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The Playlist Issue: Bob Omulo

The frontman of Bombay Bassment, Omulo’s top tracks include a Public Enemy political rager, a Tupac classic and his ’93 foray into Snoop Dogg

Rolling Stone India Apr 12, 2016
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Bob Omulo. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Bob Omulo. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Veteran hip hopper and member of Mumbai band Bombay Bassment counts iconic acts like Rock Steady Crew, Public Enemy and Tupac as his biggest influences.

“The Message” Grandmaster Flash and The Furious 5, 1982 

This is the first hip-hop track I can remember mouthing as a kid. Of course half the lyrics I was rhyming were wrong, I didn’t even know the full alphabet by then. I wasn’t even aware that it was called hip hop, but it was my favourite tape in my brother’s wardrobe since I was still too young to have my own cassettes. This introduced me to rap music as a genre as I was to later realise.

“Rapper’s Delight” The Sugar Hill Gang, 1979 

The beat on this track made me feel good. Finally there was a type of music I could “sing” along without chocking on notes like when singing along Donna Summer tracks. This one influenced my early styles of writing raps, the flow and the intonations, and to date, it still kills it on the dance floor.

“Hey You” Rock Steady Crew, 1982 

Easily my best b-boying track ever, never dreamt I’d meet RSC pioneer Crazy Legs in real life one day in India, over a generation later in hip hop. In this era, hip hop was like a phenomena that brought heaven on earth despite one’s circumstances.

“Bring The Noise” Public Enemy, 1988 

Hip-hop was getting really political and I was trying to understands the dynamics of the cold war, and Public Enemy became a channel that educated me a lot on the plight of the economically underprivileged in the US. The organisation and activism of the crew really opened my eyes to the murky world of international and especially American politics although I wasn’t really obsessed with politics, but my love and respect for PE lives on, one of the most intrepid hip hop crews ever.

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“F The Police” NWA, 1988 

This was hilarious to me back in the day when I didn’t even know it was legal to curse on a record. It was like that dirty habit I indulged in just because I thought my parents would disapprove of it. Of course it sounded outrageous to me until it took a prophetic turn in the Nineties when the Rodney King case followed lines described in the song. It is in my opinion one of the most historically significant tracks in hip hop because until today, the protest by blacks against the police in the US continues and until today, artists that protest still get a lot of flak as we see with Beyoncé earlier this month after her Super Bowl performance [of “Formation”.]

“G Thang” Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg, 1992 

This inducted me into the G Funk era, a young rapper named Snoop Dogg and a return to listening to Dr. Dre who I’d shunned since he left NWA. As I started picking up an interest in DJ-ing, this era of hip hop gripped me in a way that I’ve never shaken off till today.

“What’s My Name” Snoop Dogg, 1993 

This was on the first original cassette tape I ever owned [Doggystyle] and I don’t need to mention that opening for Snoop in Pune with Bombay Bassment years later, is about the biggest achievement and fulfilment I’ve ever gotten as an artist.

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“Check Yo Self” Ice Cube, 1992 

This was mad in the party too. It had beats from “The Message” and I was excited to be witnessing a new generation of hip hop music, sampling off old tunes, yet I was still a kid. Ice Cube killed it on this and in my opinion, it’s still one of the best from the Compton rapper.

“Keep Your Head Up” Tupac, 1993 

This joint made me a Tupac fan immediately. I still remember exactly where I was when i first heard it. Lyrically it gave me some soul searching after getting habituated to the misogynistic hip hop that had exploded in the era. I now had a chart topping hip hop track that I could proudly play for my sister.

“Big Poppa” Notorious BIG, 1994 

Heard this one at a party and I knew I had to get it anyhow. This was the best lyricist I’d heard in a while. Together with Tupac, BIG became my best artist before things went nasty between the two and I’m still sometimes incredulous at how things went down between them. I feel BIG brought back the East Coast when The West had taken over from what I consider to be the true home of hip hop.

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