TF Spotlight: An Interview With RAK

We spoke to Azadi Records’ Tamil artist RAK, who recently released his debut EP Kaalai. An exclusive first-ever dive into RAK’s influences, what growing up was like, and writing his first rap. 

RAK is a Mumbai-based rapper and producer. His five-track EP is self-produced, and he speaks about growing up in a neighborhood that went through its own share of ups and downs. Through the Kaalai EP, he celebrates the Tamil community, brotherhood, and also the hardships of it all. From Local Kaiyye to Crazy MF, Kaalai takes a macro and micro perspective into RAK’s life, his struggle even today to be an artist, and his words of encouragement to those who are in the same struggle.

We asked this upcoming rapper a few questions! 

What was life like growing up, and when was your first experience with music that you remember?

I was born and brought up in Andheri West, Mumbai, in a Tamil-dominated area called Anna Nagar. Life was not that smooth while growing up, and I haven’t spent much time with my parents. My grandma used to take care of my cousin and me, and most people in our area were our relatives, so our hood always felt like home! 

What inspired you to start writing rap?

That was the cassette generation! We had one cassette + radio device in our home in which we used to listen all those old songs of S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, Ilayaraaja and more. 

I wrote my first song when I was in 7th grade. The concept of that song was inspired by a Tamil song’s concept called Vaazha Meenukkum Velanga Meenukkum Kalyanam which means a wedding between two breeds of fish. I changed that to madu vadai’kum ulta vadai’kum kalyanam, which means a marriage between a medhu wada and masala wada! Back then, it was all fun and games. I used to talk in rhymes, and metaphorically in school. I was actually famous for that, and my friends used to give me keywords and ask me to write rhymes to tease each other! Slowly, I somehow developed an interest for writing, and I started writing about my experiences, and things around me.

Who are some of your biggest influences in rap, and other music as well? 

Sean Paul, 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, Yogi B and Natchatra.

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Besides rap and hip hop, who are some of your favorite Tamil artists globally?

Dilip Varma, Darkey, Iliyaraaja, Yuvan Shankar Raja, S.P. B, and Velmurugan.

How were you discovered by Azadi Records, and how has your journey been with the label? 

Mo texted me on Facebook after he listened to one of my tracks called ILL, and it just kicked off from there. The journey is going super good!

Are you currently doing music full-time, or is there something else you do for a day job?

I’m currently doing music full-time.

What do you do in your free time? 

I dig for different types of music, and in my free time, I look for new genres and sounds.

Which artists do you look forward to collaborating with in future? 

At the moment, I have no plans of any collaborations. 


Stream the Kaalai EP online:

Feature image courtesy Samarth Shirke.

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