WON Tribe’s Ashwini Hiremath aka Krantinaari can never forget the first time she got to know her partner, Pratika E Prabune popularly called MC Pep. It was at a party after a gig in Mumbai when Ashwini could hear Pratika’s voice in every corner of the room for two hours. “She was so energetic and I connected with that energy. It is a completely different feeling when someone really matches your vibe, Pratika did and I knew she was the one.”
Soon, the duo came out with Labels, the first track of their rapper collective WON Tribe. The verses of the song hit out against the discrimination faced by people on the basis of their skin colour. The song with visuals of real people shows the mirror to the society and demands change.
In an interview with SheThePeople, Pratika and Ashwini revealed that their biggest influence in rap music has been artist Zack De la Rocha, the vocalist of popular American rock band Rage Against The Machine. The social and political awareness of De la Rocha’s verses seem to have left its mark on WON Tribe’s music.
Interestingly, both the Mumbai-based artists of WON Tribe work day jobs and still find time to come out with power-packed numbers. While Pratika works for Ticket fairy, Ashwini is a communication designer at Microsoft. Apart from working on music as partners, Ashwini and Pratika also have their individual music to focus on. And all of it is managed in seven days of the week with weekends solely dedicated to music.
One can’t help but notice the edgy outfits on the rapper duo in their music videos. Surprisingly, they are neither expensive labels nor organised by any stylist. Ashwini says “Every time we start a shoot we think of getting stylists, then suddenly we are looking for our old clothes and end up mixing and matching them. Full Jugaad.”
The duo tells us that the outfit they wore in their recent music video Tyranny of Power was actually a happy accident. Old clothes were spray painted, jewellery was made out of cardboard cutouts and all of it happened when Pratika reached Ashwini’s house with a bag full of her clothes and found something very similar in Ashwini’s closet. “We get so much done at our homes, we are like a semi-production house. ”
Women Are Great Together
If the duo has to tell one thing they have learned after working together then it is, “Women can work together!”. The stereotype that women don’t get along is something that Pratika and Ashwini are actively trying to break. Pratika says that the duo is in sync with everything they do. It’s the shared values between them that makes it easier.
“Ashwini loves to keep learning and is a very hardworking person. That is something I love about artists. She and I are constantly doing research together, ” Pratika says. She also believes that Ashwini is a fierce woman and absolutely capable of doing anything she takes in her stride.
For Ashwini, it’s Pratika’s preciseness and how every work is always about quality for her. ” That chalta hai attitude does not work with her. She is also a very well-read person and can never think of basic ideas. When she enters a room, she makes it her own, dominating the whole scene. ” Ashwini calls Pratika ‘aatank’ (आतंक meaning terror) a woman who has the power and the clout.
Wild Wild Women
Their collaboration soon brought about Wild Wild Women, a female rapper collective with Indian rappers like MC Mahila, JQueen, Hashtagpretty, Demyth, Bgirl FlowRaw and others. The idea of creating India’s first female-rapper collective came to Ashwini when she was eating dosa with her friend Preeti aka Hashtagpretty. Earlier this year, the group released their first single titled, I Do It For Hip Hop. The song easily conveys the love of Wild Wild Women for hip hop.
Wild Wild Women do not think of YouTube as their only medium. They perform on the streets among real people so that one girl in some corner can find herself in them.
“I think there is a girl in every nook and corner trying to express herself and it’s up to us to go to each corner and get them out. Rather than saying that on youtube with preachy lyrics, having a female rapper performing on the streets can work far better. Girls on those streets can actually relate to her, ” Ashwini says.
The group witnessed change and the impact of their collective talent when they performed at a traditional Tamil wedding of JQueen’s sister. Hardly anyone in the audience got the lyrics but looking at the energy with which Wild Wild Women performed, JQueen’s mother said, “You do rap”.
Pratika says, “That acceptance was very new for JQueen as rapping is seen very differently in her society. Hearing her mother say those words felt like an achievement. “The cypher video of Wild Wild Women was also shot in MC Mahila’s neighbourhood. The people of her community started recognising her and her family grew to support and trust her.
Earning Support From Families
Pratika did not have to struggle much to gain her parents’ support. She was 12 years old when she stepped on the stage for the first time and played bass in a metal band. Although her father took some time to get used to it but her mother was always offering her full support.
Pratika says, “My mother comes from a conservative family where she was not allowed to pursue music so she had to sneak out of the house to do shows.” Other than her mother, metal vocalist Angela Gossow has been a role model for Pratika. Looking at Gossow growling into the mic made Pratika feel, “Women can do anything. I want to do that. It really shook something inside me. “From rock vocals to growl to hip hop, MC Pep has switched between many genres. Apart from writing and singing, she also produces her own music now.
Ashwini on the other hand faced many hurdles before becoming Krantinaari. She had a lot of explaining to do in front of her parents who just were not comfortable with her attending gigs and leaving her full-time job. While outside the home, she was bullied by men. It took her two years to release her first single in 2020. Some men would say to her face that she just cannot write, that she can’t do it and even discouraged her by saying that her voice is bad.
“I felt really bad because I can hone my skills but I cannot change the way I sound. But nothing stopped me as I kept going and I had the support of two people. Even then it was very difficult and it was not a healthy situation for me.” Just like she handled men in the rap music circle, she told her mother while walking with her one day, “No matter how much you try to stop me, I wont stop rapping. This thing is letting me say what I want to because at home I don’t get to do that.” There are two women artists she sees as role models. One is Amy True who made Krantinaari believe that she can enjoy the music the way she wants and the other one is rapper Manmeet Kaur.
“My mother started crying right way in the middle of the road!” After a while, her parents were convinced that Ashwini was not going through a phase and that she really was determined to make a career in the music industry. They even felt proud when they saw her on MTV.
The Male-dominated hip hop circles:
The act of putting people down in the hip hop industry comes from the fact that it is somewhere very egotistical, Pratika says. Many young girls just getting started at gigs are bullied like Krantinaari. Many guys scan them from top to bottom and no matter how good at performing a female artist is, some guy would be talking about her saying, ” I will take her home.”
“Half of the time, the girls don’t want to come back to gigs because of the way they are looked at, ” Ashwini says.
Responsibility of being artists:
Making music videos for the WON Tribe rapper duo is not restricted to studio works. They are seen in the streets, standing beside locals and belting hard-hitting verses while staring into the camera. ” Our whole writing process starts with research, we feel responsible enough to do understand the subjects we are talking about. We also tend to be among people so that they can relate, so that the music is public-oriented, ” Krantinaari says.
MC Pep says,” We think making music helps us reach out to so many more people, and when you have the platform where you have a voice. You will use that platform to the fullest. We part of society, speaking for sections of society. The duo also makes sure to not use cuss words in the verses unless the emotion is just too difficult to express without it. Gendered slangs are a big no.
For both the artist, being angry about something does not mean hating on people. It is because they believe in change. Pratika explains, “Existential issues and threatening feeling comes from changing environment. To hate something is like removing it from the ability of love. It’s okay to love something and be angry at it. ”