Three youngsters have taken it upon themselves to popularise the musical genre of hip-hop in the twin cities. These self-taught, self-styled artistes, Mohammed Shahjahan, Mohammed Hidayat and Santosh Kumar who form the HydStreetCulture, cipher at public spaces like parks, the Necklace Road and Metro stations. And sure, they have succeeded in strengthening the hip- hop community in Hyderabad. Ciphering is a planned or impromptu gathering of rappers or dancers where they freestyle rap or dance
It all started when Shahjahan shifted from Chandigarh to Hyderabad and missed the musical vibe of the strong hip-hop community he had been a part of in Chandigarh. Gradually, he and his friend, Hidayat put their minds together to bring hip-hop artists together and formed the Hyderabad Street Culture. Santosh was a common friend of the two who rapped and was excited about about the idea. Shahjahan shares, “After my father’s demise, my mother and I came to Hyderabad where I didn’t see an active hip-hop culture. I missed that. The biggest concern was that hip-hop artistes are often judged as anti-social; we wanted to change that notion.“
After initial logistical hiccups over matching schedules, they began jamming in Secunderabad where they stay and work.
As word of their jamming spread through their network of hip-hop lovers, they decided to do an open cipher at the Necklace Road in March, 2023. “It was just a bunch of us, without any boomboxes. It was encouraging for us to see people stop by and listen to us attentively and react to the lyrics,” adds Shahjahan. By the end of that evening, the group grew and the casual meet-up turned out to be a planned gathering of performers.
Hidayat recalls, “From that point onwards, it was all about announcing a date. We wanted voluntary participation, even as an audience, because it means we have made an impression on them. The next plan was to perform while commuting on the Metro. Here too we started with four members and were pleasantly surprised when passengers pulled out their phones, recorded us and clapped. Instead of looking at their phones, they listened to us, cheered us. Here we met dancers who made the best use of the space to dance. This is how we are growing.”
Within the last four months, Hyderabad Street Culture has grown to become a community of 200 rappers. Santosh Kumar who has been rapping for over five years on his own says, “The rapper community raps in Telugu, Hindi, Dakhani and English. We are proud to have regional rappers with us. We give artistes opportunities to explore their talent by doing open cipher. We have also started performing shows. There is no good or bad. It is all about learning and helping each other to grow.”
Hyderabad Street Culture as a community sings about all sorts of issues from wanting to be recognised to global warming. They are working on developing their YouTube channel for which Santosh is actively monitoring the lyrics and content.