Baaz

This is such a great song. Introspective, yet invigorating.

With every recording, JJ47 and Jokhay appear more grounded in their craft. Talha Anjum puts on his reflective poet persona, and his verse here is reminiscent of Zindagi Se Maut Tak.1 His recent appearance on Abdullah Siddiqui’s Surface also has an emotionally similar tone. Talhah Yunus’s hook is very catchy. There is so much versatility in Yunus’s recordings – some songs are just an exhibition of flow, others straight up aggression, and this is a straight up mean pop line.

Watching reaction videos is a rewarding part of this hip hop scene. The appeal of reaction videos is that they transform an individual experience into a collective one. They build collective knowledge by discussing verses, musical skill and stories of each artist. But they are entertaining for an even simpler reason: it’s just nice to watch other people enjoying something you like as well. It’s equivalent to watching sports while reading Twitter. It imbues meaning into an environment of infinite content, and recognition for a scene that appears more anonymous than it is and should be.

Hassan Arshad, who posts on the Niazi Entertainment YouTube channel, is particularly captivating. Arshad’s volume and consistency of output is frankly staggering. His charm is that his camera persona is a character you want to follow independently. If you’ve spent time in Lahore, there is a chance that Arshad reminds you of an old friend. One that swears, maybe unnecessarily, to comedic effect. One that makes disclaimers about their lack of knowledge before professing strong opinions. One that feels emotion so deeply that they lose grasp of words and resort to gestural expressiveness which is wordless yet strikingly communicative. One that revels in a persona of pedestrianism and yet is engaged in the discipline of expertise. Watching him is entertaining not just because it adds to the myth of the songs he reacts to, but also because it personifies the audiences that are invested in these artists.

To Arshad and his peers, these rappers offer poetry that builds an emotional scaffolding around the incessant upheaval of disadvantaged urban lives. In reacting to Baaz, Arshad becomes emotional talking about the support these songs have given him. I can’t help but think of the wonderful cast of rappers that make it to Star Rapper after listening to these songs – a bike mechanic, a programmer, a gym trainer, a college student, a cable technician, a police officer. At its best, art provides the spiritual frame in which we find survival and hope. This scene is doing that. It’s also just great entertainment.

1

Big Scratch makes this connection in his reaction video, and I’m inclined to agree. Big Scratch is one of many Indian YouTubers that engage heavily with Pakistani hip hop (especially the Stunners universe).