My jaw dropped when I heard the latest track — Apna Daur Ayega — by this little wonder kid who calls himself Kaky Thou$and. So much so, that I had to look up the video to see him spitting lyrics like a pro for myself. It’s already garnered over 3.3 million views! A quick internet search revealed other songs and collaborations — mostly with the same group of usual suspects — with this kid who was rapping away with perfect timing. And he does it with lots and lots of swag.
There’s nothing childlike about how Kaky presents himself. It’s like he wants you to know that, although he may look young, he means business. There’s the usual mimicking of western rap and hip-hop artists with the baggy jeans and sleeveless T-shirts, shades and blingy chains. The production of the videos and songs, which I’m assuming have been done on a shoe-string budget, are surprisingly good.
After Eva B from Lyari shook up the music scene through her talent and age, we now have Kaky Thou$and dropping in, like a little force to be reckoned with, on our quarantined and socially-distant selves. The timing could not be better. Confined to our homes for weeks on end, one of the things people around the world have been turning to help relieve stress and anxiety in these uncertain times has been art. And art almost always delivers.
Before we get to Apna Daur Ayega, we need to talk about the impact last year’s Bollywood release, Gully Boy, has had on the Pakistani rap and hip-hop scene. The film, which can now be seen on Amazon Prime, showed briefly in Pakistani cinemas right before Bollywood films were banned in the wake of the Pulwama attack, that escalated tensions between India and Pakistan. Bollywood films have not been shown on the big screen in Pakistan since.
Apna Daur Ayega by eight-year-old rapper Kaky Thou$and is the cutest form of protest music to come out of Pakistan
The Zoya Akhtar-directed film, which is inspired by the life of street rappers Divine and Naezy (a documentary on their life, called Gully Life: The Story of Divine, can be seen on YouTube) tells the story of a talented young rapper, Murad (played by Ranveer Singh), who rises from the slums of Mumbai and makes a name for himself in the local rap scene.
Not surprisingly, the film has had a massive impact on music from Lyari. Rap and hip hop were always popular but, since Gully Boy, there’s been an almost mushrooming of rap acts coming out from the area. Most of them sing protest poetry or write similar-sounding songs to the title track of Gully Boy, Apna Time Ayega, but adapted to the conditions and issues faced by artists in Lyari.
In that respect, Apna Daur Ayega is the same, yet it is also different — because we’re hearing from Kaky and the artist he collaborated with, Asif Balli, on what matters to them.
Surprisingly, Apna Daur Ayega, is more of an inspirational, uplifting track that exhorts the merits of hard work versus a song that lists only grievances. The first half features Kaky Thou$and, while the chorus makes way for the older, mature-r Asif Balli. It’s a pretty standard rap song but it’s the lyrics that communicate its messaging.
Kaky introduces himself as:
“Been hai band kyonke tokri mein saanp nahin hai,
Main super se bhi upar honay wala star hoon bhai,
Mic pakarr ke, baatein chaar kar ke,
Stage ko hila doonga mein rap kar ke.”
[The been is silent because there are no snakes in the basket
I’m going to be a bigger star than just ‘super’,
I hold the mic, say a few words,
And shake the stage with my rap]
But it’s his collaborator, Asif Balli, who really carries the messaging forward:
Lana parrta hai time apna khud,
Ghar pe baithay ga to kaisay karay ka kuchh?
Muft mein tu chaahta hai milay sab kuchh.
Kamyaabi aati nahin chal ke beta, khud.
Jo maine seekha buray halaat ka hai nateeja,
Khud ko na samajh kam,
Tujh mein bhi hunar hai,
Ussay nikaal bahar jo teray andar hai
[You have to make your own success
How will you achieve anything sitting at home?
You want everything for free.
Success won’t just walk up to you.
I learned everything through adversity,
Don’t think less of yourself,
You have skills too,
Express what’s inside of you.]
Playing on Gully Boy, a part of the main chorus goes, “Apna time nahin apna daur ayega! [Not just my time, my era will come!]
Indeed, it has.
Published in Dawn, ICON, May 10th, 2020