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Producer-Rapper Tre Ess Taps Into Socio-Political Turmoil on New EP

‘Sipping Off Troubled Waters’ features stories from India’s Red Corridor experiencing Naxalite and Maoist movements over shapeshifting hip-hop

Anurag Tagat Jun 09, 2020

Ranchi-based producer-rapper Tre Ess aka Sumit Singh Solanki. Photo: Sudhir Dasgupta

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On his second EP Sipping Off Troubled Waters, rapper-producer Sumit Singh Solanki aka Tre Ess says he wanted to give as much of a “multidimensional identity to the Jharkhandi people and places.”

The Ranchi-based artist presents his home state’s most longstanding issue of Naxal insurgency in a broader light, employing experimental hip-hop and the help of a few friends across eight tracks. He says, “I wanted to bring some of these stories to the forefront and let the people know how important it is to cover places like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. These two states along with Odisha are so important in running the metro cities but these people are often discriminated against.” Collaborators on Sipping Off Troubled Waters include Bengaluru rapper Smokey the Ghost, Mumbai hip-hop artist Gravity, New Delhi rapper Doperman and more.

In his process of figuring out the main concerns of the EP, Solanki ventured out to “the inner parts of Jharkhand where law enforcement isn’t too active.” He was interacting with people who were affected by and fighting as part of the Pathalgadi movement, which broadly concerns itself with tribal land rights and has led to violence and charges of sedition. The producer says, “Naxalism is one of the more obvious parts I wanted to touch upon but also people who are on the fence about it, like the first verse on ‘Troubled Waters.’ A lot of youngsters join these groups just for their own protection.”

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Listen to “Fakir” below. 

The EP is certainly a different turn from the 2019 song “Dil Aziz,” produced with fellow Ranchi beatsmith The Mellow Turtle aka Rishab Lohia and featuring the splendid and powerful voices of Dheeraj Kumar Gupta and Subhash Bino. Solanki brings Dheeraj back for the groovy, lo-fi “Fakir.” The producer recounts, “I didn’t plan on having him on here because I never thought of involving him in the subject matters of the EP. He slid right in though.” That track, along with the buoyant percussion-heavy “What Do Kids Know,” touches upon parent-child relationships.

Elsewhere, Gravity punches hard with his verses on “Aparna,” which might be springy in its production but talks about corruption and takes the story of a woman who was “illegally detained” in Ranchi. Solanki adds, “This was an incredible story of perseverance and the fight that this woman put up. Every day they told her to confess to the crimes involving some IED explosions which was committed by a woman from the Naxals camps and all they knew was her name.”

In the midst of weaving in and out of gravely serious stories, there’s a personal matter that Solanki addresses on the noisy and lyrically unsparing “Mei X Superpower By 2020.” The producer describes the first half as an open letter to his mother, but also throws in the line “Play Rebecca Black at my funeral,” in a reference to the accidental star of the 2011 song “Friday.” Solanki adds with a laugh, “A lot of people said [that] was their favorite moment on the EP.”

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With the record released in March, a music video for “Fakir” was being planned but Solanki promises “tons of material coming out this year,” including a beat tape by July and another project launching in November that’s currently under wraps. “It’s going to be a busy year as long as no volcanoes start erupting next month,” he says.

Stream ‘Sipping Off Troubled Waters’ via Nrtya below. More platforms here.

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