New Delhi’s Aeke on New Music Video ‘Lat’ and Nearly Two Decades in Indian Hip-Hop
Rapper Akash Khandelwal started out as a b-boy, took on graffiti and is now hooked on to the visual storytelling side of the genre
Everything that New Delhi-based Aeke aka Akash Khandelwal loves about hip-hop came from other somewhat removed interests. He was trained in martial arts and taekwondo, which led to him becoming a b-boy. The rapper in him grew from his love for poetry. He would sketch often as a child, which led to his sustained interest in graffiti and even took him to Ahmedabad to study film and video from the National Institute of Design [NID]. “I actually went to NID to take a break from hip-hop, after spending so many years in it,” Aeke says.
It was as early as 2002 when Aeke began writing bars and verses, but not necessarily to record or even piece together into a song. Inspired by the likes of Gil Scott-Heron, Aeke was writing songs only in 2006, when he was often in-charge of MC duties at underground b-boy gatherings in the capital. “I started getting the mic and used to be very aggressive, because you had to get everyone hyped up,” he says. Aeke was part of organizing b-boy jams as well and with a crew called D2BX by 2007. While a majority of his early rap was in English, he turned to writing bars in Hindi by around 2012, when he began studying the language for that very reason. Micmaster Aeke, as he was anointed, was part of plenty more b-boy gigs across the country in the years following his Hindi turn, but the demand from dance crews always called for old-school styles. “The purist ideology is sort of strong amongst b-boys, so they prefer the Nineties boom bap sound, like Rakim and KRS-One,” Aeke says.
It was only in 2018, following his stint in Ahmedabad, that Aeke took on a three song release called Trilbum, which he says offered his thoughts on “the three most important things in hip-hop” – love, money and drugs. Songs like “Gin” spoke about greed, while “Akelapan” was about loneliness amongst those looking for love. The third track “Lat,” whose music video released last week, deals with ideas of “behavioral addiction” and habits. “It was something I was facing myself those days, when I wrote it,” Aeke says. Over hard-hitting production from American beatsmith Homage, it’s evident that Aeke is all about strong penmanship and lyricism rather than emphasis on vocal melodies or textures.
The music video for “Lat” is where we see another side of the artist, who draws from his recent post-graduation course from NID and crafts a slick ingress to his world as a resilient hip-hopper. “My understanding of hip-hop has changed in the last three years, it’s more towards storytelling now […] I want to experiment a lot and want to make films and music videos for hip-hop,” Aeke says. Retaining raw energy as an MC but also creating characters, the rapper is now prepping a 16-track full-length album called The Genesis, which is slated to release in March next year. He adds, “It’s going to cover my journey in hip-hop and include different styles, from a cappella to MCing for b-boys. There’ll be skits and different voices for characters. That’s what I want to do with my hip-hop.”
Watch the video for “Lat” below.