There's an assuredness and confidence to KR$NA's artistry that speaks volumes of his years of experience as an integral part of India's hip-hop lanscape over the last few years. His latest effort, 'Far From Over' is a powerful statement of intent that invokes the authenticity and punctuated flow that he's made his trademark; reminding everyone that he's just getting started. We recently spoke to the artist about some of his influences, his creative process and his vision for the future in terms of collaborations and beyond.
What sort of role does your own cultural heritage play in your music? Does growing up outside of India change how you see your own identity? How did your experiences as a third culture kid shape your creative expression?
I think a lot of the references in my songs are derived from mine and our collective cultural heritage as Indians. Hip hop and rap music is a mere reflection of our surroundings and I think that comes through in my music. I lived outside India for a short time, but I think it shaped my love for the art form which I carried back to India when I returned. It is a big part of who I am simply because it gave me the biggest chunk of my identity as an artist. It has also given me the experience of living in an environment that I would say is true to the roots of hip-hop, inner-city low-income neighbourhoods and the negatives that come with it. The hip-hop experience in India is very different. Rappers don’t always go through the same struggles that they try and emulate from the West and living in a different country gives you that perspective.
Some artists start with lyrics, some start with a melody or a beat. What does your creative process typically look like? What do you look to as a source of inspiration as an artist? Is there any form of art besides music that you find resonance with?
I typically listen to a beat and if I feel it, I come up with a hook and then the verses. But it can change sometimes, and nothing is set in stone. Inspiration can come from the smallest of things, like a couple of years ago I was driving somewhere and a car full of boys pulled up beside me and they threw up peace signs because they recognised me and that kind of inspired me to write my song ‘Roll Up’. You never know when inspiration can hit, got to keep the voice notes app handy on the phone.
I enjoy design and fashion but I’m not sure if they really influence my music, rather they tend to find their way into my lyrics.
What are some things you look out for when putting together a beat or even choosing a producer to work with? In your mind, what separates a KR$NA song from some of your contemporaries in the scene?
I feel like as rappers we tend to hear ourselves on certain beats over others. Some come more naturally than others. I do have a signature sound I would say, with a bouncy drum pattern in the lower mid-bpm range and Spanish-style instruments but I don’t limit myself to that. I’m always down for trying new styles and being as authentic to the style as possible like for example — drill beats. KR$NA songs don’t sound like anyone else’s.
How do you deal with burnout and the general stress of having to constantly be ‘on’ in a world that increasingly seems to prioritize quantity over quality? Is it something you think about or do you just focus on creating and let everything else fall into place?
I think about this a lot. I have had major episodes of writer’s block in the past year or so and I think it’s just a lack of inspiration sometimes. The pressure of having to constantly release new music doesn’t help. The way I get over this is by making music for myself rather than thinking of pleasing the world since that’s a slippery slope to go down. It has to be quality over quantity for me.
Who are some homegrown artists that you think the scene’s been sleeping on? Are there any artists that you’d like to collaborate with in the near future?
Rawal, Yungsta, Gravity and a lot more are slept on I think but they are going to blow up! It’s about time. I want to concentrate on international collaborations in the coming year.
Do you have any advice for young up-and-comers who are trying to make their mark? Are there any lessons that you learned that you wish you’d known right at the start of your journey? Is there anything you’d do differently?
I can’t say this enough: get out there and network! Make connections, create relationships and be in the right places with the right people. Make friends who tell you what you need to hear a not what you want to hear. Never lose sight of the end goal.