Whether it’s the reliable ally of soul, the drum kits tailor-made for techo remixes, or the slew of ’80s samples and interpolations, hip-hop is arguably the most flexible and adaptable genre of music today. Not to give the impression that rap is an ever-complimentary musical match because it’s clear that you can no longer throw a couple hillbillies or skaters behind a break-beat and wait for success; as most Limp Bizkit and Kid-Rock posters are relocating from walls to trash cans. It has to be done right with both genres of music complementing each other. Enter: Indian music, as in Middle East, with flutes and cobras and chants, not Native American music. It’s the next in a long line of genres to play patty cake with a hip-hop beat. You probably first heard this hybrid when Jay-Z and Panjabi MC joined forces for the song “Beware of the Boys.” The Indian chants and string instruments combined with the Busta Rhymes bassline to create a hit.
Bollyhood Records is trying to take it a step further with a whole compilation of Indian and urban artists. Think “Def Jamaica” Middle-Eastern style. Inside the CD cover is talk of how Martin Luther King and Gandhi came together mentally to create peace and how music brings cultures together no matter what’s going on (an allusion to the war I’m assuming). The serious and insightful tone stays in the booklet because when music starts, it’s almost all party vibes.
There is one song “Under Attack” that does get a little political, as the Chicago MC, 4-Ize claims:
“How they gonna invade the country?
I didn’t vote for the elephant or the donkey
And one monkey can’t stop the show
When I drop the flow, it’s 4-Ize nigga
And I will pop the fo'”
The consistent theme in most of the beats, and this one is no exception, is the constant movement. Where you might expect a moment of silence, you get slapped with a cymbal or a shaker. The basslines aren’t deep and looming, they’re quick and hit hard. The drums are perhaps what make this music stand out the most. The hi-hats shake and shimmer and the kicks and the snares are constantly bouncing off of each other in a Timbaland fashion. (He has said Indian music inspires him). The overall vibe is festive and banging, almost like tribal jeep music.
Punchline drops some solid verses on the highlight of the album, “Gidday Vich Remix” featuring Bikram Singh. The jubilant beat is similar to others on the album until the melody takes a catchy turn on the chorus as the sing-along flow of Bikram provides the right touch for a summer banger; even if the words aren’t English and summer is over.
Sumeet proves that R&B can also go well Indian vibes on “Agony (Desi Remix)” feat. Harv Singh. Her soothing vocals sound right at home over the electronic, almost techno beat. Thara proves that R&B can also get redundant when you stick her less-exciting song right behind Sumeet’s.
That’s about the biggest complaint to be made on this album; the slight redundancy in the music itself. The same Indian string instruments that you heard on “Beware of the Boys” show up all over the place. The drums patterns start to become similar, but at the same time, they’re so lively that it wouldn’t sound right any other way.
With the quality of music, smoothness of the combination of the two genres, and the other guest appearance such as Yukmouth and Elephant Man, it’s obvious this is much more than just another basement creation. It’s one of the liveliest compilation albums that I’ve ever heard. If you bumped this at a party, it’d be hard to see a head not nodding, no matter what culture you’re from.