A little more over a decade ago, the Hip hop scene in Bangladesh had its unique infancy thanks to the popular American music tv channels; the cable had to offer in the early 2000s. Even though the entire genre doesn’t go hand in hand with the social norms Bangladesh represented back in the day, Hip hop crews like Stoic Bliss, Deshi MCs and Uptown Lokolz emerged on national platforms and made the rap scene what it is today in Dhaka. Asiful Islam Sohan, aka Black Zang, one the member of the renowned Hip hop crew, Uptown Lokolz, shares his story with ICE Today’s VERVE.
How did Asiful Islam Sohan become the Black Zang?
I like to believe that my creative side dominates my persona. I do graffiti, I write, and travel. Music has always been my passion and before I realised, music became my career.
When I joined my crew, Uptown Lokolz, the Hip hop scene of Bangladesh was heavily influenced by the Gansta rap. The funny thing is, the real gangsters of Bangladesh didn’t have time to rap about their endeavours, unlike The Notorious B.I.G or Fifty Cent from the States. The people who started rapping back then didn’t have that “Gansta” life.
We were the small cog of the machine, which decided to represent the idea, that stories of the people from the middle class or streets can be shared as rap so that the people can find it relatable. We dropped our first album, Uptown Lokolz: Kahani Scene Paat in 2009 and received rave reviews especially the hit single Ai Mama Ai. From that point on the rest was history.
You started as a young rapper in 2009, and now you are a seasoned musician. What changes have you seen in yourself?
I believe that the environment that you are in matters a lot. You can either let the environment mould you or you can use it for you. When I started in the underground scene, I was a very egoistic person. I wouldn’t talk to people if they didn’t approach me just because w dropped an album. But now, I find the whole idea very stupid. That attitude only restricts you to grow as a person and as a musician. You should make as many friends as you can and get their perspective on life. This will help you to innovate in your craft.
What is your pursuit of happiness?
Music. I live in it and at the end of the day, music what drives me to do better. Despite not having privileges when I grew up, it never stopped me from being attracted to that Good Life. Before pursuing music as my career, I worked in production houses, radio station and call centres. That led me to amass a lot of experience and also helped me to pay my bills. I feel really blessed because now, thanks to music, I am leading the life I craved for. Music has taken me to great places.
What is the current Rap scene in Dhaka?
It is crazy right now. The rap scene is blowing up thanks the youth-centric Dhaka. We have tv and radio shows that focus on rappers all over the country. We are doing collaborations, tours and much more. We have come a long way in the last decade.
What advice did you follow through over the years as a rapper?
Never forget your roots. You can only grow strong if you fully embrace your roots. Learning music is an ongoing process. Always aim higher and never give up. And this is for my fans; you guys kept me alive and took me to the place I am standing on today. I love you!