I sat in the busy hours of ‘diamond café’ – paharganj , Delhi with akash khandelwal a.k.a. ‘aeke’, as he was given this popular nickname in the underground hip-hop community of Delhi. He would ponder over my question, wearing his ‘d2bx’ crew t-shirt, awaiting his tea and butter toast. After giving a time of thought – he came up with an interesting way to explain his current state of mind, about his pursuit of culture and current interests,
“if you’re at a bigger turn on life’s road, you may sometimes feel that you’re on a straighter path”, he said.
Akash khandelwal /‘aeke’, at the young age of 24 has been part of one of the first breaking crews from Delhi. In past five years, he has been actively involved in spreading the underground hip-hop culture through events, blogs, orkut, facebook pages and (now) his brand new website-‘one circle world’.He is a pretty silent guy for his age, probably at peace with himself and his passion for hip-hop. he is fairly tall, with spiky –haircut, an athletic built. He attires himself (usually) in loose jeans, slogan t-shirts and looks brighter even under the lamp shade of our resto-table. His very first impression would be a sharp-face cut, eyes full of lively thoughts & a great presence of mind. Even after writing his quarter life journal along the lines of pioneering his greatest passion (hip-hop culture), the spark to excel and the hunger to know more is everlasting.
Why do you advocate the importance of knowledge in underground hip-hop community?
he believes that for an artist, the fifth element of hip-hop (knowledge) is the ultimate inspiration for creativity. There have been two schools for an artist since long, the commercial grounds and the underground. The former has everything to offer a young and promising career-a stage of fame, success, but it is ephemeral and destroys the journey of an artist.
“artist should always be confused and in constant turmoil, else he’s not an artist”, he said.
“These commercial forums destroys the natural process, everything is easy to be- fill a form, perform and ask for votes, get some money? But is that helping him in his long run or just a short burn of falsehood”, he said fervently with a shrug. I felt that his assertion about these two paths was simply true. he continued to explain that there have not been many genuine emcees on the world stage of hip-hop since 90’s, Eminem was among last ones who talked about the current scene. Therefore, an underground movement is necessary to preserve that balance & dilute the toxicity of commercialization into this art. The artist should constantly ask himself about what he desires out of his passion and then let himself loose, every single time. However, few among many choose the longer & difficult process. “The hunt for security has died with commercialization”, he said, quoting from his own bag of one liners .
Can you recall your first inspiration in this journey?
On my constant dwelling about his first inspiration, he recalls that his first influence was probably the ‘WWE Aggression’- cassette in the year 2000. where he got influenced with the composition and voices of famous artists-‘the method man’ & ‘run DMC’. However, he did not totally understood them from the hip-hop point of view but they had a powerful association with his thoughts. Following an year later, he got obsessed with the lyrics of the famous Eminem song, ‘cleaning out my closet’ and even got inspired to write his own raw-rhymes, free verse poetry. For years to come, he followed the post -Eminem era, the likes of 50 cent- which glorified a gangster’s life, romanticized violence and ghetto brotherhood & the pre-Eminem era, the work of dr.dre,which was mostly the fillers in the songs.
How did such music engaged your curiosity into hip-hop’s backstage?
“there was a various artist collection-work by VH1,by the name of –hip-hop culture, I totally remember listening to 2pac’s ghetto gospel”, he said. This was probably the first time when he had been inspired from a song which talks about the social issues of the black & their community. He tried to dwell on that inspiration by dissociating from the decorations of the hip hop culture and started his search to find the true elements.
“You always talk about “the roots”? what is it? & what is the turning point of your journey?” I asked him, sipping through my ginger tea and scrolling down the food menu.
It was eight o’ clock in the evening and I was really starving. He nodded & started explaining, that even though he was experiencing free-thinking and exhibiting iconoclastic behavior, he felt bonded due to the added pressure from his family. Going to kota(2006) to prepare for engineering college entrances and then pdm-college, Bahadurgarh (2007), to study mechanical engineering – were the most significant of all events.
The former– helped to seclude himself from un-wanted pressure and dwell into his own mental horizons. The kind of groups and people he interacted with (in kota) ,always focused their communication on the lines of knowledge about things & he draw a parallel- that it is imperative for an artist in any discipline. This really helped him in his introspection and as he said it, “my hunger for subjectivity”, throwing another quote from his bag of personalized snippets of artist’s (his) diary, written over & over through his inner mental turmoil.
The latter– offered him with a completely contrasting culture, a rural environment & a college infested with pupils/ideals of a backdrop society – where the urban wear & fancy hairstyles were literally mocked. he got insulted at various occasions from the administration, colleagues,locals etc.
“it literally dragged me away from the decorations of hip-hop & inspired me towards the non-flashy aspects i.e. my thinking about hip-hop”, he said, he paused then burst into a laughter, recalling some funny incident of his verbal dispute with a haryanavi student on his appearance and clothing. Following those events, he left high-branded clothes & materialistic expressions and aspired to living authentic.
It was about nine o clock in the night, and the chit-chatter of a foreigner group at the nearby table, was really making it hard to communicate. I had to be loud and frame the most important question.
“how did D2BX crew come to life? what’s the story?”,I asked.
He ordered for another butter toast and a glass orange juice, returned the food menu and paused for a moment, then started filling the gaps,“there were a couple of guys whose interest was dancing but they knew nothing of it, himanshu and rishi (now a famous popper) were among the first initiatives, to others it was nothing more than ‘uchal kud’ (jumping jack) dance”,he said and laughed.
They made a breaking (now popular as bboying ) crew when all colleges (delhi & NCR ) were following Punjabi bhangra, western style, co-ordination dance forms, etc etc. .Theirs’ were the mechanical wing of the engineering college, an all boy group and it was brand new. it caught everyone’s attention and it completely rocked. “I still remember, it was towards the end of 2008,our first performance as a bboying crew was in lingayas college,Faridabad, it was a great experience”,he smiled.
However, the journey of the D2BX crew had not been easy. “what does it stands for?”I asked.
He said, “its simply Delhi to Bahadurgarh express, because I got all my ideas while travelling to college”. I couldn’t ignore but appreciate the clarity of his thoughts in naming his crew & then drilled him further on the narration.
Please talk more about your experience with this group?
He narrated that it was mostly lot of internet searching, event participation, show performances, watching old videos, torrent downloading. In one way, they stood out from other evolving groups as ‘aeke’ believed & focused on developing the individual crew member ,then taking the elements along with their understanding. however, they were disappointment as they were mostly losing in places they anticipated victory.
“there were people who were making egregious errors, mixing Punjabi songs to breaking or picking up commercial tracks for ciphers (the circle formed by audience where the crew on crew dancing battles take place), we took our songs with extensive research, like ‘is just begun’ by jimmy caster bunch is a 70’s classic breaking track, but in 2009, our 2rd year performace , the judges disqualified us for not using a hip-hop song!!! clearly it was those times when judges didn’t completely understood the culture or themselves had no real association with it”, he said in a confident tone.
How did you guys do with all those ridiculous odds?, I interrupted him.
He paused then followed with my question. he explained that this was the point where the D2BX crew turned more iconoclastic in their behavior and started seeing it in every aspect of their life, whether the college education system, populist views, Indian parenting methods, social and fashion trends, music. It was one of those phases when hip hop was re-routing and breaking through their deep-rooted establishments and renovating them for a change. They started their search for the wider scene of this culture in india and travelled to different places to perform/ attend workshops.
“as mentioned in one of bruce lee’s movies, enemy is an illusion, destroy the illusions- social trends, outdated norms, mugged understanding of things, enemy will be destroyed”. he quotes.
Is there any group u looked up to in your dancing years?
“the scene was really prominent in Bombay unlike Delhi and we were really inspired by ‘freak n styles’, one of the first Bombay crew, lot of solo artists hanged out as crew in events but we were the first ones to officially declare ourself as the bboying crew, one of the first in delhi,then things took on very fast in two years”, he said.
How was the competition and evolution among groups in the evolving years of the community?
Lot of groups created sensation with their new moves – windmills, flair, headstands, double hand stands, even a little advancement by one group made a world of difference to another. The passions were really high and the stage was ever-ready.The first biggest event was ‘the crank dat’, dce, delhi, where D2BX won the solo popping title and were the runners’ up ,they were beaten by tandav crew. The rock fresh crew ( a crew of ex members of freak n style crew) had also participated in the event and won the event. This was the time when the real Hip-hop movement that had taken off in india.
“why just hip-hop?why not dubstep? Or progressive music.?is there a particular reason”,I asked.
he smiled and said, “I don’t really know the ‘why’ of it, maybe I could relate to its energy and the emceeing part really hooked me in.Its mostly about thinking stuff in mind and writing it down in your diary and then telling it to a gathering on an event. (He firmly stated with hand gestures) it is imperative that an emcee should have the power to hold the crowd and make them interested, but most importantly – he should spread the knowledge, I relate to it and it gives me peace. simple”.
Meanwhile, in my head–
I understood his reasons completely. If I could revise my facts from my previous investigating with ‘aeke’ & his cultural get-togethers – hip-hop was build on the foundation of peace, love, unity and fun, ‘aeke’ was in pursuit of all four. The hip-hop culture has five main elements- knowledge, breaking, emceeing, djing, graffiti.
[It is unfortunate that the concept of all four artistic elements co-existing in a community event is fading away. It’s true that Emceeing was the most important aspect as it lead to the spread of culture and live recordings, which made it sellable and popular but it also contaminated the art by over commercialization of recording companies]
how do you see yourself in this journey and what’s next?, I asked.
He said, “its very difficult to summarize, I have gone right from fighting 8 bar (16 lines) rap battles on orkut communities to interacting with local emcee’s of delhi and finding my own place, I have seen the high and low of my involvements, as my group got diluted after 2011, so I secretly started a community page – Indian bboying news (1900 members) to hold the Indian roots and bare the false claims of people claiming to be pioneers, or militating against foreign national amateurs – who were trying to establish themselves as professionals and starting their own brand of culture. I did that by posting contradicting videos, scandalizing stupid/false stuff just for fun, then later in the year I organized one of the the biggest jams –‘crank dat 2012’ and now I am working on my newly build website-‘one circle world’ (currently 800 members on community page), which will serve as a wall for all worldwide events happening in our underground community. I have grown with it in time, to me underground hip- hop culture is simply taglined as –“art is expression’.thats it”, he concluded.
[Right now, ‘aeke’ spends his time in understanding colors, as his new bend is towards graffiti art. he believes that being an artist is just a continuation of trial and errors. sometimes you have to go out of orientation to search for all possibilities and then achieve an upper level to arrange them on a later stage in life.”let loose”,he quotes.
“when,why,what- I don’t know, I am inclined towards knowledge and right now I have broken the barrier of genre, I am just in search for ways of expression, right now am studying Rajasthani style of paintings and Mathura style, let’s see what else I can put my hands on to understand painting better”, he said.
’aeke’ has taken his journey from expressing energy in bboying/breaking, emceeing to tell the truth and spreading the culture, to organizing and networking the events and for the time he will wander to search for his curiosity about graffiti art. These may be different phases but hip-hop has allowed him an ultimate movement for the soul like so many others in this community.]
check out for updates @fb page – https://www.facebook.com/OneCircleWorld
check out similar web pages -1. introduction to hip-hop ,2. additional info. page.
by: vishu mishra