The Glowing Persistence of Kritagya Sharma
“I am 22 years old and have been in the scene for seven years already. At 16, I organised the biggest hip-hop meet in Delhi and also did eight collaborative cyphers in different cities on the same day. People still think I’m new to this, like, I don’t know; hardwork’s going to get recognition, right?”
This is the story of rapper Kritagya Sharma, but more importantly, it’s a story of persistence, hard work and growth. Kritagya first started writing rap lyrics back in 2014 and was unaware of the underground hip-hop community. To be fair, at that point in time the Indian hip-hop scene wasn’t as consolidated and it was through a Facebook community page that he first found other like minded creators of hip-hop. He spent a year writing and attending cyphers in 2015, after which he started the collective ‘Gali Hip-Hop’ and decided to organise a cypher himself on October 16th, 2016-- a historic day for Delhi underground community.
Titled as the “Delhi Hip-Hop Meet,” the event saw a coming together of over 250 people to participate in all things hip-hop at Deer Park, Hauz Khas. Kritagya was sixteen years old at the time and was assaulted by a policeman for having organised the event. That, however, failed to dampen his spirit and the crowd was back at it soon after the cops left.
At present, Gali Hip-Hop prides itself on being an artist collective and support system for independent artists all across Delhi. While a lot of people are quick to assume that the organisation is a label, Kritagya clarifies that they are essentially a collective where rappers are encouraged to pursue their individuality and artistic expression by remaining independent under the backdrop of a community that cares.
“We all learn from each other as every artist has their distinct sound and each one of them brings something new to the table. We help each other record, get gigs and create better art as a collective while retaining our independence,” he says. Their mission since the inception of the collective has been to promote street art and promote cypher culture by being true to hip-hop’s core values and not focusing on hype or clout, but rather on talent and relevance.
Currently, the collective boasts a wide spectrum of cross media artists ranging from rappers, producers and break dancers to designers, sound engineers and more. There is also special emphasis on cross genre collaborations within the collective itself which lends itself effectively to the development of their individual styles. This is encouraged in a specially curated studio space, the idea for which came to Kritagya and producer Frisk back in 2019. With support from rapper Raftaar and record label Kalamkar, they were able to open the studio to upcoming rappers waiting for the right infrastructure to add more nuance to their craft.
This emphasis on the need to find an original and individual sound of expression is what led to Kritagya’s debut album release titled the ‘Glowing Mixtape,’ which was released on April 28, 2021. A product of distillation of his experiences and life lessons over the last three years, the mixtape is a testament to Kritagya’s persistence to find his own lane in a rapidly growing scene.
“The idea for this mixtape came to me during a time when I wasn’t creating as much. I was sitting inside my parents’ car reading the comments on a track I’d dropped recently called ‘G-Low’ and realised that people were liking what I had done. So in a way, my own song ended up inspiring me and I decided to further pursue and refine the sound I had put out and create a whole mixtape exploring the sound,” he remarks. He describes the mixtape’s sonics as belonging to the new wave and melodic trap, post inspiration from the roots of old school hip-hop and RnB.
“I created a lot of tracks that didn’t end up making the final cut of the project. I worked on it for over 21 months not focused on making the ‘perfect album’ but rather something reflective of who I am as a person,” he says in reference to the delays. “The project was supposed to come out last year, but the pandemic hit us hard and I had to push the release date further. In hindsight, it worked out for the better because it allowed me time I needed to further expand on the sound I’d found.”
Kritagya’s formative months of recording were spent locked in a studio with Vasudev, another rapper from Delhi who was also working on his project titled ‘Ghaziabad Mixtape’ which dropped last year. This allowed the two rappers to support each other by way of feedback and moral support leading to a confident delivery of their verses and fine tuning of the weaker areas.
The mixtape also features rapper & singer Satyum on the song ‘Finesse,’ a track that became an instant crowd favourite. Other collaborators include Willi Vonka, Vasudev, Arrnik, Frisk, Manisten, Novacane, Rakht, Zeven, Pixl and Ivn, all of whom were instrumental in making this project truly glow. “If they didn’t create what they did, I wouldn’t have gotten into the zone I did and write the things I eventually did,” said Kritagya expressing gratitude.
Over the course of 10 tracks, Kritagya explores the themes of nonchalance, non-dependency, gratitude, toxicity, healing and most importantly, personal growth or an ‘inner glow-up.’ The rapper believes that before work is put out in the world for consumption, there must be an emphasis on working on oneself and the craft. One can surely say that beyond the frameworks of traditional success, the rapper is glowing in his own right, satisfied with the art of his self expression.