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Quirks & Queries- Mrunal Shankar – Score Short Reads

The thing that stands out about Mrunal Shankar is that she just keeps going. She started singing in bars to find her sound, stumbled into rap, sent an email that got her signed to Kalamkaar and keeps moving from melody to rap so that she knows exactly where her strengths are. 

Carrying a unique, slow-grain, gravel-bite kind of voice, Mrunal is making quiet waves despite still trying to find her footing. Her music still floats between hit or miss, but her truthfulness is undeniable. She inhabits a space somewhere between regality and street-hardened hustler – memorable, eyebrow-raising, fascinating. 

The Score Magazine caught up with Mrunal Shankar to dive deeper into where she came from, how she sharpens herself for a dog-eat-dog world and what “made it” means for her. 

1. What is your origin story?

I started off as a singer with a guitar in my hands, playing covers in pubs and bars, only to figure out what I really wanted and what I did not. Soon after that I became a lead singer in a rock band, experienced one of the best on-stage moments of my life, gained immense confidence, and grew as a live performer. 

Like all good things, those magical days ended soon, and being who I am, I decided to make my own music. That’s where I gave a stage name to myself and started off with my first song, which happened to be a rap. 

In no time I found my home in hip-hop. I have been rapping since 2019 to be honest, but I have been a self-taught singer-performer for about 9-10 years now. 

2. When did you realize that your unique voice actually gave you an edge in hip-hop?
One of my friends had encouraged me to try hip-hop when I was trying to find myself in my singing days. After a few years when I eventually stepped into the genre, I realized that all singers can “sing/perform” rap, but all rappers cannot “sing”. I knew I had an edge sonically.

 My heavy voice and modulating techniques help me fit into the genre perfectly and help me be one of the most versatile artists in the industry. I am still trying to find myself and my audience here, trying to be a better lyricist, and learning by trying things out. That’s a never-ending journey.

3. Take us through your songwriting process. Where do you get your ideas from?
Since I’ve been a singer for most of my career, it’s the melody that comes to me first. Usually, I start off with finding the perfect beat online. Then I try to record a hook & a rough flow which comes to mind in the very first instance. And then I get down to the lyrics. 

I end up buying that beat or I create a whole new vibe with my producer. Ideas can strike at any moment, so we keep our digital notepad handy, and develop it later according to our mood and mindset. 

4. How did you become part of Kalamkaar?
As any aspiring artist would have, I had mailed the CEO Mr. Ankit Khanna. I did it in one of the vulnerable moments in my life, without any expectations of receiving a response and guess what, it happened. Thanks to an unknown admirer from Instagram who pushed me to send the mail in the first place. Forever grateful to him and AK, for having all the faith in me. 

5. Tell us a bit about your recently released music.
 Within March & April this year I was able to pull off 4 releases strategically. All serving different topics, ideas and moods. The latest one called “Ride with me” is a melodic rap track that balances RnB and Hip-Hop. The lyrics are a little explicit, without being obvious. That’s how we do it. 

6. What are you planning to do more of this year?
A lot of more actually! More productivity, more self care, more mindfulness. Rest will come with it. 

7. And less of?
Less overthinking for sure. It’s going to be on my list forever I feel. Haha! People are not so big on communicating these days. I hate it when they don’t clear the stuff they are supposed to, and as a result, me being myself, I assume the worst and get myself in trouble. It’s high time I get a hold onto that thing!

8. When you started breaking into the industry, what’s the worst you faced?
Honestly, I don’t think I have even started facing any prominent issue in the industry yet. All of my struggle to be here was only inside my house. I just want to get appreciated for what I do. If we really want to talk about issues then there are some, which are the same as other fellow artists trying to break into the industry. Not being taken seriously, toxic fanbases of some artists swearing in comments and DMs, defending someone in the name of artistic freedom who was wrong in the first place.
But that’s nothing. Maybe the worst is yet to come. 

9. There’s plenty of conversation now about women’s representation in all domains of the professional and artistic world, including music. What is your take on that? Has it helped? Are things at least somewhat easier for female artists now?
Of course it helps a bit when you are a minority in a section. It’s easier to grab attention in the initial stages. But the audience will stay only if they like your art, and specially in hip-hop, all they care about is good lyrics, intelligent bars, and fire in your voice. If we crack that, then for sure it will be even easier.

In my case, I think I am the only signed female rapper in DHH. It has definitely saved a few  important years of struggle and I am really grateful for that. 

Some say nobody wants to sign female rappers, my question is, did you try applying to labels? Why would they come to you if you are not ready to risk what you have, not ready to give in? There are plenty of opportunities out there ladies, just go for it and grab it rather than crying on the internet. 

10. Who are your idols, in music or otherwise?

I’ve said this every time, Beyoncè. Who else can be more inspirational than the artist with the most Grammys till now? And otherwise, there are many individuals in my life who inspire me to be a better person. Learning something new every day from them. 

11. If you were to win a prestigious award tomorrow, who would you thank first of all?

There’s no Guru to thank, whatever I’ve learnt and done in music, it’s all by myself. So, “I wanna thank me”, for not giving up!  I would thank my friends too, and all of them who had more faith in me than I ever had.

12. When will you know you “made it”? 
That’s a tough question! Well, I’m big on financial security. I had a simple vision that I want to earn from my music. Maybe someday, when I’ll wisely use it to secure the rest of my life, regardless of whether I work or not, then I feel I can say that I made it.

But when I’ll KNOW that I made it? It’s the time when I won’t need to introduce myself, when the whole world will know me by my work Practically, that’s never, but overall a nice goal to have, ain’t it!? 

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