue.

My family is not very supportive. But they have their reasons. My father wants me to take up a stable job. Not that I didn't try taking up proper jobs, you know, 9-to-5 shiz and stuff. But I soon realised I am not meant for routine jobs. Plus, I failed to strike a balance between music and work. 

After three years of working in a corporate setup, I finally took the plunge and took up rapping as a profession. It wasn't easy.

But I worked my way out. I got featured on MTV Indies, few dailies covered me, and so I made a place for myself in the industry. Recently, I also got an opportunity to work with Ranveer Singh in Gully Boy, so that kind of added a feather to my hat. And after all these feats, my parents have somehow made peace with my profession. But my dad still wants me to take up a stable job. I guess, since I am the eldest one, they expect a lot from me. 

As of now, I am doing moderately well for myself. I reside in Nalasopara and have been fortunate enough to form a coterie of rappers from my locality. They are equally interested in the art form and we have done quite a number of shows. If not a lot, I manage to earn Rs 8,000-10,000 a month. But of course, it's not enough in a city like Mumbai. The struggle is hard and real. 

Right now, the rap scene is pretty diverse with rappers using their regional languages. While rappers such as Badshah and Raftaar are making songs for movies, underground artistes such as Divine and Naezy have made it big off-screen. India is gradually taking rappers seriously, filmmakers are trying to showcase rappers' lives on screen, things are changing for good. But there is still a long way to go when it comes to accepting rapping as wholeheartedly as the West has. 

Aamir raps before a crowd

Aamir raps before a crowd Image: Facebook/ Aamir Shaikh

Moreover, I am a Muslim. I often give my political viewpoints away through my rap, and at times that lands me in trouble. Although I am not a practising Muslim, I write and rap about the current government and its anti-minority stance. Often, I am called an anti-national person because of my religion. In fact, some outfits didn’t even hesitate to call me a terrorist, because apparently, I look like one.

So, I wouldn't say a rapper's life is an easy-breezy one in this country, but here we are.

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