YouTube is filled with several producers who are generous enough to produce royalty-free beats for artists to use all over the world. Riddiman is one such producer who mostly specialises in crafting ambient lo-fi music. Making use of a beat by Riddiman, Delhi-based rapper Kartikay joins forces with Slim Dope, a rapper ‘straight outta Himachal’, for his new single titled Vartalap (Hindi for ‘conversation’).
Kartikay has been a diverse under-the-rapper who can easily switch between punchline-driven bars or philosophical and poetic musings. Vartalap with its lo-fi sounding production belongs to the second category. Both rappers talk about their general observations on life, judgmental human behavior, their hopes for the future, reading the Bhagavad Gita before taking a wrong step, and so on.
The lyrics brim with positivity especially with Slim Dope’s verse. He starts his turn referring to the beat as a deer/black buck and proclaiming himself to be ‘Salman’. Such references aside, Dope preaches brotherhood for all faiths, as in the end, everyone’s ‘lahu’ (blood) is of the same colour. He then adds that anyone who still has a family to fall back on is the one who’s actually ‘dhanvaan’ (wealthy).
As the rappers walk down memory lane, both make slight allusions to their school days. Kartikay feels that everyone still seems to judge his behavior, just like his school teachers. The Himanchali wordsmith, on the other hand, feels that no school can ever give one ‘real shiksha’ (real education).
Since the past few years, Indian hip-hop is undergoing a ‘chill wave’ and more and more rappers are trying to calm down to expose their emotional sides, rather than sticking to the hypermasculine, aggressive roots from which the scene might have sprouted. So, Vartalap is a good attempt in this regard, to look at things from a clearer, less angsty perspective. The lyrical abilities might have been tried and tested in similar tracks before but are still commendable.
A close counterpart to this track might be Safar, that features Punjabi heavyweight Sikandar Kahlon and another mellow Himanchali rapper by the name of Nitesh. Slim Dope seems to evoke the spirit of Nitesh in his laidback flow, while Kartikay’s smooth rants carry forward his passive aggressive style that we last heard in Bure Khayaal, Kartikay’s collaboration with Sanjeev T.
Verdict: Introspective food for thought between two smooth-sounding rappers.