Bakhtawar Bhutto‘s “rap tribute” to her mother, former PM Benazir Bhutto [click here to read about her recent death anniversary], gained significant traction in the media this past week, airing on Pakistan state-run television and running on YouTube, [click here to watch it]. Recently, I met a young artist who also uses rap music as his medium of expression. Adil Omar is an aspiring rapper who lives in Islamabad, Pakistan, and has been writing lyrics since he was nine. Although he is only 17 years old, Adil is well-established in the indie music scene, and has worked with the likes of B-Real of Cypress Hill, as well as various well known underground artists/producers, [click here to listen to his music at his MySpace Music page]. Below, he tells CHUP what inspires his songs, and how the Internet was instrumental in promoting his music:
Q: How old were you when you first got interested in music? Considering that you’re a teenager living in Islamabad, Pakistan, how did rap become your music medium?
I’ve been listening to all sorts of music since I was little, mainly hip-hop and rock. I got introduced to hip hop by my cousins when I was about 5 or 6 years old, and got hooked. I’ve wanted to be a rapper since I was about 8, and started writing lyrics at 9. At the time it was only a hobby, but I lost my father at 10, my mother fell ill, I had to change schools, and since then I started getting more involved in writing lyrics. By the time I was 14, I finally decided to do something about it and recorded my first song.
Q: Much of your promotion has been online through MySpace, YouTube, etc. – why did you decide to use these channels? How has the Internet been helpful in promoting your music? Has it connected you to other aspiring rappers around the world?
Myspace, Youtube, Soundclick and Facebook have all been really helpful promotion-wise. I decided to promote myself online after realizing it was more of a challenge to stand out somewhere where there are hundreds of thousands of other people out there like me. That challenge helped me grow as an artist and a songwriter and set myself apart from the rest. As for being connected with other underground rappers, yes. I do a huge amount of networking with other artists. I have a small number of other rappers I enjoy collaborating and working with on projects and songs when I can, but I also am sometimes hired to ghostwrite or lay verses for people.
Q: What inspires your lyrics/songs?
Everything I see, hear, or experience. I’d consider my influences to be people like George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino. Some of my musical influences would be Everlast, House of Pain, Cypress Hill, Johnny Cash, Fiona Apple, Big Pun, Kool G Rap, Chino XL, and Eminem.
I’d categorize my subject matter into three different sections: the first would be strictly entertainment – lots of comedy, violence, and exaggerated claims, for instance. The second subject matter would be about the world, in which I discuss my views on organized religion, certain aspects of human behavior, politics, conspiracy theories, war, prejudice, and issues like that. Last but not least, is the personal side of things, usually consisting of songs about heartbreak, love, hate, and other basically borderline suicide-note material – not that I’m an unhappy person, I’m pretty happy, happy because I have music to take all my negativity out on.
Q: How have people reacted to your music in Pakistan versus abroad? Who/where is your main audience?
I guess I get some positive feedback in Pakistan, as well as a considerable amount of negative feedback. I don’t think many people here really appreciate your lyrics, nor see how deep your music is, or take your hard work into consideration. They hear one bad word in a reasonably meaningful song, used in the right context, and they assume the whole song revolves around the dirty words and has no other meaning or value whatsoever. There are lots of local supporters out there, but at the same time there are also lots of people who just want to knock your hard work and dedication, or people who don’t see it for what it’s worth.
I’d say I have fans from all over – If I look at my stats on Soundclick, go through my fans on Facebook or Myspace, I have plays and downloads from people mainly from the United States, Europe, and Pakistan. Working with B-Real of Cypress Hill was also a great honor, and having my music online has gotten me considerable recognition from a few people I consider legends in the game and hope to network more with in the future.
Q: Where do you aim to take your music aspirations?
I don’t want to stay here all of my life. I want to make the most I can of my talents and would like to go major, as opposed to being independent and underground my whole life, that’s what I’m aiming for. I don’t want to use “Pakistani Rapper” to promote and market myself, that would just make it too easy. Instead, I’d rather be “an incredibly [great] rapper who just so happens to be from Pakistan.” I’d like to do stuff on a large scale and make a big name for myself in the near future.