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Hip-Hop Artist Shen B: ‘I Was Struggling to Prove Myself; With This Song I Feel Liberated’

The Jammu-based rapper’s latest single ‘Sone Do’ draws on the struggles and triumphs of an artist’s life

Rolling Stone India Nov 21, 2020

"I realized that if I don't express myself through my art, the disappointment would slowly consume me," says Shen B. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

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No words can possibly do justice to describe the loss of a mother. And yet, every once in a while, an artist will say the unspoken and articulate sentiments that are hard to access. It is then when you fully realize why vulnerability might just be an artist’s most powerful tool, a secret weapon, if you will.

Jammu-based rapper Shayaan Bhat aka Shen B recalls how his mother was looking forward to his next single, the newly released “Sone Do.” He says, “She was with me at the shoot of the music video and this track was her favorite, especially the line where I mention her.” Bhat’s mom passed away a few weeks after the shoot.

All of a sudden, the artistic dilemmas that “Sone Do” expressed so elaborately in its lyricism paled in comparison to the new catastrophe. Some of the things seemed plain cruel. “I don’t know why I decided to shoot a sequence where I am digging a grave; it just came to me. “

Bhat’s verses have found new meaning now: Sach kahoon toh main itna lada/Ki bani maa meri dhal aur khilaaf mere sab the (Truth be told, I fought so hard/ When the world came for me, my mother was my shield). He is certain that all of this couldn’t be a mere co-incidence. “I didn’t make the song, the song made me make it.”

A soliloquy wrapped in a plea for some respite, “Sone Do” reveals Bhat’s most deep-rooted confessions as a human being. It is also the hip-hop artist’s 10th single in a year. Thematically and visually, the song is also a homecoming of sorts. In the video, Bhat is seen in the scenic, expansive lands of the town of Bhaderwah in J&K. “‘Sone Do’ is about finding value in the present and cherishing the now. The song perfectly captures what my mother once told me: Yeh khamosh mizaaji tumhe jeene nahi degi. Iss daur mein jeena hai toh kohraam macha do (Your silence will not lead you anywhere. To thrive in this world, you have to make an uproar.)

The song is written, composed and produced by Bhat while the music video has been directed by his long-time ally Wikki Koul, who too lost his mother within a few weeks of Bhat’s tragedy. While their shared personal loss forms an emotional bedrock for the song, its relatable songwriting and production grants it a universal appeal.

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Here are excerpts from an interview with Bhat:

“Sone Do” marks a milestone for you as an artist. Tell us why the song is special to you?
This song is special to me for the sole reason that I had no control over how it came into existence. There was this void inside me, eating me up and I couldn’t understand what was happening to me and why. A part of me was fed up of the struggle I have faced since I started my musical journey in 2010 and another part felt empty. Little did I know that my mother would pass away when I complete the shooting of this song. “She was with me at the shoot of the music video and this track was her favorite, especially the line where I mention her.

Where I mention her. This song was like a revelation to me, as if God was preparing me for what was about to come. I don’t know why I decided to shoot a sequence where I am digging a grave; it just came to me. So, in short, I didn’t make the song, the song made me make it.

What have been your artistic or personal struggles and triumphs that inspired the song?
After releasing back-to-back high paced, energetic and aggressive tracks, I felt like I was struggling way too hard to prove myself as a competent rapper than an artist who expresses himself with his words and music. At this stage, I realized that if I don’t express myself through my art, the disappointment would slowly consume me. I was always tensed about the reviews I would get whenever I released any track but with this I felt liberated, as if I had done my part and I didn’t need to pay much attention to the appreciation or the criticism. Every word of  ‘Sone Do’ is like a part of my soul put in words, so it will touch whoever is going through a similar phase in life.

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 How was the process of shooting the beautiful video? It is both pensive and uplifting, and something that you haven’t experimented with before.
We had nothing much when it came to the camera gear, just a Sony A6300 with a stock lens and years of filmmaking experience. To get into character, as gross as it sounds, I did not take a bath for five days, lived in makeshift tents, scrubbed mud and dirt all over myself, roamed the untouched areas of the mountains, tried to catch fish and what not. We would wait for overcast skies every now and then to get that gloomy and melancholic look we were going on. Sometimes it was just a 15-30 minute window of perfect weather so we shot guerilla mostly. The whole shoot was very instinctive and I had to be in character the whole time. For me, it was a learning curve to be in such conditions. It certainly made us stop for a moment and be thankful for whatever we have in our lives.

You have released a lot of material in the past many months. How have you seen yourself grow over this period?
As an artist, I have slowly started to accept myself as who I am and come to terms with expressing what I truly feel. I was always a competitive person but now I am just taking a step back and moving away from the core underground hip-hop scenario to moving towards experimenting with rap and hip-hop in whatever way it suits my expression. I just want to amaze myself with every new project I do. Whenever I listen to ‘Sone Do’, I still get goosebumps. That’s the kind of feeling I thrive for, that’s the kind of feeling I make music for.

Tell us about your upcoming releases in the coming months.
As an artist, I would never like to be bound into a genre or a particular style. So, I am experimenting a lot with music right now. I have started working on my debut album and in the meantime, I will be releasing singles and music videos for my audience. Also, I have a few commercial tracks lined up with some big names.

 

 

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