Yashraj Mehra is a young & dynamic hip-hop artist from Mumbai. Just a little while after his First EP with three soulful tracks, the artist has developed his style and rose to fame through his relentless flow. He has collaborated with multiple names from the hip-hop scene and released a bunch of successful singles apart from his second EP this year. His latest track, Bura / Bhala has a stunning black-and-white montage-like music video that has over 120 thousand views.
An evolving and ever surprising artist, Yashraj spoke to us in an interview about his creative process, his inspirations and his plans for future projects. You can read it below.
How has Mumbai influenced your music and style?
There's obviously a lot of influence not just in terms of the language I speak because I come from a part of Mumbai where I feel like my language may not be the typical 'Bambaiya' but in terms of the drive, hunger and productivity, Bombay has influenced my music a lot. In what I'm trying to put out and what I'm trying to say and just trying to be a good enough vessel for my surroundings, I think Bombay has really influenced the mentality that I have when it comes to approaching music. That's how Bombay has rubbed off on me.
What qualities do you look for in a producer that makes you want to work with them?
Apart from the skillset they have, I feel like the depth in production, and also adaptability and personality. Like somebody who makes a generalized beat and somebody who has a really defined sound is years and years of practice and just staying at it. And adaptability because we have to meet in the middle of my sound and their sound. I love being involved in the production — the sound selection, the drums we select, synths, everything. Basically, I just love being the part of that process so the producers that are open to that and contribute a lot towards that, I feel like I always end up working with them.
What’s your creative process like? Do you like to write stuff down or freestyle while making a track?
One of the things that work for me is that I don't have a defined process. Sometimes I write an entire concept in poetry and then produce a track around it, that fits it, and make a song out of it. Or there are also days when the beat and production is so phenomenal that I start writing on the beat itself and freestyle is a part and parcel of both the methods, I feel. Whether you have an instrumental or not, just keeping your head open and letting ideas come to you in freestyle; I think that's going to happen regardless of a defined process. All these things really keep me excited enough to approach a project in a new way every single time.
Is there a genre that you enjoy apart from hip-hop?
One hundred percent. I grew up to old Bollywood music. I love house and electronic music, I had a huge rock phase in the middle and now I listen to a lot of psychedelic rock and alt rock. UK garage is also something I really love to listen. Some of these are my comfort genres which I go back to, sometimes probably more than hip-hop itself.
Who are some other Indian artists on your radar that you’d like to collaborate with?
Most of the people I want to collaborate with in the scene right now are my friends. We've always had conversations and its just about time we get into a studio and finish up music. I would say HanuMankind, Rawal, Bharg and there's Sez who I really want to work with. Seedhe Maut is someone I've been wanting to work with for a long time among others which will happen in the next few years so I can't wait to see how that goes.
Are there any interests or instances from your childhood that in hindsight make perfect sense with you being in hip hop?
Yes, my mom used to tell me that she would tell me stories before I went to sleep and I would make up stories and tell them to her throughout the day. At the same time, I always used to be on the stage since I was a little kid just doing theatre, hosting events, and performing. So, that and with me writing poetry in school; now in hindsight, all these things feel like they were an arsenal and qualities under my belt. All of them contributed to me being where I am today. So I think some things just make perfect sense right now because I feel so alive on stage, I feel more like myself on stage than I do most times. Also just writing stories and expressing myself and being the truest form of myself unapologetically has really helped me be in hip-hop properly and it all stems from my childhood.
How has your musical expression changed over the years?
I feel like in lockdown, the energy of the music I was putting out was very different. It was very introspective; it still is but then it was peak instropective because we had nothing but that to do when we were in lockdown. We were honestly just with our pen and pads trying to figure out who we are and what the meaning of what we're doing is. But I think now, at this point, I feel like over the years I have learnt how to express myself much more effectively. Like If I'm saying something then how do I back that up with even more intense production than we had in the beginning. Also, I feel like I'm touching upon a lot more topics as new chapters are unraveling in my life. The overall energy of my music has changed and it's going to hopefully go in a much more effective and much more versatile and dynamic direction.
How do you conceptualize your music videos? Do you have a vision for them as you're making a track?
Yeah, even when I write certain tracks there are some frames that I imagine right off the bat while writing my music itself, and the energy that the instrumental gives just keeps on adding. I believe that I'm generally a very visual thinker and if I can't imagine it, I probably won't even write it. My affinity towards cinema and visual content has been there since day one. I'm a media student so that really helps me express myself best. Initially approaching the music video was about taking up the responsibility of giving something different to the audience but now it turned into doing something different but truly having fun with it and truly showcasing where this is coming from and depicting the energy correctly. So that's the headspace I'm in now, of how to take it to another level.
This is an old one — what would you be doing if you weren't a hip-hop artist?
I think I would be somebody who made either music videos for hip-hop artists or other artists, or else I would have been into advertising. I generally think that I would be able to do some great copywriting, have some great slogans, you know? Try and channel my bars that way.
Finally, Do you have any future projects you're excited about?
Yes, the next track which is gonna come out is called VN4. I have this Voice Note series which is a set of very personal tracks. The previous ones were Seekh, Mauke & Udaan. The fourth one coming out is Gati. It's a series I have with my favourite producers who I really love working with and it's an evergrowing project. It's super personal and it's meant to depict the energy I am in in my current state. I'm really excited to drop that. The future, honestly, is super unpredictable. There are so many things I want to try out, so many genres I want to get myself involved in by linking them with hip-hop and trying to do my part there. That's always good, to be in constant exploration and experimentation. I take it one track at a time, one project at a time. Hopefully people like the music and the experimentation which is coming up.