On Our Radar is a VICE Asia series that profiles young, upcoming creatives across the Asia-Pacific, giving an inside look into their interests, communities and inspirations.
Lyrics layered thick with innuendos, voices growling with fervour, deeply contemplative aural anecdotes, and banging anthems blasted with giddy enthusiasm. Hip-hop is the same no matter where you go, and South Asia is no exception.
The genre recently splashed into the Indian mainstream, partly due to the 2019 Bollywood film Gully Boy and artists like Yo Yo Honey Singh, and Punjabi MC. While the establishment basks in the spotlight, lurking in the shadows in Delhi’s underground are two young men poised to snatch the crown.
Encore ABJ (aka Abhijay Negi) and Calm (aka Siddhant Sharma), are two parts of the rap crew Seedhe Maut. The duo has racked up millions of streams online and is now synonymous with an energetic new wave of Indian hip-hop, independent of the Gully rap scene pioneered in Mumbai.
Encore ABJ and Calm, both in their mid twenties, set themselves apart through their unapologetic new-kid-on-the-block style that’s oozing in confidence and diction. Seedhe Maut is a Hindi phrase that literally means “straight to death,” but is used in the same way as “sick” and “dope.”
“No half measures. Give your everything towards that any one thing that you want to do in life. That’s what we stand for. That’s what the name Seedhe Maut stands for,” said Encore ABJ, “That’s what our music stands for.”
The two met at SPIT DOPE, a night of cyphers and rap battles in Delhi. Encore ABJ, who co-founded the event, met Calm on the first session of SPIT DOPE in 2016, and the rest is history.
“Calm just randomly came through to check a hip-hop jam session out. The boy had no idea what he was in for.”
Since their serendipitous meeting, the duo has released volumes of music together, including an EP and a full-length album called Bayaan. Their music videos rake in anywhere from 100,000 to 800,000 views on YouTube. To them, this is a clear indication that all the hard work and dedication they've put into their work are finally paying off.
“We have been working hard for a very long time now. It did not happen overnight,” Encore ABJ said. “So the feeling that we now have is a sense of satisfaction and gratitude towards the love that we get, because it’s been long due.”
“We know what to give to our fans because we know what fans expect from us, and that’s nothing but the best. The best of ourselves and definitely better than any other rapper breathing in the desi scene,” Encore ABJ said.
For them, the formula to their success is a simple one: maximum effort equates to maximum reward.
“Just keep making dope music, make enough noise, kill each and every show, and just keep repeating it until you are at the top and everyone recognises you.”
VICE caught up with the boys of Seedhe Maut to find out about their aspirations and inspirations.
We believe in…
Encore ABJ: consistency.
Calm: fucking shit up.
Our friends say we are… one of the best.
But we like to think we are… the best.
We've been working on…
Encore ABJ: a whole lotta music.
Calm: building something great.
We are inspired by…
Encore ABJ: a lotta other great musicians like Outkast, Slum Village, and Jay-Z.
Calm: this messed up world.
Recently we've been really into…
You can usually find us at…
Encore ABJ: Calm’s place chilling.
On bad days, we…
Calm: idk, stay stoned?
We live for… living.
In five years we… we‘ll be at the top.