Breaking Down Lankan Hip Hop ‒ Vol. 2

To say that rap music in Sri Lanka has reached unprecedented new heights since we published our first breakdown just a few months ago would be an understatement. Lyrical content has become more raw and explicit than ever, with even the more mainstream rappers being unafraid to occasionally cuss in their music. Sinhala rap continues to evolve in the best possible way, with new and existing artists waxing poetic on issues of social injustice and inequity, and, of course, money, cash and you know the rest, while a few formerly underground rappers who have now gone mainstream appear to have embraced a more radio-friendly pop persona. This is a look at some of the better, fresher material out there since we last visited this topic.

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Rasthiyadu Padanama

Arguably the most hardcore outfit in the industry right now. A lot of rappers who try and fail to appear gangsta, often end up looking like walking stereotypes, with their blatantly phony badassery fooling nobody. Puliya and Maliya, however, are the real deal ‒ the genuine article. Hailing from Negombo, with their extremely graphic language and all-too-real රස්තියාදු ජීවිතේ නසරානි පදනම street braggadocio, these boys don’t mess around. Puliya’s sleepy drawl and Maliya’s simultaneously comic and coldly detached delivery are pure, unadulterated rap genius.

44 Kalliya

We gave these guys an honorary mention in our previous breakdown, but the boys of 44 Kalliya deserve their own entry in any list of influential Sri Lankan rappers. Although not as polished as the almost uniformly sophisticated Drill Team (who have been rather quiet lately), the Billiondolla (Piliyandala) boys have made some serious headway into becoming the top dogs of Sinhala rap. Sadly, they’re still not quite there yet as a group, but Smokio and K-Mac continue to shine with their killer flow and [mostly] profound lyrics and, with a few more hits under their collective belt, have the potential to dethrone their Westනාහිර rivals, sooner rather than later.

Ilangai Thamizhan

Let me just start off by shamefully admitting that I don’t speak a word of Tamil, so any depth in these lyrics is unfortunately lost on me, but I had the pleasure of listening to these guys live at Kacha Kacha last month and, suffice to say, their energy and enthusiasm was so infectious that whatever message they were trying to communicate through their rapid-fire verses resonated with the entire audience, in an almost non-verbal fashion that transcended language barriers. Viky Ky and Young Krizh were particularly on point. Tamil rap in Sri Lanka has come a long way and, over the years, contributions by such pioneering acts as Yawunan, Krishan Maheson, Gajan and Dinesh Kanagaratnam have really made a difference. However, it still has a long way to go in terms of mass appeal, particularly among mainstream Sinhala audiences, and groups like Ilangai Thamizhan with their decidedly “Sri Lankan” feel can do a lot to bridge that gap.

Smokio

While not as venerated as Born Lord මානsick (who, incidentally, appears to be going pop since of late), as one of the better lyricists working in rap today, Smokio can give him a run for his money with his dope rhymes. Arguably the most talented of the 44 Kalliya group, Smokio has a knack for making the most complex of rhymes look like child’s play. The words just come naturally to this guy and virtually every verse is fire. Ever since he was discovered by Iraj early this year, Smokio has been making headlines in the Sinhala rap scene and there is just no stopping him. ලපයි සිපයි don’t stand a chance.

Dimi3

Easily the funniest Sri Lankan artists out there, Dimi3 uses humour to drive home an important point about how our uptight society needs to lighten up a little. Though technically not a rapper per se, Dimi3, with his refreshingly witty rhymes and uniquely upbeat arrangements, brings a much needed element of levity to the genre.

Update: Actually, we take that back. Not sure what the heck happened here.

Roar picks:

What are your thoughts on our latest list? Anyone we missed? Let us know in the comments.

Featured image courtesy: decibel.lk

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