Shillong-based rapper and artist, Alvin Marbaniang has been making waves in the rap scene for quite some time now. A second-year student of St. Anthony’s College, he has featured in and won one-minute rap challenges.
On May 16, his track ‘Better Days’ premiered on YouTube. He collaborated with beat producer, Prisoner 2.2 for this number.
He tells Sunday Shillong about his journey as a rising artist in a highly competitive music genre.
“I used to write songs in grade X. Soon, I graduated to ‘Freestyle’ in grade XI. Until then, I wasn’t into serious rapping. All that changed when I went to grade XII – got into a fight with friends. To channelise my anger, wrote a diss track. Did not post it on the Instagram handle but shared it as WhatsApp status. It got positive reviews from friends,” Alvin says.
His friends encouraged him to take rap seriously. Sniper 30, his rapper identity was thus born. His next song was an apology track for the very friend on whom the diss track was written.
For the uninitiated, ‘freestyle’ is not a written verse. Rather, rap artists improvise on a beat.
What does this particular genre of music mean to him? “Rap is not just a song, it is poetry. It allows me to express what I feel,” he says.
Making the Tracks
The first song he improvised on is a remake of American rapper, Joyner Lucas’s song titled ‘Will’.
More of a freestyle, Alvin wrote the song in the car 10-15 minutes before recording the video on the phone. He elaborates on the meaning of the song, stating it’s a message that he is here to stay in the game and raise the bar high.
Killshot, a diss track was completed in one night. The track chronicles an argument between two rappers where the buzzword is stealing lyrics.
Rap culture has the element of the ‘diss’ where rival artists write songs about each other. “The lyrics are meant for your opponent,” he says.
Critics of this genre often say that ‘dissing culture’ is negative. Alvin disagrees, insisting it has always existed and the term is to be put in the context of the lyrics and the competitive nature of rap.
The next two tracks, Losing Interest and What’s Poppin’ are improvisations of two songs. The former is by Shiloh Dynasty & CuBox while the latter is by Jack Harlow.
Losing Interest, in particular, marks a deviation from his usual style. This is a song about heartbreak and how toxic relationships can get. He has taken the hook from the original song and added his own lyrics. “This song is about how we give all and get the short end of the stick in return,” he says.
Alvin chuckles when asked why he chose the Harlow song. This number became popular among rap artists in 2020 and they went through a phase of writing their own lyrics on the beat of this song. This one got positive reviews as well.
Challenge and Collaboration
In March 2020, Alvin took part in the Antriksh Challenge. The deal was to make a song of one minute, share the same on Instagram and tag Antriksh. Out of nearly 1,500-2,000 entries, he secured the second spot.
Popular YouTuber, Rohan Cariappa declared the “One Day and One Minute” challenge last year. He took part and got selected as the top 20 contestants among 3,500 entries.
From here, he got to know Prisoner 2.2, a beat producer who approached him for collaboration. The result was his original track titled Better Days. The opening lines credits Cariappa’s challenge, “I got one day and one minute”.
Alvin plans to delve deeper into rap music. “In India, there is hardly any rapper who raps in English. I want to leave a lasting mark in this genre,” he says.
Growing up, he heard a lot of Punjabi rappers. While it is difficult for him to name one musical artist as an inspiration, Bohemia has had a major influence on him. He lists J. Cole, Eminem and Linkin Park as artists who have helped him hone his craft.
Of late, he is learning about political rap and hopes to incorporate the same in his lyrics.
Before signing off, he mentions how his parents have been supportive and positive with regards to his choice of music as a career.
Message for Young Rappers
Self-awareness is important for Alvin. “Start with writing. It’s important to pay attention to the good lines. Make your writing relatable. Know what you are passionate about,” he says.