• Sat, Jul 20, 2024

Rapping For Utopia: Raoul Kerr Not Slowing Down

features May 09, 12:05pm

Rapper Raoul Kerr prepares to release the second half of his studio effort 'No Flag', and similar to the earlier half, the album will continue to focus on one message: Make World A Better Place
Two days ago, American rapper Childish Gambino released the music video for 'This Is America'. It's already been considered as the video of the year, and the bold, dark metaphorical representation of modern America reflects quite well while Glover dances away throughout. Music videos, when politically charged, manage to travel longer and leave a long lasting impression. And rappers find the medium complementing to their lyrical cause. A thousand miles to the east of America, in the Indian subcontinent, one rapper has vowed to further experiment with this medium to enhance the reach of his cause. 
In October, last year, Delhi-based rapper Raoul Kerr released 'No Flag' that indicated the start of a series of singles that revolved around a theme or a message. The message? "Make the world a better place." In his aggressive tone, Kerr created his identity - knowingly or unknowingly. Four singles followed 'No Flag'. These singles continued to stress on unity to fight against evil in the society and within ourselves.
Kerr's desire to unite the world to bring the real change in the society and create a 'utopian conscience' brought him closer to the world of rap. Born and brought up in the capital, 24 year-old Raoul Kerr is no alien to the issues that are prevalent in the country. Like any average Indian, he grew up reading about horrendous rapes, murder, corruption and the then teenager, affected with the magnitude and repetition of events, started jotting down his aggression and controlled anger against these issues even before he entered college.
It is during the course of time when Kerr picked a pen to express his views on the inhumane crisis gripping the modern society, and a year later, the infamous Nirbhaya rape case occurred. Although, if that incident encouraged Kerr to look around for commonality, it wasn't until the '#MeToo' movement, late last year, that Kerr released his first music video to translate the anger into a visual and sonic interpretation. The thoughts and the accompanying lyrics that emerged since the second semester of college found its voice and visual as the movement continues to spread wild and true. The two incidents, independently, gave the birth to 'For Her'. 
Following For Her, Kerr released four more songs from the album ‘No Flag’, titled 'Stand Tall', 'Change', 'Inquilab' and 'Five Lions' that highlights the "magnitude of the prevailing problems and challenge human race to fight back on a global scale and reshape the world we live in."
Kerr is currently working on the other half of his album 'No Flag'. Scheduled to release in July 2018, the album promises to focus on aspects that has now created Kerr's songwriting identity. Kerr has also released a track in 'collaboration with Karan Katiyar and Jayant Bhadula of Bloodywood titled 'Ari Ari' , this week.
For many, the form 'rap' as mode of communication happened naturally. What is your story with rap and hip hop? 
"I think the same's true for me. I discovered rap when I listened to Mike Shinoda (of Linkin Park) and, later, Eminem. I began feeling that what someone is saying is just as important as how they say it. So, when I wrote my own lyrics, I tried to write about the things I believe in. I felt that rapping something I'd written felt different, it felt more natural."
Tell us the concept behind the album ‘No Flag’? 
"Unity across the world in a way that hasn't been possible before, and we're going to have to fight for it. It's a battle cry for this generation to step up together and make a push on all fronts to make the world a better place. The music is about the desire to fight for a better world, but it'll only mean something if we go beyond it, act on this desire and really do something."
Your songs are about friendship, heartbreak, personal adversity, rape, poverty, terrorism and corruption in India. This is serious stuff. What was the trigger?
"The desire to no longer be a bystander. The belief that I can do something, and the fact that there are a lot of other people out there who feel the same way. We share the problems I talk about, but they manifest themselves in different ways in our lives. That's why I talk about my personal life too. I want to point out that our personal life and the world outside are closer than we think. We make the world what it is, and that means we can change it."
Right from the song/ lyric artwork to the music videos for your songs, everything is quite expressive. Especially the videos for your songs like For her. Who is the mind behind these creative ideas? 
"Siddhartha Iyer did all the album art. He understood what I was going for since day one. He has interpreted each song and added a lot to the story the album is telling. Meher Rajpal is a graphic designer who's helped me with all the other visual content I've put out as well as the lyrical images. Karan Katiyaar of Bloodywood shot and edited For Her, we had a rough couple of days of shooting with minimum planning, but he made it into something powerful." 
Amani Kerr (your sister) has been featured in one of the music videos. She has also lent vocals with you in three songs. Did you ask her to collaborate or did she offer? 
"I asked her, but Amani's been in this with me since the day she was born."
Who and what has been your biggest inspiration? 
"There are several, musical and otherwise. The one inspiration I'd like to mention though, is my grandfather. He's always led by example, he's shown me the value of standing by and fighting for what you believe in."
Would you be, in your next tracks, directly targeting parties, individuals and subjects - like say, political parties, religions, demi gods - or would you continue to prefer addressing the issue than the subject?
"No, this isn't a fight against a certain group of people. It's a fight against the mindset that governs us all." 
How have you been promoting your music, both online and offline? How has been the response to your music so far?
"I've been using Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and SoundCloud. I've put out two music videos, four lyric videos as well as album art and lyric images for the songs I've released. The response has been very encouraging, but there's a lot more work to be done. 
I've responded to what's been happening across the internet. As an unknown artist and as someone who feels strongly about these things, it felt like it was time to speak out. An example of this is the #MeToo campaign. There was so much courage and so much desire shown at that time. We formed a united front, and that's why I released 'For Her', it was time to fight."
What is the most cherishing moment in your musical career so far? 
"A young indian man told someone close to me that listening to my song 'For Her' had played a big part in helping him work through the trauma of being sexually assaulted. It wasn't easy for them to say that. It's been a great source of strength for me."
Tell us about your live performances. Where all you have performed so far and how was the response? Do you bring out the real time situations/ and scenarios through rap during live performances? 
"I've performed at a few venues around Delhi, initially as a guest performer with FuzzCulture and recently as a solo performer. The number of people at the shows has varied, but there's always been a lot of energy. I like to talk about what's happening in the world today and why it's motivating me to perform each song the way I do." 
Tell us about your music collaboration with other independent artists. What would be an extremely ambitious collaboration according to you, for your act? And what are the realistic collabs you're now looking at?
"I recently worked on a track with Karan Katiyar and Jayant Badhula of Bloodywood. They reinterpreted a Punjabi folk song called 'Ari Ari' and we used this version to talk about how India has shown us the value of unity in diversity. I do have a few collaborations in the works. I've worked on an acoustic version of the album with Vishnu Kumar and Siddhartha Iyer, it brings the lyrics to forefront, and I tell the story of the album between songs. We're performing at the Akshara Theatre on the 20th (of this month)."
How are you channeling this rage or attempt to communicate beyond music. Is there any other initiative or if are associated with something that can bring change in the society?
"Right now, it's all about establishing myself as a musician. I want to be able to use my platform as a musician to mobilise people for real action, but like I said, I have to create the platform first. It's worth mentioning that Vibhor Mathur is  one of the people behind the album. He co-founded Project Aawaaz, which is an NGO focused on education. I also got to work with iPartner India on their 'Don't you dare' anthem which is meant to raise awareness about child abduction, prostitution and enslavement in India." 
How is 2018 looking for you? What can we expect?
"I'm going to release the second half of 'No Flag' and take my music to the biggest stages."


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