Hey, big Brodha V! Rap star from Bengaluru jams for street culture with Puma
Vignesh Shivanand aka Brodha V, the rap star from South India, tells us about his new association with sports brand Puma, and how he hopes to shake up India’s urban street culture.
Tell us a little about your background.
I’m a rapper, singer/songwriter, music producer, sound engineer and lyricist from Bengaluru. I’ve been doing this for around ten years.
You’re known for fusion tunes that sit between hip-hop and Indian classical. What inspired you to do so?
I’ve woken up to devotional songs all my life.
Although I had no formal training, I was somehow always sampling old Indian classical songs and adding beats and chords to them.
One day, when I was in college, a friend of mine was beatboxing and I started singing the Aigiri Nandini Shloka on top of that, just because I thought it would be hilarious.
And I did find it amusing, at first. Later, I tried adding certain Indian elements in my songs to introduce people to the music of where I come from.
I wanted to make it sound cool, and eventually, it worked.
How did your journey in the Indian music industry start, and how has your experience been so far?
I ended up winning a rap tournament the first time I’d ever stepped on stage.
I’d never rapped for an audience, but having them choose me made me realise that I could do this professionally.
I bought myself a basic microphone that cost about INR 500 and started recording demos at home, over free beats online.
I’d upload these demos online and sometimes a music director would notice it and call me to rap for a jingle or for a small movie.
The problem was my voice was out there, but nobody knew what I looked like.
I then started making music videos, and started releasing them independently on YouTube. These videos started getting a lot of hits, and I started developing a fan base slowly.
Vishal Dadlani noticed my work and had me come over to his studio and record a track for the Shah Rukh starrer, Chennai Express.
That was the biggest project I’d done till that point in my life. Post that, I got signed onto Sony Music. I was probably the first rap artist from the Indian underground scene to get a full-fledged record deal from a major label.
What manner of difficulties does a struggling artist face in the industry?
The biggest struggle I faced as an upcoming artist was the financials. Recording studios are expensive. Shooting videos are more expensive.
And then, I didn’t know people who could promote my work. So most of the times, I’d record content and put them all up online, but they’d not get the kind of traction that I’d hoped for. And with people barely buying songs anymore, the only way to make money was by playing live.
When I’d started off, rap music in India was looked down upon, and most people didn’t get it. So I barely got to play any gigs, as most venues and clubs were mostly hiring only rock or metal bands.
Whatever little work I managed to get, I’d take 100% of that income and put it back into my music. Over time, everything worked out, and being patient paid off.
Tell us about your collaboration with Puma.
Puma and I have been in talks for a while now, figuring out interesting ways in which we could collaborate. They love my work and want to do big things in the hip-hop space. We’ve got a lot of things planned, from tracks to events and concerts.
— Jaideep Sen