GQ India|June 2020
My first introduction to hip-hop,” Smokey the Ghost tells me, “was through basketball.”This may be an unexpected revelation for those who know the 29-year-old Bengaluru rapper for jazzy beats and socially conscious lyrics that touch subjects ranging from Donald Trump to Syrian war refugees and secularism. But Smokey, née Sumukh Mysore, found his way to rap music when his head started nodding to the soundtrack of the NBA Live 08 video game, back in 2007. With East Coast luminaries such as CL Smooth and KRS-One featuring in the game, the emcee’s introduction to hip-hop was founded in the lyrical complexity and understated beats common to old-school New York rap.
This teenage evolution blossomed on early social media. Text-based rap battles on Orkut eventually turned into audio recording as Smokey joined Brodha V and Bigg Nikk to form Machas With Attitude, or MWA, a pioneering South Indian rap crew whose name played on that of NWA, the late 1980s Los Angeles hip-hop pioneers. In the past several years, having gone solo, Smokey’s flow has refined and his political lyrics have – on releases such as 2018’s Her Name Is ? and last year’s The Human Form – evolved from simple sloganeering to sophisticated metaphor.
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