Hiphop Tamizha Biography
Hiphop Tamizha (Tamil:ஹிப் ஹாப் தமிழா) (pronounced Tamiḻā) is an Indian musical duo based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The duo consists of Adhithya “Adhi” Venkatapathy and R. Jeeva. Hiphop Tamizha are credited with being the pioneers of Tamil hip hop in India.
Hiphop Tamizha’s Personal Lives
Adhi (born Adhithya Ramachandran Venkatapathy) was born on
20 February 1990. Jeeva R. was born 29 June 1991. Adhi’s family is from Punjai Puliampatti in the Erode district. Adhi was born into a middle-class family with no knowledge of music or cinema.
His father works at Bharathiar University while his mother comes from an agricultural background. Adhi’s first exposure to rap came when his neighbour showed him Michael Jackson’s “Jam”. His interest in hip hop music started developing in the tenth grade. He uploaded rap songs to the internet and got positive responses from people expressing interest in his music, who also encouraged him to start rapping in Tamil.
His decision to rap in Tamil rather than English was made, in his words, to avoid looking like a “wannabe”. Adhi named his account on the video-sharing site YouTube “Hiphop Tamizha”, with a profile picture of the Tamil poet Subramania Bharati, to avoid being caught by his parents. Adhi’s father had initially opposed his choice to pursue music professionally.
He wanted Adhi to pursue higher studies, but gave him a year to do what he wanted, with the only constraint being that Adhi should not expect any help from him. After realising that Adhi was “trying to do some good work”, he encouraged his son’s musical interests. Adhi then moved to Chennai to “try [his] luck”.
Although Hiphop Tamizha is a duo, Jeeva has seldom made public appearances. Adhi told IndiaGlitz that this is due to his shyness, and compared his partner to the unseen lion in the emblem of India, which includes four lions, with only three visible. Jeeva adopted the moniker Jeeva Beatz sometime after the two met in 2005.
Adhi studied at Chavara Vidya Bhavan, and Electrical Engineering at Bannari Amman Institute of Technology, Sathyamangalam in the Erode district. He holds a state-level rank in Tamil Nadu Common Entrance Test and is a graduate in Master of Business Administration from the Department of Management Studies, University of Madras. Beginning in October 2014, he enrolled in a PhD course at Bharathiar University, which he completed in June 2015. Jeeva, an engineering drop-out, is also an alumnus of Loyola College, Chennai.
Hiphop Tamizha’s Career
Origins and Early Work
Adhi first met Jeeva via the social networking website Orkut in 2005. They were passionate about music and decided that they should create an independent music group in India, in their native language of Tamil. According to The Hindu and Hiphop Tamizha’s Facebook page, Adhi did not officially found Hiphop Tamizha until 15 February 2010.
Around the mid 2000s, Adhi released Viswaroobam Arambam, the first Tamil hip hop mixtape in India. It also played a major role in promoting hip hop as a part of the Tamil culture. Adhi and Jeeva remained underground until they were asked by the Tamil Nadu State Election Commission to compose an election anthem.
Hiphop Tamizha’s single Ezhuvoam Vaa was chosen as the official anthem for Tamil Nadu’s 2011 state elections, and Adhi performed it at Pachaiyappa’s College when Anna Hazare came there. Though the song was commercially unsuccessful, Adhi and Jeeva considered it at one point their “best work so far”.
Hiphop Tamizha’s Commercial Success
Adhi composed the song “Club le Mabbule” in his first year of college. When we asked how it developed, he recalled, “I grew up watching my mother and aunts just being traditional, and when I saw girls going to bars, I immediately wrote the lyrics of that track. And through my lyrics I am raising the debate over whether we are really changing as a society or are simply aping the West.” When Adhi was living in Chennai, he met Ma Ka Pa Anand, then an RJ at Radio Mirchi. Anand allowed Adhi to perform Club le Mabbule on his radio show with Bharadwaj Balaji.
The recording went viral, receiving over two million views within a week of its release on YouTube. Afterwards Rémy Martin, an international brand, was surprised by Adhi’s determination and launched Hiphop Tamizha as an official brand. “Club le Mabbule” later vaulted Hiphop Tamizha further into public view when it was criticized as portraying Tamil women in a negative light.
Hiphop Tamizha’s debut album Hip Hop Tamizhan was released on 17 August 2012 at Sathyam Cinemas in Chennai. Publicized as “India’s first Tamil hip hop album”, the album was launched by Purple Note and produced by Remy Martin, in his first association with an Indian album. The music was composed by Adhi and Jeeva, with lyrics by Adhi. The album was lauded by critics. Naren Weiss, writing for Zomba, called it “nothing short of a masterpiece,” while Venkatrangan R of Musicperk labelled it “A must listen.
Not only for the music but for the messages hidden in it.” The album, which included Club le Mabbule, was also a commercial success, becoming the best-selling music album of 2012 on Flipkart. However, Adhi lamented the fact that “Club le Mabbule” was accepted for airplay by radio channels only after its viral success, and that some of his other songs never got airplay even once.
In November 2013, Adhi signed an international album with Remy Martin, titled International Tamizhan, slated to feature eight tracks, including two songs by American artists Sol and Emcee Call. The album will be released in English, Hindi and Tamil. It was initially scheduled for release on 15 August 2014; however, Hiphop Tamizha instead released the album’s song “Vaadi Pulla Vaadi” as a single on the same date. As of October 2014, the album is still “under progress”.
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Hiphop Tamizha’s Television and Cinema Career
As musicians and composers
Though Adhi initially expressed no interest in singing or composing for films, he and Jeeva have contributed to numerous cinematic works. Adhi sang his first film song, titled “Thapellam Thappe Illai” (composed by Vijay Antony) for Naan in 2012.
He also sang the title track of Ethir Neechal (2013) (composed by Anirudh Ravichander) accompanied by Punjabi rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh. Also in 2013, Adhi wrote “Sudden Delight”, which was composed by Santhosh Narayanan and performed by Rob Mass for Soodhu Kavvum. In May of that year, Adhi again collaborated with Anirudh to perform the song “Chennai City Gangsta” along with Hard Kaur for Vanakkam Chennai.
In July 2013, Hiphop Tamizha composed “Na Na Na (Nice v/s Naughty)”, a song used in the promotion of The Smurfs 2 in India. The song, which also features nine contestants from the singing reality show Indian Idol Junior, was the first song Hiphop Tamizha composed specifically for a film. It did not appear on the soundtrack album. Adhi’s third collaboration with Anirudh was for Kaththi (2014) where he performed the song “Pakkam Vanthu”. Hiphop Tamizha also composed and wrote “Poda” in 2014, a song celebrating the 10th anniversary of the television channel Sun Music.
Hiphop Tamizha’s first Tamil film as music composers was Aambala (2015), where they wrote all six songs for and performed three: Pazhagikalaam, Aye Aye Aye and a remix of Inbam Pongum Vennila, from Veerapandiya Kattabomman (1959). They also composed for Indru Netru Naalai, writing two songs and performing one: “iPhone 6 Nee Yendral”. Hiphop Tamizha also composed for Thani Oruvan, where they performed two songs: Theemai Dhaan Vellum and the title track. Thani Oruvan topped Apple Music’s Best of 2015 list in the category “Best Tamil Album of the year”.
Adhi wrote and co-performed Naam Vaazhndhidum, composed by Yuvan Shankar Raja, for Vai Raja Vai (2015). Hiphop Tamizha later composed for Aranmanai 2, and Kathakali. They are currently working on Thamizhan Endru Sol, Dhruva (the Telugu remake of Thani Oruvan), which marks their debut in Telugu cinema; Suraj’s Kaththi Sandai; R. Ajay Gnanamuthu’s Imaikkaa Nodigal; and Kavan, set to be directed by K. V. Anand.
Hiphop Tamizha In other Roles
In October 2014, Adhi stated that, despite many offers, he had no interest in acting. In 2016, however, he announced that he would be making his cinematic acting debut in Meesaya Murukku, for which he would also be director and musical composer. Adhi has also made appearances in the Zee Tamizh talk show Simply Kushboo, and the Sun TV reality show Sun Singer.
Hiphop Tamizha’s Collaborations
Independent artists who have collaborated with Hiphop Tamizha include beatboxer Bharadwaj Balaji (also known as Triple B) and B-boy Bravo. The official logo of Hiphop Tamizha is a graffiti of Bharati. They have also performed with American rapper Emcee Call on All I Wanna Say, an album that features several samples of Michael Jackson’s songs.
Beginning in February 2015, Adhi and Jeeva were collaborating with independent Tamil singer Kaushik Krish on his forthcoming single, but the singer’s debut song eventually became “Kannala Kannala”, composed by Hiphop Tamizha for Thani Oruvan (2015).
Hiphop Tamizha’s Musical Style
Adhi told Sudhish Kamath that he was inspired by the works of Michael Jackson and Jay-Z. In July 2013, he said that he draws inspiration from Tamil poetry, mostly those by Subramania Bharati. Hiphop Tamizha experiment with various elements of Indian music and fuse them with hip hop, creating the “fresh sound” of Tamil hip hop in the process. Adhi has no formal education in music and claims to compose purely on instinct. While Adhi is the band’s sole lyricist, both he and Jeeva create the background music.
Topically, Hiphop Tamizha’s songs deal with a wide range of issues. Club le Mabbu le describes certain nontraditional “failings” of Tamil women, including drinking, smoking, consuming cannabis and having live-in relationships. Sentamizh Penne, the exact opposite of Club le Mabbu le, talks about a culturally-rich girl, whose traditions are worthy of respect.
Tamizh Theriyum ridicules those who mock the Tamil language or act like they do not speak it. Vaadi Pulla Vaadi focuses on the conflicts of caste and love, and was inspired by the personal experiences of Adhi’s friends. According to him, Iraiva talks about how love is not the end of life: “Two people might really be in love, but because of things like caste, they might not be able to be together.
This, we feel, is because of lack of education and awareness”. The song Karpom Karpippom is dedicated to education, describing it as the main tool required to solve social problems. Cheap Popularity is Adhi’s response to those who criticised him for allegedly seeking popularity through Club le Mabbu le.
In 2014, Adhi said that Hiphop Tamizha’s aim is to rebuke the belief among contemporary youngsters that conversing in Tamil is “not cool”, and that the project was started to enable them to “relate to the concept of being a proud Tamizhan, to give them an identity.” Although the songs Manithan Tamizhan and Tamizhanda glorify the culture and language of Tamil Nadu and lament their modern-day negligence, Adhi has stated that Hiphop Tamizha does not want to preach that Tamil people should speak their native language or praise it unduly.
Rather, they aim to give it a little respect, similar to what other music has done for the English language. He has also said that he wants to change the Indian urban culture of hip-hop being about wearing “baggy pants, ‘bling’ and big shirts” and eliminate the notion that rap music is about “the money, the women and the gangster-ism.”
Hiphop Tamizha’s Notable Performances
In December 2010, Hiphop Tamizha performed live at “One Chennai, One Music”, (an event organised by Radio One to promote independent music in Chennai), which was one of the band’s first major gigs as underground artist.
In November 2011, Adhi and Bharadwaj Balaji performed at Astra, the two-day inter-school cultural festival of Bhavan’s Rajaji Vidyashram, Kilpauk. September 2012 was one of Hiphop Tamizha’s busiest months, with the band singing at Madras Christian College’s “Deepwoods”, Dr G R Damodaran College of Science’s Brand Expo 2012, Loyola College’s Ovations, Kilpauk Medical College’s Pradharshini, and Alagappa College of Technology’s Sampradha.
On 4 May 2013, Hiphop Tamizha appeared live at Madras Music Academy in a concert organised by SS International. Adhi performed for the second time at Madras Music Academy in October 2014, this time as part of SS International’s nine-day concert Navotsavam. In July 2015, Adhi sang at Isai Sangamam, a musical event organised by the NGO Raindropss. He also performed live at a January 2016 concert named Nenje Ezhu to raise funds for victims of the 2015 South Indian floods.
Adhi was an artist at the 9th Vijay Awards in April 2015.
Hiphop Tamizha’s Awards
The India Book of Records has recognised Hiphop Tamizha as the “first artiste to release a Tamil hip hop album from India”. On 14 February 2013, Adhi received the award for “Internet sensation of the year” from BIG FM 92.7. In the same month, he performed live at Madras Christian College’s cultural event Deepwoods. He also won the “Independent Artist of the Year” award at Anna University’s annual event Techofes.
In February 2015, Adhi was named “The Rising Star of 2014 Male” at the Edison Awards.
Hiphop Tamizha In Controversies
“Club le Mabbu le” became the subject of immense criticism due to its portrayal and depiction of Tamil women. Rapper Sofia Ashraf claimed that the song was not only disrespectful to women, but also an insult to rap music. In an interview with The Hindu, Adhi was quoted saying, “Hip hop is about self expression and opinions so such controversies are only natural.
The song was intended as a fun number and most people like it because the lyrics are witty. We also sings [sic] about social causes like education and individual identity”. In late August 2012, Adhi was reportedly “apologetic to whoever may be offended by the track.” In December 2015, Janani Karthik of The Times of India named the song as one of several Tamil songs “that have taken crass to an all-low level”.
In 2016, Adhi released “Takkaru Takkaru”, a music video that glorifies the Tamil sport jallikattu, with the intention of campaigning to have jallikattu legalised (claiming that the sport does not encourage animal cruelty). PETA India’s associate manager of campaigns Bhuvaneshwari Gupta described the video as factually inaccurate, adding that it actually showed many scenes of bulls being cruelly treated, and concluded, “Hip Hop Tamizha is better off sticking to just making music, because factual accuracy is not their strong point.
Respecting bulls is true Tamil culture, not inflicting pain on them and making them suffer.” Adhi decried these comments, stating that he would not believe in an organisation run by “foreigners” telling him that jallikattu is harmful to bulls.
In January 2017, Adhi was part of the protests against the ban on jallikattu, but withdrew later in the month after he felt they became too “anti-India”.
Hiphop Tamizha’s Other works
In November 2013, Hiphop Tamizha launched “Tamizhanda Clothing”, a collaboration between the duo and a firm named Difference of Opinion. Adhi announced that he would launch his second business venture, “Madrasi Mafia”, a music label to manage independent music artists in October 2014. The venture succeeded in 2015.
In July 2015, Adhi conducted a seminar on brand management, titled “Face to Face: Hiphop Tamizhan” at Dr G R Damodaran College of Science, Coimbatore.