KARACHI : There was a time when rap music had little to no following in Pakistan. Muhammad Dar, popularly known as Xpolymer Dar, has lived through that time as he has been composing music since 2005.
In 2010, he formed the band Rap Engineers in Islamabad, alongside Maddy Khan, Yaruq Malik and Ghauri, who serves as the audio engineer. The crew has been making waves in the underground scene for years and recently caught the attention of Team Backpack, one of the largest underground hip-hop music platforms in the world.
Team Backpack brought in Rap Engineers for a new song that they featured on their platform. “We organised an event called They-See Battle League which offered rap battles between artists. Team Backpack heard our track Dangal and approached us to do a cypher for them,” Dar told The Express Tribune. “They are based in the US but were looking to expand worldwide. They have already branched out to Spain and The Philippines and with our track They-See Cypher they aimed to include Pakistan as well.” Dar added they brought in Hashim Nawaz for the cypher and are working on more projects with Team Backpack currently.
With the Rap Engineers gaining a lot of buzz underground, they were also set to collaborate with Pakistani-American rapper Lazarus. However, the plan fell apart due to the interference from another artist, Bohemia. Dar confessed, “We had worked out the details and were all set for the collaboration. On other hand, Lazarus was also going to collaborate with Bohemia. He was flying to Pakistan and during his stopover in Turkey, he called and told us that Bohemia said if Lazarus collaborated with the Rap Engineers, he won’t collaborate with him.”
Asked for a potential explanation behind Bohemia’s actions, Dar said he was dumbfounded. “I have no idea, except the fact that a lot of artists in the industry are insecure. Maybe when he saw that we were catching some buzz, he got insecure. In fact, in the song titled CPEC, which we were supposed to do with Lazarus, I replaced a verse and added a new one addressed to Bohemia.”
While that collaboration fell apart, Dar is still busy working on bringing back the They-See Battle League this year. “We had one in 2014 and in 2015. The third one was supposed to happen in December last year but it got delayed due to sponsorship issues. We are hoping to bring it back this year.”
As for his view of other emerging rappers in Pakistan, Dar is quite optimistic. “I have seen days when no one listened to rap music in Pakistan. So, I can relate to the new guys coming in and trying to prove themselves. That’s why I started They-See Battle League; I want to support them in any way. I’m not earning money from this. In fact, I put in mine.”
Dar, who pioneered Sufi rap in Pakistan with songs fusing Baba Bulleh Shah’s kalams, defines Rap Engineers as an experimental crew. “We play around with a lot of stuff. I did Sufi rap, brought in some ghazal so I would have to say we are all about experimentation.”
A huge fan of Tupac and Nas, Dar said if he had a choice to collaborate with any artist, it would be Timberland. “I would bring in Timberland as the producer and I would rap alongside Nas. He’s a legend.”
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