An Introduction To Rap Culture On Discord

An Introduction To Rap Culture On Discord

Dive into how the indie rap culture crawled into Discord during the pandemic and now has become a breeding ground for online rap-battles and cyphers with a massive, active audience.

Rap battles, cyphers, and open mics are some of the ways in which aspiring artists can establish themselves in the indie music scene, meet fellow artists to form collaborations, and often even make connections that shape their careers greatly. For years, these events have taken place in parking lots, gardens, behind malls and often even just on random streets. With the restrictions that were set in place due to the pandemic, a lot of this culture has shifted online.

Discord, a digital communication and distribution platform that was mainly famous in the gaming community, is now one of the platforms where these competitions and hang-outs happen.

Like-minded people who share the same interests, in this case- hip-hop, get to come together and celebrate their art together. Many artists and groups have their own discord servers, such as Seedhe Maut, Full Power, The Ghetto Verse, & Samay Raina. Their platforms are used not just to interact with their followers but also, for the artists to interact directly with the communities personally. Over the pandemic, these listening sessions became a regular thing over discord.

Since these are free to attend, they make music-related live events more accessible to the masses with no heavy entry fees and strict policies to make it a safe space for everyone. Each server or thread is managed by admins, who usually have a no-tolerance policy in relation to sexism, casteist or racist slurs, homophobia & islamophobia. It can be easier to monitor this behaviour online, as compared to in-person where the consequences of disagreement are often violence.

This shift towards online events also gives space for more artists to perform. It can be less daunting to do such things online as compared to a live audience in person. The selection for these events mostly happens through video competitions where the participants will be asked to rap certain amounts of bars (usually 16) on a beat or a topic and upload it to their accounts on social media or on Youtube. Then, they’re watched by the judges and the audience and some finalists are chosen to compete with each other. One of the battles organised by The Ghetto Verse and Samay Raina gave the prompt “Dissing Girlfriend’s Male Best Friend."

The pioneers of Discord rap-battles in India are TheGhettoVerse, a collective that has its own artists, which organises and manages the culture on the platform. They started this in December 2020, as a consequence of the inactive rap culture in India, the cluelessness of other organizers, and due to the uncertainty due to the pandemic. They noticed that discord was suddenly booming as people used it to play games like Among Us, and had their eureka moment to start using the platform for a lot more. Their effort was supported in the community and has gained a lot of participating members since then. They also educate people about the culture and history of hip-hop.

On being asked about the name ‘TheGhettoVerse,’ PsyChef (founder of TheGhettoVerse) says “The name TheGhettoVerse came into existence as Tupac and KRS had a great impact on my life. The hip hop community is also much like a ‘ghetto’ as we (rappers) fight amongst us in the form of rap battles as to prove who is a good EMCEE. Also, factor in that hip hop originated from the Ghetto, and we use our verses to fight, so combining together both of those aspects, the name came into existence”

The Ghetto Verse has collaborated on events with some known names in Indian Hip-Hop, including Poetik Justis, Enkore, MC Kode, BattleBarsBombay and more.

Another active server on Discord is "Sab Full Power Gang" which is a community built around a collective love for hip-hop and the rap duo Full Power consisting of Yungsta and Frappe Ash. It holds frequent listening sessions, Frappe is even known to play his unreleased music on live streams and forums for his fans to enjoy at odd hours of the night.

Yungsta talks about how the experience of listening sessions on Discord is different from when they are held offline. He mentions though that the lack of real-life presence "makes a huge difference." He further elaborates, "The audience can still listen to the tracks in the listening sessions to know what the track sounds like, but to see and hear an artist take you through the album during listening sessions held in real life, changes the first impression and the whole experience for the audience present in the session. However, the upside of online sessions is that people from across the globe can be a part of the listening session."

Such servers have definitely led to the hip-hop community to be more well-knit as the audience feels closer to each other as well as the artist. Yungsta agrees, "Like-minded people around the world can be a part of one community and do activities together, like discuss hip hop or any sort of culture for that matter, and keep engaging in several different professional or casual activities. It also makes people aware of other talents in the community so more support builds up gradually too."

Not just rappers, but producers from the hip-hop industry have used these platforms to engage with their fan-base and other artists as well, with producers like Sajeel Kapoor (Sez On The Beat) being an active presence. You can catch him listening to and reviewing other people's music, giving feedback, sharing his own work and break-downs of the tracks.

The online rap community is a growing space full of talent from many intersecting identities, where people from all walks of life can engage in something they love so passionately- music.

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