15 Sep 2017
5 min read
Already several releases deep in his short career, rapper Aasis Rana, also known as Laure, has made a reputation for himself as a multifaceted entertainer. Music, movies, TV--you name it, he has done it all.
From the get-go, as a rookie rapper, he charmed Nepali audiences in the rap battle Raw Barz--with his experimental and lyrical prowess, as well as his wise streak of social commentary. After completing his latest stint as a judge on the TV show Himalaya Roadies, Laure is now busy adding the finishing touches to the slew of music videos he is set to release from his latest album--Chup Laag.
In this interview with VMAG's Alok Thapa, Laure shares that he refrains from capitalising on current issues to garner hits, and prides himself on writing about topics that appeal to his heart first. His aim is simple: to make music everyone can live with.
What's keeping Laure busy nowadays?
I just finished shooting for Himalaya Roadies. The show was a steep learning curve for me, and being part of the show as one of the judges was something that I enjoyed immensely. I'm also working on releasing music videos of my songs from my latest album--Chup Laag.
Of late, my focus has been on collaborating with good music producers so that I can bring finesse to my songs--which I believe were lacking professional execution. I'm also writing a screenplay. If everything goes smoothly, who knows where life will take me. Usually, when I land in Kathmandu, I live a hectic schedule--there are always so many gigs, new collaborations and new projects I'll be working on.
We hear you get homesick easily. Don't you feel that it's a bad thing for an artist?
Call me a homebody or a recluse, but for me there's no better place in this world than my room in my home in Pokhara. I find detaching myself from everything around me for even just a couple of hours, every day, quite therapeutic. While 'Laure', my alter ego, lives to perform and feeds off the energy of the stage, the personal side of me--Aasis Rana--needs that solitude. This is also the time when I do most of my writing. I'm usually creative and have a lot of ideas when I'm alone.
Let's talk about your film experience; was it everything you expected?
So many events in my life have happened in a seemingly unplanned fashion. I might as well be the poster child for accidental opportunities. The makers of Tandav wanted me to ride the wave of my Raw Barz fame, and they offered me the movie. At first, I didn't want to accept the offer, but then I thought why not. Little did I know that I would be the lead. During the rehearsals and acting classes, I had a rough time. Everybody around me was so seasoned and professional, and I did go through major bouts of inferiority complex. The movie didn't do as well as expected, but what I took away from that experience was priceless to me--it has helped me bring out the emotional side of me in my music videos and even in my rapping.
How do you go about marketing your work?
There's a huge disparity between the underground rappers and the mainstream rappers, and coming from the former domain, I can understand where it's all coming from. There are so many artists with incredible talent, but they don't know how to market themselves. How someone packages a 'product' plays a big role in how well it is received or how well it sells. The hip-hop scene in Nepal is a small, almost niche, circle, and our focus right now should be to produce materials that will transcend genres and draw more listeners. So, my aim is to deliver a complete package, one that will please the underground scene as well as tempt the mainstream.
How do you pen your songs?
See, the trend in the Nepali hip-hop scene is to pick a burning issue and drop a single. But I have always refrained from doing that. You see, until and unless I can relate to a topic and connect with it, I cannot rap about it. That's why most of my materials are lyrical as opposed to technical--where you just cram words after words.
Give us a peek into Aasis Rana's life before he became 'Laure'.
I was a very nerdy kid who didn't fraternise much. Most of my school friends in Pokhara come from the British Army family backgrounds, and whenever they used to go for holidays, they would return with imported gifts. That's how I was introduced to Eminem. When I was in class six, my friend handed me a DVD of Eminem's The Slim Shady LP, which at first I thought was a porn movie, so I secretly logged on to my father's desktop PC, full of anticipation, but after I hit the play button, everything changed--and my life would never be the same again.
Were you surprised by your newfound affinity for hip-hop?
I think that even before I consciously started following the hip-hop scene, my affinity towards word-play and rhythm was always there. I used to enjoy debating with my friends, in an almost lyrical style, and during deusi or bhailo. I enjoyed improvising to age-old songs and coming up with lines of my own.
How supportive has your family been in your hip-hop journey?
In Nepal, we still don't readily accept or encourage careers in sports and music. And on top of that, people automatically associate hip-hop with gang violence, drugs and many other things. So yes, my parents wouldn't have been comfortable with my involvement in hip-hop, but like I said, I can be difficult to read because I keep to myself. So for the most part, my parents didn't know what I was doing in my room, or about my performances. I don't understand people who talk about how difficult their journeys have been because they didn't have any family backing. In the end, it's up to you to carve your own niche. Narayan Gopal might or might not have garnered support from his parents, but his struggle and his journey were his own; the credit for his success all goes to him, and his self-belief.
What inspired your first song?
Initially, I didn't know how to write my own stuff. I was closely observing a lot of rappers, and following their materials, but it never crossed my mind to pen my own songs. When I was doing my bachelors, a friend asked me how many songs I had written, and when I didn't have any answer, it shocked me as much as it shocked my friend. I started writing down my thoughts and experimenting with words. One of my friends suggested that I should write a song detailing my rejection from the British Army, and that's how my first song 'Mero Solta' came about.
How did you end up with the moniker 'Laure'?
Because I got rejected for the British Army, I was quite depressed. I was not attending college regularly and would spend my days locked away in my room. During one of those days, my dad decided to drop me off at college, and I ended up just sitting in an empty classroom. A bearded guy wearing daura-suruwal and dhaka topi walked into the classroom and we started talking. While we were talking, he jokingly said that since I looked like an army man, and since I did get rejected from the military, he was going to call me laure. The name has stuck with me ever since.
How was your Raw Barz experience?
Raw Barz was one of those life-altering experiences that don't happen to just anyone. I remember having this text battle with a guy on the Facebook page of Raw Barz; as it happened, it drew everyone's attention, including that of Yama Buddha and Kolin Bikram Rana, who called me to participate in a rap battle. Then, my friend and I somehow managed to pool enough money to go to Kathmandu to participate in the competition. The experience was life altering; I met a lot of wonderful rappers, and then I had the showdown with Unik Poet, which created rap history.
Technically, in rapping, the more you rap the better you get. But does your content evolve as well?
My music is a direct reflection of me. From the mixing of words, the beats, the content, or even the way I rap--everything is a direct representation of the changes in my life. Everything has progressed, including the content, just because as a human, I've evolved. My aim is simple: to make music everyone can live with.
What has hip-hop taught you?
Hip-hop has taught me to find my own voice, and most importantly, my own sound. See, your identity is more than the trap beat with the same words that are repeated over and over again. You need to learn what works for you. More importantly, hip-hop has given me the confidence to pick myself up when I'm down, even at times when I cannot give my 100 per cent. The reason Eminem became my all-time favourite artist was because he was open and honest with his feelings. He talks about going through addiction, his relationship with his mother and how he wants his daughters to remember him. Honesty is something that gives you meaning in life--and that correlates with your work (or the hits you will achieve).