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Articles May-June 2021

Pursuing the Pro Audio Trail

In conversation with Caroline Moss and Sue Gould

PT got in touch with the Pro AVL Asia magazine core team of Editor - Caroline Moss and Sales Director - Sue Gould, who between them boast of over three decades of experience in the pro audio industry..... read more

NJSM Marks a Milestone in the Business of Sound

From Rental Company to manufacturer and innovator, Nixon Johnny has guided and grown NJSM from a two-person company to a fifty-person company, continuing to expand into virtual events with NJSM Virtual Studio..... read more

Tech Savvy Environment for T-Systems

Eyte Technologies installs high-tech AV Solution at T-System’s Experience Center facilitating brand value and delivering superior customer experience..... read more

Conversations with SudeepAudio

Sudeep Audio, one of India’s first pro audio web store selling studio software and equipment online commenced its YouTube Channel, ConverSAtions, in 2011 to share the journey of Indian Sound Engineers..... read more

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Divine’s Debut Album Marks India’s Arrival in The Global Hip Hop Scene


The hip-hop movement in India has been snowballing for the last few years gaining critical momentum through the release of the Oscar-nominated film Gully Boy. Hindi and regional rap has made it’s way from the gullies of Dharavi to the big screen and has even created an impression on east coast rap mogul Nas. There is no better testament to this journey than the debut album of Divine, the golden child of India’s hip-hop scene. Titled Kohinoor, the 8 track album was released in early October on Nas-owned Mass Appeal Records and marks a significant milestone for the hip-hop community. The DNA of hip-hop is not just defined by the beats, but also through lyricism and language. It is a vehicle through which the stories of struggle are narrated, infused with a rhythmic cadence or ‘flow’ and generous dose of local slang that gives it authenticity and identity. The genre is further defined through a range of production and mixing techniques, from booming 808 drums to sampling jazzy breaks and catchy musical toplines. Kohinoor is written with this DNA at heart, a solid musical record that could have been made to shine brighter on the production and mixing front.

The Review

For the purposes of this review, the music was heard through Audeze LCD2 headphones as well as Adam A5X studio monitors.

What sticks out on first impression is the range of music and production styles that span the album, from east coast and old school hip-hop to more contemporary trap and even dancehall beats. It is not often that you hear such a range of production styles, especially since an album is an artist’s endeavour to define one underlying sound through multiple narratives. Albums are usually milestones in the evolution of an artist’s sound and Kohinoor is more of a showcase of the various styles through which Divine defines his art form. The album has tracks that would take off on a dance floor, featuring catchy hooks mixed with heavy bass and kick drums like Chal Bombay, to head-bobbing story based tracks like Kohinoor, and even soulful R&B influences heard on Too Hype. This type of album programming would seem a bit confusing to traditional hip-hop audiences in the West. However, India has a deep rhythmic culture that ranges from the pulsating beats of Ganpati to more half-time dhol rhythms, so we are no stranger to a diverse palette of percussion and our ears are already tuned to digest a variety of tempos and rhythmic feels.

The overall mix on the album is quite enjoyable, however it does get a bit 2D at times. An immersive 3D mix style with a wide dynamic range is something which keeps the listener engaged and prevents ear fatigue. This can be brought out through a more comprehensive use of the mixing space; panning out instruments and introducing light movement in elements to play with the stereo sound field. It is also a great way to subtly create tension and release over the duration of a track, using mix techniques to feed the narrative of the song. Focusing in on the vocal mix, they strive to be strong and upfront with not a lot of FX going on. The amplitude and EQ levels seem to vary on the vocals, sitting well on the mix like in Vibe Hai, yet appearing muddy like in Gandhi Money. This variance is often a result of using different vocal mixing chains and calls for a consistency in dynamics. Frequency masking is an issue that can arise from having too many elements sharing the same space, and that can be heard especially in the low-mids in tracks like Remand. Too many instruments are fighting for presence in the 200-1000 Hz range, which dilutes the punch that is needed for an impactful mix. In contrast to this, Too Hype has a well established relationship between the vocal and the instrument elements. A stronger balance between dry and wet vocals could have been further explored, introducing more reverb automation, delays, harmony stacks and FX processing that would add the bells and whistles or ear candy to really make the vocals pop. The sound of the vocals across the tracks should ideally have one defining characteristic that is consistent and emphasises the sweet spot, and the rest of the mix should be built around this focal point.

Instrumentally speaking tracks like Chal Bombay and Wallah have a beautiful and well rounded feel in the low end and all the layers sit together in a tight mix. They have a good amount of bounce and punchy percussion and really deliver a satisfying experience to the listener. Chal Bombay in particular also has a nice sparkly high end that seems to be missing in other tracks and really stands out as it has good presence across the full frequency spectrum. The final track Too Hype has the most dynamic mix on the album, and the instruments are arranged and mixed in a real-story telling manner with an ebb and flow in the percussion. Built on low end, hip-hop mixes can become too boomy if proper control is not exercised. Rather than boosting EQs, a standard trick is to introduce upper harmonics through saturating the low end in order to give it presence. This also allows one to better define where the kick, bass and vocals sit in the low mids, since these are there 3 elements that are often fighting for space and presence. Most of the tracks also feature pads or sustained melodic content in the background that adds a nice tonality, but remain static for the most part. Often overlooked, sidechaining is a great technique to make such layers pump and breathe with the drums or with other toppling melodies.

Marking a significant milestone for Indian hip-hop, Kohinoor is definitely a diverse showcase of the artist’s lyrical style and story telling ability. Favourites like Chal Bombay and Too Hype are real indicators that homegrown Hip Hop is reaching global standards in terms of mix and production. The album is his story and speaks to his audience, and his journey from a youtube rapper to the big leagues is something a lot of young MCs look upto. Indian hip hop has spread like a wildfire, and the flag bearers now also have the responsibility of growing and progressing the sound and style into a an art form that cross borders, not just be enjoyed domestically within the country. The music and vocals for Kohinoor were composed and recorded by a number of producers such as Ill Wayno from NYC, Phenom from Goa & Xplicit from Delhi. The album has been mixed and mastered by Charles Wakeman at Circle House Studios and Abhishek Ghatak at Headroom Studios.