Hear Kashmiri Rapper Ahmer’s Scorching Debut Album
The Srinagar artist worked with New Delhi-based producer Sez on the Beat for ‘Little Kid, Big Dreams’
On the sixth track of his debut album Little Kid, Big Dreams, Srinagar rapper Ahmer Javed has a track called “Roushan,” which features an interview excerpt of fellow Kashmiri hip-hop artist MC Kash aka Roushan Illahi. In the skit, Kash talks about studio raids and how his voice as an artist has been suppressed.
Then, the first words from Ahmer arrive in Kashmiri on “Kasheer”: “Crackdow’nas manz zaamit, curfew manz maraan/ Haqoomat yi haptan hunz, nindrah karaan (We’re born in crackdowns, we die in curfews/Governed by bears, who sleep on us every day).” The 24-year-old is rightfully proud of this couplet and counts it among his most favorite on Little Kid, Big Dreams, which released on July 5th via Azadi Records. For Ahmer to say that he’s tried not to be “simple and generic” on his debut album is quite an understatement.
The eight-track album brings together dark soundscapes courtesy of ace producer Sajeel Kapoor aka Sez on the Beat, who guided a lot of the rap as well. Ahmer says the producer was among those – including Azadi Records’ co-founder Uday Kapur – who encouraged him to sing in his own language and perhaps pick up where MC Kash had left off, to represent Kashmiri hip-hop alongside other voices such as EssXaar and Illsane.
By January last year, Ahmer did have Little Kid, Big Dreams ready to go, but it was an EP comprising his own production (honing his skill after studying audio engineering at New Delhi’s Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication) and all verses in English. Everything changed after a meeting with Azadi Records co-founder Uday Kapur and later, working with Sez. Ahmer says, “I scrapped the whole English verses and Sez told me, ‘From now on, we’re not doing English at all. You’re going to focus on Hindi, Urdu, words that you have’. Kashmiri is always the language I wanted to bring out.”
Ahmer speaks with a dogged determination and hope about the change he can bring about. He wants more people to resume speaking and singing in Kashmiri, considering most of school is spent conversing in English or Hindi. The album does have Urdu and Hindi verses as well, detailing Ahmer’s caustic take on daily strife in Kashmir, taking on the path of a musician (“If you are an artist, you’re isolated. You’re a laughing stock, they’ll call you names,” he says) and how he won’t stop any time soon.
In addition to Sez and Azadi, the rapper also got a helping hand from one of the grittiest hip-hop artists in the country right now, Prabh Deep. On the riveting “Elaan,” Sez provides a droopy, detuned guitar line, a big-room drumbeat and panned to the back of the track is Ahmer uttering the word “boziv,” which translates to “listen” (and something that will be the rapper’s signature). With a brutal takedown from Prabh about warmongers, “Elaan” sees both rappers getting matters off their chest. Ahmer says, “Our inspiration from the beginning was to do something raw and gritty. Prabh was talking about his struggles and what he’s faced, I was talking about what I was facing.”
While Ahmer got to road-test a few of his tracks on the Azadi Records 2nd Birthday tour earlier this year, he’s looking forward to taking Little Kid, Big Dreams on the road to different cities. The club show experiences – which started with an opening set for British hip-hop/dubstep group Foreign Beggars in Mumbai in March – are very different from what Ahmer has seen in Kashmir. He says, “If you had a show like that in Kashmir, people aren’t going to jump around and stuff. The sign of appreciation from them is going to be clapping. That is the best they can do, with screaming and cheering. They’re not going to dance and vibe to your music.”
For someone who started out remixing and adding his own verses over rap songs, it’s been a journey of about a decade to realizing the rap dream for Ahmer. He says, “I really became comfortable with what was happening and it’s only going to get better.”
Stream/buy ‘Little Kid, Big Dreams’ below.