J’97 is a rap artist straight ‘outta’ Guwahati. He specializes in the lyrical form of Hip Hop but is currently exploring the new school cultures as well. His art is a reflection of his self, scouting and blooming through city life in his early 20s.
He started his journey back in 2011 and is now producing and creating music that’s relatable and replete with tales of youth life. I had an opportunity to ask J’97 about his music, the how and why’s, and the perks of being a creator in this day and age. His music is available on YouTube, do check out if you haven’t already.
How were you introduced to rap music? Do you remember the first-ever track that really caught your attention?
Growing up, like in most Indian households my parents did their best to feed me with a variety of cultural elements including Indian classical music, dance and art, which in some ways encouraged me to pursue music from a very young age.
Back in the days we hardly had a scope or an opportunity to listen to what the west had in store, so we only could get the taste of Bollywood or any music that was regional or Indian. With time as the internet became part of our lives, it finally opened a window for me as well as million of other Indian kids to dive into the vast ocean of different genres.
At first, rock and punk music including Linkin Park, Green Day, Sum 41 had a very deep influence on my drive towards music, but what caught my attention was the people in these bands, such as Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit trying to spit poetry in a rhythmic manner. This made me do my research on Hip Hop and Rap music.
I discovered and got to know about Hip Hop greats such as the Wu-tang Clan, Rakim, Notorious BIG, Tupac, got addicted to Marshal Mathers, Shawn Carter, Nasir Jones who made me realise that this piece of the musical art form is the one that I can relate to. Speaking of the one record that ignited my mind with this art form was “When I B on the mic” by Rakim. The Lyrics, the delivery, the poetry and the facts in his poetry caught my attention.
Do you remember why you decided to be an artist? What has been the experience like?
I really don’t think there’s a particular reason for me being an artist. I had not decided to take it as a career but the idea was to shape my life within this art form. This form of music made me happy and eventually got me in a zone to pen down my own story.
The growing Hip Hop scenario in India has opened up many doors for aspiring artists to pursue their goals and let the world know about their stories. Personally speaking, till date the experience has been positive, and a hopeful one as it has helped me stand on my own, mentally and even in some points financially.
A lot of your tracks explore the idea of Guwahati? Is there any specific reason?
It is true; most of my songs mention Guwahati. I am completely a Guwahati product, born, brought up and manufactured here. I have immense love for my hometown. The idea behind mentioning Guwahati in my records and my sole goal in life is to put my city on the map of global hip hop.
The new album you are currently working on will feature tracks in Assamese, right? Is this a conscious switch?
Yes, the album I’m working on currently is completely in my mother tongue that is Assamese. This is a very drastic switch for me in my music as I usually put out my works in English. This is the first album of my life and I want it to be attached to my roots so that more people understand what I am trying to say through the album and connect with it.
How has been your experience with you-tube? Are digital platforms making it easier for creators like you to produce music when compared to processes that were in place till some 7-8 years back?
Youtube has been the plug to connect to the wider world. Digital platforms such as Spotify, Soundcloud, have bridged the gap between artists around the globe to connect with people around every corner of the world. Back then, an artist had to get a record deal to be heard but now independent artists have a chance to cook music and put it out in a click to reach a much bigger audience through these platforms.
Do you have a target audience? What has been the response to your music like?
Yes, most certainly I do. My songs generally cater to a young age group, as they mostly speak of issues that one goes through when turning into an adult. They speak of peer pressure, drug abuse, intoxication, doubts within themselves, because these things need to be spoken of as very real situations the younger generation deals with a lot.
So far, the response has been really good, people turn up at my gigs and concerts, ask for my future releases and are quite enthusiastic about my journey.
What do you think of the changing music scenario especially in the Northeast region? Where do you see yourself, within it?
I am really happy for the scene right now that’s been uplifting regional and local acts in whatsoever way possible. People now are eager to listen to upcoming artists irrespective of the genres and attend local events and gigs in huge numbers.
If you ask me where I see myself within it, I see myself growing most certainly. To limit me to a certain point is not the objective, but learning within the process is the goal.