Soul Tap’s Nivla and P.Oberoi– Crashing the Superbowl

So…I meant to have this post up last week, but I have pneumonia and my life has come to a screeching halt after one damning chest x-ray. Despite such extenuating circumstances, I feel terrible about the delay, because the video embedded above, for New Yorkers Soul Tap featuring Nivla and P. Oberoi’s “Be Easy (Koi Naa)” is part of a contest sponsored by Doritos called “Crash the Superbowl“, for which voting ends either tomorrow or tonight (I’ve read both dates, so just vote asap).

I’m slightly comforted by the fact that the grassroots outreach on behalf of this South Asian American quartet has been solid, so you probably didn’t need SM to tell you about them (though you may have read about them on our news tab). I’m massively tickled by the fact that Nivla peppers rap with Malayalam phrases like I do my posts, though he is not as consumed with the word “kundi”. Despite that minor shortcoming, when he’s flowin “edi penne…ingota va “, I’m goin’, “HELL YES!”.

Barest of details about the group that is fighting off two Texans for a shot at an Interscope record deal plus sixty-seconds of prime-eyeball time for their video, during the biggest bowl of ‘em all:

Soul Tap Presents Nivla and P. Oberoi (yup, that’s their name), is a group composed of rapper Alvin “Nivla” Augustine, Punjabi folk singer Parag “P. Oberoi” Oberoi, Sharad “DJ Sharad” Bhavnani and sound engineer Raj “RVM Sounds” Makhija…
Their Indian-fused hip-hop – a nod of sorts to Jay-Z and Punjabi MC’s collaboration on the “Beware of the Boys” track a few years ago – lends Sub-continental style to the traditionally American rhythms.
“It’s who we are. We grew up listening to hip-hop, and then going home and our parents would have on a [classical Indian singer],” says DJ Sharad.
“We grew up with two cultures; the New York American one and the Indian one.” [NYP]

Read more of that article which was in the New York Post, it has the entire story about how the video which has got them this far almost wasn’t. Meanwhile, I will try to get over my raging disgust for MySpaz and log in, since that’s the only way to vote for the brown contenders. Voting ends soon; I know you have a profile on that visual-assault of a social networking program which crashes my browser every other time I visit– if you are so inclined, log in and vote to let Soul Tap/Nivla/P.Oberoi crash the super bowl. That just sounds mutinous.

83 thoughts on “Soul Tap’s Nivla and P.Oberoi– Crashing the Superbowl

  1. Bloody Red! I have to sign up for stupid MySpace to vote!! That’s a load of crap. Does anyone feel inclined to share their login info (or stolen info) so that we can go and vote to help our brown brethren?

  2. 1 · Jay in AA said

    Bloody Red! I have to sign up for stupid MySpace to vote!! That’s a load of crap.

    Yes, that’s unfortunate, innit? In fact, that’s the reason why I initially didn’t vote, despite hearing about it for the past few weeks on Friendster, Facebook and a dozen other ways. I didn’t even remember my login info, I hate the site that much. Still, hearing “from New York (somethingsomething) to Ernakalam” in a hip-hop song was enough to make me hit the “forgotten password” link. I voted last week and today. Paltry, but it’s something.

  3. anna, totally hear you. i just came back from ernakulam last week and OH MY GOD! this will be my cousins and my theme song!

  4. I ditto khoofia. “I have pneumonia” are three of the scariest words anyone can utter! Take good care and rest up and don’t feel guilty about not posting or anything like that.

  5. Anna, Tiger Balm for that pneumonia might help. It won’t make the pneumonia go away any faster but it will hopefully open up some of those airways. It’s sold in the major pharmacies now so you shouldn’t need to hit up the Asian grocer. Oh and some ginger and cinnamon in the chai wouldn’t hurt either. Some people swear by Chywanprash to stay healthy too.

    Thanks for the link. I’d heard of Sharad in the NY club scene but not of the group overall. Hope the boys Win! Channeling my inner punjabi…..brrrruuuaaaaaahhh……..chakdey phatey!

  6. Being a jatti, the odd thing about the title is Koi Naa actually means “it’s ok” or “it’s awright” in Punjabi. I hope they win, but that’s the punjabo-centric side of me speaking.

  7. Just to represent another slice of desi Americans, let me say that—ummmmm–my parents–yeah, my parents–would about have a heart attack if they saw this on prime-time TV–they would vociferously complain that this isn’t what they want non-desis (not that they use that term!) thinking desis are all about–classical dance (or Vikram Pandit), yes–this, no!

    Luckily, they won’t be watching the SuperBowl, so their health should be fine either way! And, of course, I don’t feel that way at all! No, not at all. ;-)

    Hope you feel better soon, Anna!

  8. Perhaps our parents aren’t the only ones who ought to be given pause, or are we to uncritically applaud the objectification of women when it’s done by potential desi celebrities simply because we feel somehow affirmed by their success in mainstream American society outside the standard realms of business, IT and medicine?

  9. Perhaps our parents aren’t the only ones who ought to be given pause, or are we to uncritically applaud the objectification of women when it’s done by potential desi celebrities simply because we feel somehow affirmed by their success in mainstream American society outside the standard realms of business, IT and medicine?

    There was no objectification of women…guys and girls both dancing…and the lyrics were pretty conventional. It’s just a stylised version of how people actually are in the clubs. Be a human being.

    As for the clip, I enjoyed it. I don’t often wish I was still in my 20s, but if that’s what the desi young’uns are up to these days…

    The last little thing he said in Punjabi was obnoxious and stupid. But hey! They’re kids.

  10. Hey Amitabh,

    For those of us who do not speak Punjabi, can you please translate the last bit that was “obnoxious and stupid”?

    Anna,

    Hope you have a speedy recovery.

  11. I second the Tiger Balm recommendation. It won’t cure the pneumonia — I trust you are on stronger medication for that — but it will offer temporary relief of some of the symptoms.

    About the ginger & cinnamon in the chai, though — ginger & cinnamon make sense (also black pepper), but isn’t one supposed to avoid dairy products during respiratory illnesses? I’m no expert but that’s what I thought. I would recommend brewing those spices in water instead (bring to a boil, then leave to steep for a few hours), then straining the water and drinking with honey. It’s what I do for bronchitis and it always helps me.

    Anyway. I am sorry you are sick, and though I am delighted by this post I don’t think you should feel guilty for not posting when you have PNEUMONIA, really.

  12. 11 · Amitabh said

    There was no objectification of women…guys and girls both dancing…and the lyrics were pretty conventional. It’s just a stylised version of how people actually are in the clubs.

    “Like a Kit Kat, you better break me off a piece o’ dat” doesn’t constitute objectification? Whether you describe the lyrics and dancing as “conventional” or “stylised,” and however accurately they’ve depicted actual behavior in clubland, it’s not as if the guys and girls are both dancing (or, more importantly, being shot/framed by the cameraman and editors) in comparable ways.

  13. I’ll be honest. I really like the Youtube clip better when I mute the music. Some of the women the back are foine. The music does nothing for me, however.

  14. it’s not as if the guys and girls are both dancing (or, more importantly, being shot/framed by the cameraman and editors) in comparable ways.

    Fine, I can agree with you there. But it’s a reflection of the culture depicted. And if women had made the video, they could have done it their way…and shown men the way they wanted. Which quite a lot of women do.

    Ek Ajnabi (#13): I’d have to go back and listen to the clip again to give you the exact translation, but (going from memory) what he said was along the lines of “why do you girls keep looking at me…it’s cause you want me so bad…well get in line…”

  15. yeah, that’s basically what he said and sums up the entire song, which is a big borefest of lame player posturing, will the real slim desi please stand up…

  16. My $.02 about the vid: I didn’t see any objectification of women. I’m a hip-hop fan and a queer feminist, so I often have the experience of loving the beats but hating the lyrics and/or imagery that go along with them. (That’s most of the experience, actually.) So I was actually relieved by this vid: I didn’t experience any moments that shook me out of my enjoyment of it. To me, the scene seemed like a party where people were getting down, having fun, and appreciating how gorgeous everyone else was, men and women. Yes, he was rapping about wanting to have sex, but that’s not automatically sexist in and of itself. Does “break me off a piece of that” have some violent or woman-hating connotation that I’m unaware of?

    Anyhoo – that’s my feeling. I did get pissy at the New York Post quote above, tho’.

    Their Indian-fused hip-hop – a nod of sorts to Jay-Z and Punjabi MC’s collaboration on the “Beware of the Boys” track a few years ago

    Um, I’m pretty sure that these genuinely bicultural guys (as explained in the next paragraph) did not write this song as “a nod” to Jay-Z. This is their culture. Jay-Z is not the creator of hip-hop/Indian sound, and these guys don’t create their sounds as some kind of homage to him. Right? Jeez.

  17. ANNA, I hope you have a loved one to take care of you because someone needs to be making you some rasam and chai. Pneumonia is a tough one.

    As for the video, what’s offensive about it? The zebra-print painter’s cap, I tell you what. Otherwise, it’s all beautiful. The music is fun and it’s fascinating to hear the mix of languages. I hope they crash that bowl!

  18. I know this is quite unhip, but when he says, “get your ass on the dance floor”, I would almost wish someone took him literally.

    Amitabh – i thought it went somethng like this, “hey babe! are you checking me out? i know you like me. -fge33jdijfmumble43kjdfdj-”. well, it’s that or i’m rooting the wrong angle on this [;-) ht: mel_D].

  19. isn’t one girl wearing a sari coorgi style? x i thought the guys dancing was funny. he also says kottayam and thiruvananthapuram…. haha.

  20. I know this is quite unhip, but when he says, “get your ass on the dance floor”, I would almost wish someone took him literally.

    khoofia, are you saying the dancing is bad and everyone should just sit down? ha! You call that dancing?! It look’s more like the mating dance of the blue-footed booby. That’s for You, nature lover!

    As hip hop videos go, this one’s rather modest. The camera is not working angles all over some girl’s body -no booty shots, no grinding, did anyone notice any cleavage? almost disappointing… These ladies look like they’re enjoying how beautiful they are and that others are noticing them – young, nubile bodies and raging hormones, what’s so wrong with that?

  21. Well – i think there is a good beat. the lyrics are cute and nothing offensive imo. for instance [2:00] “drank some booze. guys, it went to my head. met a punjaban. we hit it off…” etc. this is really normal stuff. guys. it’s this or we sit around clanging manjeeray and singing spirituals.

  22. I think Lizzie and Amitabh nailed it. What may seem offensive to some is not misogynist but really just the braggadocious nature of hip hop and youth. Do you have the same reaction to Hard Kaur who has a similar type of lyric? If you’ve ever been out on a thurs. night in NYC or in London, young people do dress this way when hitting the club. Dang, I wish was a few years younger and my trick knee would hold up. Where’s my walker?

    While I agree that the women aren’t shot comparably to the men, why would they be? No offense to the fellas but the women are much more attractive and provide a more pleasing visual aesthetic. Evil Abhi is on to something.

    While I might prefer to hear Gurdas Mann sing this, the music represented by Soul Tap reflects what some desi kids listen to in the US. It might be a bit slim desi but I think one has to acknowledge that it’s very cool that a DESI act has a chance at appearing on a Superbowl spot and who knows what a broader exposure to Desi music could portend. (even if it’s just mixed with American hip hop). It’s also nice that they seem to reflect a pan-desi bent rather than exalting one region over another.

    In sum, take a breath and chill. It’s just a music video, the music is decent, well made, and not an embarrassment in any way. Again, I hope they win ………and the Giants too.

  23. Jangali Jaanwar:

    Tiger Balm for that pneumonia might help

    Tiger Balm! Who told you to put on a balm? I didnt tell you to put a balm on! Do you even know what a balm does? Noone knows what a balm does thats why its called a balm!!

    I had to throw in that Seinfeld reference. Hope you feel better.

  24. Compared to your typical Indian movie song, this video is pretty G Rated. It is preferable to that video posted over here more than a month ago where the chick who plays the sassy Latino in The L Word raps and some Hindi woman sings. But it is still very blah. That punjabi part got annoying after a while. This is the best the SB sponsors could find?

    The only fusion thing that hit the mainstream I liked so far was that song that was a hit a few years ago where they sampled the Knightider theme.

  25. sampled the Knightider theme. that’s the overplayed ‘beware of the boy’s’ by punjabi mc

    this song is not so bad and actually the video is not objectfying women at all, have you seen some latest bollywood movie songs??!!

    This is on par with some of the uk fusion artists and has a nice beat….

  26. that’s the overplayed ‘beware of the boy’s’ by punjabi mc

    The hot Punjabi song that wouldn’t die. It first came out in ’98, when it blew up, then it got featured on the American Desi soundtrack, where it kept blowing up, and then Jay-Z had to go sample it, from whence I’ve never been able to escape it in any lounge or club ever again.

  27. khoofia, are you saying the dancing is bad and everyone should just sit down?

    well… the dancing was fine imo. i just wanted a donkay. nothing like a gray ungulate to liven matters on the floor. btw, before the knees and the belly got mushy, i could do handflips and all y’know. sigh. no rythm but now we got to look all mature. growing old sucks. :-( but at least we can hang with badi khala [auntie] Dari, chew the paan and reminisce about old times when the kids respected gray chin hair.

  28. I just listened to this abortion song and this song is not even close to becomming a hit in mainstream America. The Punajbi MC song was a hit because of the Knight rider beat and Jay-Z and this song has neither. AHHHHH, the growing pains of Indians in Hip-hop are sometimes to great for me to handle. It’s not just Indian’s, but even black people suck at it these days. When are the Wu-Tang Clan coming back? Though,I do like Lupe Fiasco

  29. btw, before the knees and the belly got mushy, i could do handflips and all y’know. *sigh*. no rythm but now we got to look all mature. growing old sucks.

    c’mon khoofie, you can shake the man boobs ; ) That’d be daring.

  30. 34 · ShallowThinker said

    The Punajbi MC song was a hit because of the Knight rider beat and Jay-Z and this song has neither.

    I don’t love this either, but I thought “Beware of the Boys” was Jay-Z’s worst rapping, ever. It ruined the song.

  31. Yeah Jay-Z was horrible in that song, but just him being on it helpped to put it on American radio stations.

  32. 34 · ShallowThinker said

    When are the Wu-Tang Clan coming back? Though,I do like Lupe Fiasco

    The clan dropped an album last year. Even the Wu-Tang aren’t what they used to be. A tad bit unfair to require new hip hop acts (desi or otherwise) to be as gifted as the Clan, no? It’s like saying every new basketball player who isn’t close to Jordan isn’t worthy of playing ball or any cricketer who doesn’t possess Ganguly or Tendulakar like skills shouldn’t be on the pitch. Your bar maybe a wee bit high. (Though it’s a very good goal nonetheless).

    As for “beware of the boys”, I thought it accomplished its goal when it first came out, it made one move to the music. Even the uncles and aunties were getting their groove on to it at the local weddings. After all, it is not meant as “high art”, its about moving your euromaker.

  33. Not so much a comment on this post, but…. pneumonia!? Ouch. Take care of yourself and get well soon!

  34. “When are the Wu-Tang Clan coming back?”

    They are back…their new album……so so.

  35. Well I see no one’s with me on the painter cap issue(80s ew). Too busy getting upset about the ladies in the video or the kids’ actual sound to worry about their fashion statements that have gone awry. Fine, I’ll stand alone then. And I’ll finish by saying that if you’re going to go retro, go at like this guy. Nothing says “hip” or “hop” quite like a bowler and some red socks. Think about it Soul Tap. JJ, all your talk about music and trick knees has mine going all weak.

  36. “A tad bit unfair to require new hip hop acts (desi or otherwise) to be as gifted as the Clan, no?”

    I think that should be the requirement….if your shit isn’t as good as ‘TEARZ’ or ‘CLAN IN THE FRONT’ then get the fuck out the game!

  37. I don’t love this either, but I thought “Beware of the Boys” was Jay-Z’s worst rapping, ever. It ruined the song.

    I agree. I liked the original version before JayZ came and ruined it with his distinctive lazy sounding delivery. He just rapped some generic crap on it. I remember MTV playing the video of the version without the JayZ rap in it. About the last time MTV actually played videos in primetime.

  38. 43 · glass houses said

    I think that should be the requirement….if your shit isn’t as good as ‘TEARZ’ or ‘CLAN IN THE FRONT’ then get the fuck out the game!

    Then you can close your ears to most of the music that’s out there, including some of Jay, Nas, ATCQ, Lupe, Common etc. as it is highly unlikely that you’ll find another piece of music that evokes the same feeling you had when you first listened to Tearz or Clan in the front. None of the artists I mentioned, who are respected for their talent, are identical to Wu-Tang’s style. Nor for that matter is everyone going to agree with your sense of taste. For others, Fugees maybe the gold std. for hip-hop and for others it may have been Black Moon or Das-Efx or in the West, NWA or crunk or in H-town, it maybe the Geto Boys. And for others, Hip-Hop is an anathema. Music much like art and beauty, it is in the eye or in this case the ear of the beholder.

    While it is fair to say that you like your music to sound a certain way, by setting your own arbitrary std, only limits your ability to appreciate the constellation of differing musical talent and tastes. It also deprives you of feeling something new as you cling to your notion of what “hip-hop” is. But that’s your prerogative. Personally, I’d like to see more mash-ups and fusions of music attempted to create something new and evocative (even if it doesn’t always work) rather than be the old man in the rocking chair who whenever his ass twitches says “they don’t make music like they used to”.

    Bess, thank you, you always have a way of making a brown man blush.

  39. Jangali I engineered for Dj Premier in the early 90s so please stuff your self righteous, academic BS up your ass. You’re going to put ATCQ and Lupe in the same sentence…Lupe isn’t even fit to carry Q-Tip’s vinyl…please!

  40. De-lurking after almost two years to say that I don’t find this video particularly troubling in terms of objectification of women… it’s pretty normal as far as hip-hop youth culture goes. It’s not that bad compared to a lot of stuff, i.e. while there are some lingering shots there’s not lots of skin or derogatory lyrics (but then I don’t understand the Punjabi that much). However, if you’re someone that finds how male-dominated and often misogynistic mainstream hip-hop (and popular music at large) is in general, this could bother you, because you could look at it as a symptom of the same thing. I don’t feel this way, but then I’m feeling very lukewarm toward these guys right now, maybe I’ll need to hear some of their other stuff to really care. Because I think while the fusing of beats and dance styles from two different traditions is really interesting, this also doesn’t exactly strike my fancy. I could dance to this, when I’m dancing I could dance to some of the nastiest shit as long as it’s got a decent (not even good… my qualifications are pretty low) beat, but other than that I’m not really interested in it. And I don’t have a myspace account, nor do I feel like getting one, but good luck to them. I don’t think anyone should be worried about these guys affecting ‘perceptions’ of desis, sorry to say but I doubt they’re gonna blow it up big, fans of hip-hop may be interested in it for the novelty aspect of it, but the market simply isn’t big enough, and the music itself isn’t novel enough in my opinion.

    However, I do object to this statement:

    While I agree that the women aren’t shot comparably to the men, why would they be? No offense to the fellas but the women are much more attractive and provide a more pleasing visual aesthetic. Evil Abhi is on to something.

    It’s coming at it from such a (straight) male point of view. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s assuming that all viewers (the norm) are straight men, and this video is made only, or mostly, for them so they could ogle the fine women? Anna presented it as something that we as desis might be interested in, and that includes both men and women. Disregard what I said about objectification blah blah blah… some of us may want to see more of the foine Alvin Augustine. :P

  41. Every time I drop a lot of $$ on a Japanese meal or an Italian suit, I bemoan this kind of trend in desi-American culture. I know that nothing can be done about it, but–brand-name, people!

  42. Jangali I engineered for Dj Premier in the early 90s so please stuff your self righteous, academic BS up your ass.

    Funny another name, Guru and Premier that don’t sound like your gold std., the Wu-Tang. And brother, before you indulge your homo-erotic fantasies consider this, this thread is supposed to be about showing a bit of respect for a new young group trying to make it big and give them a little coverage so I’m going to bow out and not start a flame war. I look forward to when we can continue this discussion in person at a SM meet-up.

  43. I dont think he is saying everything should sound exactly like Wu-Tang, but we just need more great music. The masses dont know what is great. Just look at what the number one movie is? “Meet the Spartans”

    The internet ruined the idea of “Great musicians”. Everything today is about the “MySpace” song of the week or the Itunes song of the day. Name a super band in this decade? Where are the Nirvana’s, Sound Garden’s, STP’s, Metellica’s, Wu-Tangs, NWA’s, the U2′s, the GNR’s? These are bands that reached “Rock Star” status and I cant even imagine a band ever doing that again because our culture’s attention span is so low right now. Every person with a computer is putting out music that doesnt desereve to be heard, so if our brain’s are being bombarded with thousands of different bands, instead of the select few before the internet age, our taste becomes diluted with crap. The idea is nice. So much choice for everyone’s taste, but the end result is that there is just more crap to sort through to find the really great stuff. I just miss the idea of the “Super group” and hate this new under dog “American Idol” “Internet sensation” crap.