'Surface Level' is a Powerful mix of Conscious Hip hop, Trap Rap and Straight up Gangsta flows.
By Ranjini Achuthan
The mixtape by Hanumankind (HMK) and Kalmi has been done from scratch to finish in the span of a little more than a week.
Hanumankind insists he is just a child of the world eating chips with his chaiya even as he voices his concerns about power asymmetries and rallies in support of Jayaraj and his son, the case exposing police brutality that rocked the conscience of the nation. The political undertones in this track named Catharsis ends with him questioning his own privilege and faith.
Surface Level, the warm up precursor to Hanumankind’s other serious projects in the offing, dropped on the second of this month and on initial listen, Surface level co-created with the Hyderabad based music producer Kalmi, runs deep.
The EP begins by dusting off months of lockdown inertia and in no time, the rapper is reasserting his space in the game with the mean and futuristic No Hook. Some ‘high flying’ self-focus, narcissism, some shade being thrown all over in slow flow, in sync with the slow beats by Kalmi accentuated by pretty gospel choirs fuels the listener pretty good for the rest of the mixtape. Kalmi reveals that he pitched HMK’s vocals up in order to up the aggression in the track.
Catharsis has the budding and super talented rapper/singer Rudy Mukta lending her vocals for the hook lines and Kalmi makes it the most melody driven track of the EP with piano, chorus/harmony bits et al. The track is a diatribe, as stated earlier, on the state of affairs of the country and HMK is on a no-holds-barred mode for this one.
Cowboy Samurai, the name itself is an obvious reference, like a tribute to the dual cultural influences of the rapper who has lived in the Far East as well as the Wild West of the world. Sample this, “Self-taught fighters, they rejected by the locals, I eat sushi with my hands, wearing boots and loose pants, smoke a rolled cigarette while I yodel” The song is a straight up gangsta story of a man who robs banks and lives life dangerously, in style, ready to battle if provoked.
With such a vivid story at hand, it is no surprise that Kalmi has tried to visualize the lyrics like a movie and worked on it like how a film composer would work on a background score. The result is a vibrant soundscape consisting of horse neighing and cladding, Japanese instruments like taiko drums and anime samples. The hard and deep bassline brings out the emotion in the lyrics.
Rest in Power shines with the Sawtooth synth bassline thumping the speakers. It is the heaviest among the lot and Kalmi feels, this EP has brought a very different style of sound out of him with lots of aggression and loudness when compared to his signature sensitive, emotionally intelligent music. The 8 bar loop repeats in fine form as HMK raps some of his most personal and emotionally charged words in this track and nails the feel with a cathartic rumination about deep regrets, self-love and ultimately, acceptance in the world.
Sooraj Cherukat a.k.a Hanumankind has made a distinct mark ever since his debut in 2019, with his brilliant lyrical exploits consisting of abundant pop culture references and embellished, eye popping, impactful rhyme sections. From Thanos to Batman, from Jesse Owens to Djokovich, from Ralph to Zuko and from Kenjutsu to Judo, there are plenty to relate to, in the latest offering.
Surface Level is soul searching inward stroll and a commentary on the outer world all rolled into one. With such hard hitting music, Hanumankind has surely become a force to reckon with, in the booming world of Indian hip-hop.
Here’s a trivia for all Hanumankind fans: The MC is also an illustrator/sketch artist. The initial draft of the Surface Level artwork was his creation which was then recreated and brought to life by graphic illustrator, Amita Sana who goes by the insta handle @banginsoushi.