Born and raised in the city of Delhi, Sajeel Kapoor has experienced an explosive rise over the past couple of years – leading the country’s hip-hop scene to the forefront of the flourishing independent music industry.
His work on records like Divine’s ‘Jungli Sher‘ and Naezy’s ‘Asal Hustle‘ and ‘Haq Hai‘ has seen him win critical acclaim across the board – rising to the top of the charts and breaking streaming records in the country.
Sez brings something unique to the table every time– from blending Indian percussion sounds like those of a dhol or the tabla to crafting distinct instrumentals mirroring the artists’ persona perfectly, Sez is someone who directs the sounds of a new generation all the while staying true to his roots and influences. Sez creates the mainstream by simply embodying and emboldening the underground.
Courtesy of his pioneering beat store, his beats are available to everyone; democratising an otherwise heavily one-sider independent music industry. His spectrum of collaboration makes him tick like a metronome that is directing the sound of Indian Hip-Hop.
Recently, I got a chance to attend a listening session of Sez and Ahmer’s Album – ‘Little Kid, Big Dreams‘ and it was a gut-wrenching experience to listen to the story behind it and see Sez explore a much darker side in his compositions which is fitting to the album, making it by far the best piece of work you will hear from him.
Got on a call with the man and asked him about his process, his journey so far and his plans for the future.
Q – Sez, let’s start with your journey first – How did you get into music production?
A – Well, I have always been into software growing up as a kid. A friend of mine introduced me to Virtual DJ. I found it pretty cool and immediately jumped on to create some mash-ups and mixing beats with acapellas and such. But that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to make my own music and started looking around for relevant software. I came across FL Studio. Through trial & error, some YouTube tutorials (warbeats in particular) got me through, and I started making music.
Q – So, how did you kickstart your music career?
A – I started off my career working on collaborations with rappers. Initially, I worked with OML and produced AIB’s track with Stunnah Beatz. Soon after that Uday left OML, and became very vocal about his passion for Hip-Hop and got me and Prabh on board when we working on Class-Sikh and released it on Azadi Records.
Q – How do you approach your music, especially when you’re working with a rapper. How does it all fit?
A – My approach towards my music and collaborations is very human. I like to chill and share experiences with them and see what issues need to be addressed. For me, the beat is usually the first step. Firstly I learn about the content – what is it about, the problems it is addressing, then I craft the beat. My idea is to assist the rapper and not overpower them nor guide them.
Q – And what about the album, what your approach towards that?
A – On the Album ‘Little Kid, Big Dreams’ with Ahmer, the biggest issue we faced was the accent he had. He had been doing rounds in the industry for a while and was conforming to other people’s whims and fancies and trying to fit in. When I heard him rap in Kashmiri and English, it was like two different voices. He was most comfortable in Kashmiri, and I told him to go for it. The album is for the people of Kashmir, so English and Hindi wouldn’t do justice to it. He saw how his voice sounded like rapping in his native language, and that made a huge difference. He has rapped only a little in English in his tracks – Elaan, Uncle, Kasheer and Galat. It was amusing to work with Ahmer also because he is absolutely Punctual! He would always be eager and willing. He would arrive for the recording 5-10 minutes earlier and work hard at it. It was very inspiring!
Q – What was the thought behind Elaan? How did Prabh get on it?
A – So firstly when I made Elaan, the thought was to create a beat that Nas would rap on. So I took an old beat and tweaked it up a bit, and ELAAN happened. Around the same time NAS x Divine Collaboration came out, Mo got really excited about making ELAAN count and asked us to get Prabh on board. Ahmer asked him, and within the week, the song was ready! Prabh went full ham on the song, and both of them absolutely slayed it. The beat is literally as long as they rapped on it, which was a perfect fit. This song is definitely the most political one we have come out with till date.
Q – What was the research that went behind the album?
A – Considering the album was about Kashmir, I really wanted to get a friend on board to play Santoor for us. The quality of the recording was terrible, and unfortunately, it couldn’t work out. So I finally got one of my VST plugins – Keyscape and got a Plucked Piano patch on it, got my MIDI keyboard and started playing with it. It surprisingly sounded like a Santoor and edited it on most of the tracks.
Q – Out of all your productions so far, where would you place ‘Little Kid, Big Dreams’?
A – I feel sonically, LKBD is by far the best. I believe you always do better than your previous work and this being my latest, definitely ranks on the top. It is one of the hardest albums I have worked on. Kashmiri as a language is not easy to work with, and the issues addressed are also susceptible that I wanted to do justice to them.
Q – So what plans now? What have you thought of doing in the future?
A – Well, one of the things I really want to focus on now is my Independent Album as a Music Producer. I want to get onboard talents that are not yet exposed to the audience. I want to give them that platform and get them the exposure. Unfortunately, label’s don’t exist that specifically cater to Hip-Hop. Not enough at least. I also want to work with Siri and Bobby (Tienas). I understand making money is essential, and getting rich is considered as the norm, but the artists should get what they deserve honestly. I never say no to collaborations, except brand collaborations. So I will continue to work with rappers and other producers that I want to work with and make more music while I am at it.
We have a lot to look forward to from Sez and he has only scratched the surface for India. Check out his skills and Ahmer’s as well here.