Raftaar on his latest album, Mr Nair, and how he came to terms with his Malayali identity
Mumbai-based rapper Dilin Nair, better known as Raftaar, has made a name through his Hindi and Punjabi rap (with tracks such as Swag Mera Desi and Sheikh Chilli), and by making music for movies such as Dangal, Andhadhun and Manto. But with his new album Mr Nair, the 31-year old breaks the shackles of the mainstream Bollywood hiphop scene and carves a niche for himself. A return to his roots, of sorts, the album is a reclamation of his identity as a Malayali.
“I would hide my family name deliberately to avoid being labelled as a Malayali. I was young and I was not clear about my identity then. With this album, I decided to tell the world that this is a Malayali guy who is also now a known Punjabi rapper. It is important to know who you are and where you come from, it gives you a sense of community,” he shares.
The rapper confesses that working on this album was very different from his debut album, Zero to Infinity. “Over the past year and a half, I created almost 26 songs, out of which 16 made it to the album. Each song has a different emotion and each of them describe a different phase of my life,” says the rapper who is also on TV shows such as MTV Roadies, MTV Hustle and Dance India Dance. The song Damn is about accomplishing your goals without letting criticism get in the way, while the track Proud is an expression of gratitude to his parents and fans. “All the songs are about my values and what I learnt growing up in Delhi,” he adds. The album also features many collaborations. Me and My Pen ropes in fellow rapper Shah Rule, while Superman features Manj Musik. Artistes Brodha V, KR$NA, Yunan, Deep Kalsi, Harjas and Rashmeet Kaur are also on the bill.
The artiste says while both Bollywood and independent music have their own advantages, working on his album was more liberating.“With a Bollywood song, you are limited to the director’s vision, but on an album, there is more freedom of expression,” he says. Dilin is spending his lockdown at home, honing his cooking skills and trying to stay fit. “I am also working on my forthcoming global collaborations and singles and taking a few online classes to learn more about the technical aspects of mixing and mastering. You see, music is not restricted to just a studio, I get inspired sitting on my bean bag in my bedroom too!” he signs off.
Mr Nair is available on online streaming platforms