Hustle up! MTV ropes in Raftaar, Nucleya and Raja Kumari to judge India’s first hip-hop talent hunt

Named Hustle, the show has will premiere in August on MTV and will see rappers from across the country participate
Nucleya, Raja Kumari and Raftaar
Nucleya, Raja Kumari and Raftaar

MTV’s latest project, a reality show called Hustle, billed as India’s first talent hunt for rappers, couldn’t have come at a better time. For starters, it follows the massive success of Zoya Akhtar’s gripping street-to-stage movie, Gully Boy, which saw Ranveer Singh shed his flamboyant image and embrace on-screen austerity with panache. Secondly, the show reflects the growing popularity of a genre that has taken over the world in the last decade and is now knocking on the doors of a country that loves its movie soundtracks and is not shy to rewind to its classical roots. 

For a brand, which was once the only music channel in India decades ago, to again wear the hat of a pioneer and kick-start a programme like this gives credence to the promise of the hip-hop movement in the country. Now, at a time when ‘experimental collabs’ is the buzzword (think Ed Sheeran’s latest album that has the pop superstar surprise everyone with songs featuring the likes of rap legends Eminem, 50 Cent and Travis Scott), MTV has ticked all the right boxes by bringing together rappers Raftaar and Raja Kumari as judges, along with pioneering electronic music producer, Nucleya. 

Hip-hop and rap are two very different terms, alerts Raftaar (alias Dilin Nair), as he talks to us about what he is looking for in the future hip-hop superstars of the country. He explains, “Hip-hop is a culture, and rap is just a part of it. It’s not just about throwing rhymes, but much more than that. So, while training the contestants, besides focusing on important aspects like the proper use of words, and getting the rhymes, flow and beats right, I will look at the personality aspect as well.” Concurrently, Raja Kumari points out the importance of voice. “My approach will be to allow them to grow on their own. But certainly, the things that I can personally teach them are what I have learned in vocal production. These are little tricks of how to project one’s voice in a certain way and how to pay attention to the rhythm and overall stage presence,” she says. 

As for Udyan Sagar, aka Nucleya, it’s all about creativity, originality and authenticity, three primary aspects that convinced him to come on board. “The good thing about this show is that we won’t try to decide the way the contestants sing and present themselves, which is how every reality show should be. That said, I will mainly focus on the technical aspect of music, rather than the performance bit — such as the flow, how tightly they sing on the beat, and the range of their voice,” he says. Reaffirming his belief that hip-hop can survive on its own, no matter where the place — be it rural or urban — he says, “From movies to music festivals, the genre is an independent one, so there’s really no stopping it.” 

To cap it all, Raftaar says that for him knowledge is like an aphrodisiac, stating that he is constantly on the lookout for tutorial and training videos on YouTube and other digital platforms. “If there’s one advice I would give to aspirants, it is this — be a self-sustaining machine. O n e should try doing everything on their own.” Seconding his statement, Nucleya says, “Some of the best talent come from smaller cities, probably because they are isolated and need a channel to break free,” As Raja Kumari says, “Follow your dreams — this is the beginning of a revolution!”

MTV Hustle premieres on August 10. Every Saturday and Sunday, from 7 pm onwards. Registrations ongoing online.

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