Brodha V: ‘People Should Recognize Me Wherever I Go’
The Bengaluru rapper on chasing success, sticking to his
guns, and working with Raftaar and Divine on new material
Dressed in black with a t-shirt that sports the title of his previous single “Let Em Talk,” Vighnesh Shivanand aka Brodha V seems like he can go from kind-eyed geek to mean streak man if he just changed the way he looks at you. But the Bengaluru-born and bred rapper has never dropped names nor been called out with malice, as is rap tradition. “There’s no real beef as far as I know. It’s healthy competition at the end of the day,” he says with a laugh.
A rapper and producer since 2008, Brodha V has always been a voice of reason in the rap game. He was part of South Indian crew Machas With Attitude, alongside Bigg Nikk and Smokey the Ghost (the outfit disbanded over creative differences in 2013) and they are best known for taking over the then-nascent hip-hop scene with regional sounds complemented by caustic rap verses. It won them a few competitions and even placed them in favor with film music directors Vishal-Shekhar, who signed them up for songs on Mujhse Fraandship Karoge and Chennai Express.
It was a result of their appearance on pop band hunt competition Times Supastars in 2010, but Brodha V says not winning (or rather, being told beforehand that they were going to lose) was a catalyst in understanding music as a profession. He says, “I thought, ”˜let’s come back, let’s just create our own brand, identity.’ I don’t need labels any more. I’ll just put out my own money on YouTube and if people like it, let them check it out. I don’t want some guys who have never made music in their lives to sit around and say, ”˜Yeh kaala chashma works’ and copy that same formula [of songwriting] for the next one and-a-half years.”
That explains his take down of major label culture on his latest single “Way Too Easy,” which released in February. Perhaps it’s his stint with Sony Music, who released the gripping “Aigiri Nandini” in 2014? Brodha V doesn’t directly address this, but remains evasively diplomatic when asked about the song. “I’ve had good work with labels and bad work with labels. Overall, I feel labels are not at all necessary, especially in India,” he says.
Watch the video for “Way Too Easy”
Already well-versed with music production that he learned from hanging around with DJs and musicians in Bengaluru and tinkering with programs such as FL Studio, Brodha V knows how to keep things DIY. He released his debut demo/mixtape Deathpunch in 2011. CDs were distributed entirely through shows or friends in different cities. “I felt like I was the next Jay Z, ”˜Wow, I’m doing business as well’,” he says with a laugh. Of course, it made him realize that CD sales””and specifically making albums””were on the way out. “I realized I hadn’t made any music videos and I couldn’t promote it that well, I hadn’t tied up with a lot more people who would have pushed it,” he says.
With a spate of singles since then, each more polished and diverse than the last, Brodha V has chiefly earned fame for being the go-to South Indian rapper. His flow about getting some action (“After Party”), faith (“Aathma Raama”) and ignoring haters (“Let Em Talk”) might be entirely in English, but the production certainly comes from a tinge of classical and contemporary regional music.
Something about that has earned him not just thousands of fans across the country, but also work in films. He has collaborations coming up with folk hero Raghu Dixit and fellow rappers such as Raftaar and Divine. Talking about his “hardcore hip-hop” collab with Raftaar, he says, “I don’t think a lot of people know, because he’s viewed as this commercial artist, but I’ve heard some of his unreleased stuff and I’m blown at the stuff he can do.”
The hip-hop community in India might have grown by leaps and bounds in the past two years but Brodha V says it’s still too early for diss tracks and the likes. “I’m not sure about the calling out names thing, because the community is so small and there’s very few of us who all know each other. We’re all friends, although we might have that professional kind of”¦ we want to outdo each other,” he says.
As for Brodha V, he’s heading out for an India tour this month and keeping an eye on more single releases this year. “I usually put out one or two in a year and the rest are just ads or commercial work. I thought I should put out more singles and let people remember who Brodha V is. I think people should recognize me wherever I go, that’s the whole idea.”