#ReviewRundown: December 2020
To close off the year, we offer our verdict on the latest releases by American-Bangla hip-hop group Bhanga Bangla, singer-rapper Suryansh Bhatt, rapper Tintin and more
Bhanga Bangla – Made in Bangladesh
Bhanga Bangla, the rising Bangladeshi diaspora hip-hop trio in California offer over an hour’s worth of debauched, unfettered tunes in Bengali and English on their debut album. You could liken them to Migos, but 41X, Ivory Shakur and Young Prince are certainly not reigning it in on Made in Bangladesh. After all, it clocks in over an hour, with self-aggrandizing songs averaging at the five-minute mark so that there’s atmospheric production as well as mumble rap hooks (“Rani,” “Brown Like Priyanka”). It’s all kinds of hedonism and waving off haters, but apart from Bangla lyrics, there’s nothing too out of the ordinary in their claims, whether they extol tech czar Elon Musk, invoke Bollywood stars (“Jhamela Nai”) or talk about cars and fast living.
Tintin – Smoke & Mirrors
On his latest collab-friendly EP Smoke & Mirrors, Bengaluru rapper Tintin brings his A-game across six tracks, each one featuring a different producer. “Arey Bhaiya” remains especially incendiary as the young rapper stakes his claim and puts forward conviction-heavy bars, over a beat made by Bengaluru’s Amtra. On a shimmering banger by Rae Stones, “Every Dog Has Its Day” faces down his demons and hustles forward. If you had to pinpoint the prominent mood throughout Smoke & Mirrors, it appears on “The Shtick,” which features the words: “I don’t wanna be famous but I don’t think I’ll escape it.” On the dream-hop closer “Human (Mistakes)” with producer Kly, Tintin plays catch-up with his flow, infused with cheeky voice samples grabbed from memes, primetime news and more. Unlike its title, Smoke & Mirrors is Tintin at his most sublime.
Suryansh Bhatt – Buri Adatein
After releasing a handful of singles, rapper and singer Suryansh Bhatt bears his young, often juvenile heart with no filter on his debut EP Buri Adatein¸ produced by Piyush Daniel. While the opening jam “Shillong” features suitably lo-fi hip-hop treatment (with wavy guitars, as expected), Bhatt is talking about how he was wronged. He goes on a wooing spree on the wavy “Baatein,” with hurried delivery on “Andi Mandi” (with references to singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad and rap stars DIVINE and Seedhe Maut) and “Bas Tu Jaha,” oscillating between playing brash loverboy and emotive soul. It might be his truth to speak but Bhatt could do with a lot less obnoxiousness.
ZZ, Lil Littlez – Supervillains
Everything about Lil Littlez aka Sohail Rana Kanwar and ZZ aka Zefaan Kanwar screams straight out of Atlanta on their new album Supervillainz, from the lyrics to the flow. New Delhi natives in the beginning, the Kanwars are Indo-American but their rap game is wholly drawing from American hip-hop. There’s ace production throughout 12 tracks, including the hazy “Tap Out” and the X-rated “I’m Too Lit!” The lyrics don’t exactly inspire much when they’re chasing women (“The Island,” “Anaesthesia”) and bragging, but there’s thankfully some introspection on “Fetti” to change things up. There’s serious vibing that makes the sound of Supervillainz formidable (“…And the Whip Keep Going”), but it could do with more soul-searching verses.
Divya Venugopal – Yellow
Mumbai-based singer-songwriter Divya Venugopal (also a psychologist and faculty at wellness and spirituality movement Art of Living) teams up with ace producer Ashish Manchanda and Sanjay Chandrasekhar for a three-track EP that packs in multiple moods. Yellow opens with a dance-y, synth-pop ode to friendship called “Yaariyan” while “Main Rahu” is her turn at an easygoing, somewhat bittersweet love ballad. She takes the unshakeable folksy hook of Malayalam folk song “Kuttanadan Punjayile” and adds Hindi verses but what makes it refreshing is the deep house progression that blends in seamlessly. One of two EPs released in 2020 – along with Aks – Venugopal allows herself to start a party across genres.