BY N. LOTHUNGBENI HUMTSOE
New Delhi– “Hip Hop as a genre is revolutionary art that arose from oppression. The storytelling aspect of it is what I fell in love with the most,” says Deepa Unnikrishnan aka Dee MC, a prominent figure in the Indian hip hop community.
Dee MC, is set to share her tale in a unique way with her crew of dancers at TED Talk for the second round. In this interview she discloses how her music is influenced by her personal life and surroundings, and why she choses to address dark skin discrimination and social injustice.
Can you give us a preview of the topic you intend to emphasise at TEDxGateway?
Dee MC: I have something very special planned for my performance at TEDxGateway on the 4th of June at the NCPA in Mumbai. This is my second collaboration for a TED Talk and it will be quite different from my previous one which was a solo performance. This time I will be joined by my crew of dancers and we have created a theatrical performance piece which is a mix of spoken word poetry, hard-hitting rap as well as a choreography routine that ties it all together. Our message is one of unity and tolerance and the courage to speak the truth.
What does women empowerment mean to you? And how are you trying to raise awareness?
Dee MC: I am privileged enough to know what my rights are and women empowerment for me is extending the same privileges to those who believe they have no choice. Just by believing in myself, I have defied many norms of family and society alike who think women need to be safeguarded and stopped from daring to dream too big. I don’t feel the need to actively raise awareness about it at this point in my life. I believe I have done enough by setting an example for others to follow and moreover, I think it is high time we stop expecting women to be the only flag-bearers of change when it comes to female empowerment.
Why, of all the things you may portray through your music, do you choose to highlight dark skin prejudice and social injustice? Is it because you believe others are not doing enough?
Dee MC: All my work has been inspired by my own life or the people surrounding me. Hip Hop as a genre has grown as revolutionary art out of oppression. The storytelling aspect of it is what I fell in love with the most. Hence choosing to speak about my own vulnerabilities through my music is something that comes naturally to me. Comparing it to what others are doing or aren’t doing hasn’t been my way of doing things. I believe you have to be the change you want to see, and I see my art as a tool of communication to bring forth the kind of change I wish to see in this world. Which is a world that is kinder, open to vulnerability, and tolerant of each other’s differences.
Where do you get your musical inspiration?
Dee MC: My art is a culmination of the people and places I am surrounded by. My family originally hails from Kerala but moved to Mumbai in the 80s for a better life. A lot of who I am and my liberal ways of life, especially as a female in India is owed to my city. For a long time, the hip-hop community was my only inspiration. The aspirations of thousands of artists writing and releasing songs at a time when we barely had any audience. It is inspiring to see the ‘never back down’ attitude artists here have despite the lack of infrastructure or resources. Our resilience to make something out of nothing continues to inspire me. The opportunities that led me out of India have also helped me grow as an artist and derive inspiration from my own environment.
What does Dee MC stand for?
Dee MC: Dee MC is the stage name that I adopted at the very beginning of my rap journey. MC stands for emceeing which is one of the elements of hip hop, commonly known as rapping.
Aside from music, what are your interests?
Dee MC: Multitasking has been a big part of my life since the beginning as I liked to think of myself as an all-rounder. Even as an artist, I take pride in learning more than what pertains to just my work. I have recently started directing my own music videos. I’m an avid watcher of films and TV shows and the experiences I have garnered in my own journey of being in front of the camera have come in handy. I was also the editor-in-chief of India’s leading hip-hop news site named DesiHipHop.com where I have personally written over a hundred articles about the Indian Hip Hop scene.
With a string of successes following you down your life’s path, what was life like before and after?
Dee MC: I truly believe in taking life one day at a time. Surely, I have a more comfortable life now after many years of hard work and sacrifices. But it was all worth it to achieve the one thing I craved since I was a child – total and unquestionable freedom of choice. Success is a very subjective thing and for me, it holds a deeper meaning than the generally accepted standards of what it means to be successful. For me, the heaps of progress I have made in improving my mental health is the biggest before and after comparison point to measure my success. (IANS)