Indian Hip-Hop’s Ace Producer Phenom is Turning to his Punjabi Roots
Goa-based Pinaki Rattan, who’s been the man with the beats for DIVINE, Naezy, Yo Yo Honey Singh and more, released ‘Thoughts – Part 1’ in April
On June 4th, Pinaki Rattan was partying down for his birthday in Goa, surrounded by friends and DJs at the deck, spinning a lot of tunes to a suitably moody late night. Considering the world at large would probably only dream of celebrating like this, the hip-hop producer, rapper and DJ known as Phenom was more than happy in his safe bubble.
Arguably, he’s earned the right to party – 15-plus years since he stepped into music as a rapper, DJ and self-taught producer, Phenom has been amongst the beatmakers who have shaped Indian hip-hop’s sonic language. Songs like DIVINE’s “Farak,” a chunk of his album Kohinoor, Naezy’s “Aafat Waapas” and his own group Third Degree Originals’ material all point to a producer who’s always got his finger on the pulse. He says about working with India’s current top tier rappers, “They all come from different backgrounds and cultures so it’s really interesting to be at the receiving end of different creative energies and more so partnering with them in realizing their vision.”
Phenom’s strongest connection, perhaps, is actually with Yo Yo Honey Singh. Although never in the same bracket as DIVINE and Naezy, Singh and Phenom go as far back as 2003. “YoYo Honey Singh used to produce for Third Degree Originals. I had some learning from him,” Phenom says. Singh got back in touch with Third Degree Originals (Phenom, Bonafide and Koncept) in 2016 and since then, Phenom has been helming DJ duties at the commercial rapper’s shows.
Along the way, Phenom knew he had to get back to rapping more than just being the go-to man for Indian hip-hop stars. “Thoughts – Part 1” was surprising not just for being Phenom’s comeback in a sense, but also for its quickfire Punjabi verses. The New Delhi-bred producer explains he’s Punjabi, but credits Singh for making him turn to the language for vocals. “I wrote a verse in Punjabi for fun, after he heard he [Singh] couldn’t believe it was me. Since Koncept and Bonafide heard it for the first time as well they and YoYo asked me to explore myself in Punjabi rap. I have no apprehensions in singing in Punjabi at all.”
When it comes to his own material – which he’s working to release in the coming months – Phenom is sure that he’s “in 100 percent control of it.” He says about his process, “I’ve reached a level where I exactly know when to stop and what and how much further it needs to be taken and when you can, it sounds perfect.”
Even though he might be lesser affected by the lockdown, Phenom says he’s pouring in all his life experiences into his verses and will have more releases under “Thoughts.” The focus is on his solo material, but Phenom is still a man wanted by India’s burgeoning hip-hop scene. He adds, “I’ve closely seen the growth from a few handful of rappers to a few hundred rappers now. It’s been encouraging and I’ve been able to learn a lot. The new generation of rappers is going all guns blazing. It’s good to be restless sometimes if you can make it work for you.”