This new era of Indian hip-hop is brimming with revolutionary talent, and calling it anything less would be an understatement. At every turn, a fresh voice emerges — an artist with stars in their eyes, aspiring to become the next big hitmaker. One such gifted artist is Kartikay or Kartikaymusic, the young and emerging R&B rapper, who is capturing hearts with his enchanting melodies and catchy choruses across an array of genres. From the soul-soothing Lo-Fi tunes to the indie charm, the pulsating beats of trap, and the electrifying energy of rock, Kartikay’s musical prowess knows no bounds. In a moment that marked his meteoric rise, his track ‘Haar Gaya’ was crowned as the ‘Track of the Year’ in 2022, igniting a wildfire of adoration among his immense and dedicated listener base. And now, his recently released song ‘Gunah’ is reigning supreme, gracing playlists with its ear-melting melody. With two successful projects already under his belt, namely ‘Saare Pal’ and the captivating ‘Andhera Samah,’ Kartikay has firmly established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the R&B scene of India.
As the artist continues to make waves and leave an indelible mark on the contemporary music scene, he has garnered well-deserved recognition, being featured in renowned publications like Rolling Stone Magazine and Times of India.
In a heartwarming conversation, Kartikay generously sits with us to share his journey of finding his sound, the magic behind creating his melodies, tantalizing glimpses into his upcoming projects, and many more fascinating insights. So get ready to be captivated by the artistry and passion of the enigmatic, Kartikay, as we delve into the depths of his musical genius and uncover the essence of his remarkable talent.
This conversation was edited and condensed for clarity.
1. Can you tell us about yourself and how your musical journey began? Is music your full-time profession or a side hustle?
“I am Kartikay, a 21-year-old artist from New Delhi. My musical journey began in 2019 when I ventured into the captivating realms of hip-hop and melodic song creation. Although I have a deep passion for music, it is not my full-time profession at the moment. Currently, I am pursuing a BAJMC (Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication) course at IP University, where I am honing my communication and storytelling skills.
I draw inspiration from the vibrant Indian hip-hop scene, with artists like Sikander Kahlon, Prabh Deep, KKG & Seedhe Maut, and international artists like Drake and NAV leaving a profound impact on me. Their artistry fuels my passion for music and pushes me to write my own tracks.
In 2018, I wrote my first-ever track and transformed my ideas into reality, recording the track using Audacity. I received appreciation for my catchy melodies from King & Bella for my first R&B track ‘Wahi Kai,’ which was released in 2020. Since then, I have been on a journey, continually pushing myself to explore the new-age music.”
2. Have you discovered your sound? If so, how did you come across it? Have you always had a clear idea of what your sound would be?
“Yes, I have found my sound, and it encompasses two distinct sides. One side is characterized by dark melodies, as seen in tracks like ‘Haar Gaya’ and ‘Gunah.’ These tracks exude dark vibes and incorporate various technical elements. On the other hand, I have a Lo-Fi sound, exemplified by songs such as ‘Laapata,’ ‘Yaad,’ and ‘Toot chuka,’ which are loop-worthy tracks. Each of my tracks may not necessarily contain the same sound, as I consider myself a multi-genre artist. However, you can find my unique dark and gloomy sound predominantly within my rock-infused music.”
3. What was your experience like when you created your first song?
“Oh, the experience of creating my first track was just amazing! I mean, I had so many ideas to explore and refine my sound. I received positive feedback and valuable suggestions, which motivated me a lot. I used to create songs frequently, keeping myself motivated and continuously developing my sound.
Initially, I was more inclined towards hardcore hip-hop, but now I’m into R&B and Lo-Fi music. In the beginning, my tracks would get around 50-100 views on platforms like SoundCloud and YouTube within months. So when I released my first track, it provided the motivation to grow in various aspects.”
4. Can you please tell us about your recently released EP, ‘Andhera Samah’? How did you approach the project, and what was the inspiration behind it?
“Andhera Samah is my latest EP, which was released in March 2023. I had planned the EP back in December, and the cover art was created by Rajat (RK FILMS), along with music videos and visuals. I finalized the tracklist in February. The EP’s closing cut, ‘Alvida (Outro),’ has a captivating music video. Additionally, the track ‘Sazaa’ featuring Mahir Baweja brought a collaborative element to my EP, where we blended our artistic visions to create an enthralling dark composition. The response has been very positive, and the ‘Sazaa’ track even got featured in Rolling Stone. Each composition in the EP is carefully crafted to evoke intense emotions and take listeners on a profound musical journey.
When approaching this project, I had a clear vision for the overall mood and atmosphere. I composed or selected tracks that fit within that framework. For me, ‘Gunah’ and ‘Alvida’ were masterpieces, with the former being a rock track that inspires one-sided lovers. Each track contributes to the overarching narrative, providing listeners with a sense of connection — and immersion into the Andhera Samah.”
5. Tell me about your upcoming projects or collaborations. Do you have anything planned, or are you already working on something?
“As of now, I have two collaborations in the pipeline — one is a synthpop-inspired track, and the other is a dark melodic composition. Both of these projects are unreleased at the moment, but they should be coming out in the next 1-2 months. Additionally, I am also working on a solo project.”
6. What kind of emotions and experiences influence your work? And who is your target audience?
“Well, my music is heavily influenced by the emotions and experiences that revolve around one-sided love stories. The feeling of emptiness in love is something that deeply inspires me, and I often draw from such emotions to create my music. I believe my target audience is those who can relate to these feelings and find solace in the themes I explore. I aim to connect with listeners who have experienced the complexities of unrequited love or have gone through similar emotional journeys. By sharing my music, I hope to resonate with them and provide a sense of connection and understanding through my art.”
7. How did you get your artist name? Is Kartikay your real name? Also, tell me about your background. Before becoming an artist, how was your life? What did you aspire to be, and what were your hobbies?
“Yes, Kartikay is my real name. I come from Uttarakhand and was born in New Delhi city. Before 2018, I used to be quite introverted, and my life was relatively slow-paced. At that time, I hadn’t discovered my passion or talent. However, I had always been interested in music since the beginning, and I dreamt of recording a song and sharing it with others.
Although I wasn’t sure where music would lead me, I felt a strong connection with it. Music became a therapy for me, allowing me to express the thoughts and feelings that resided in my mind effortlessly, especially when I stood in front of the microphone.
Aside from music, I have other hobbies too. I enjoy cooking, playing badminton, and I’m also a solo rider, like I love riding solo on my own. Moreover, I have a special fondness for slow music; it resonates deeply with me.”
8. Could you walk me through your creative process when making a new song? How do you approach blending different genres and creating a cohesive musical experience?
“My creative process largely depends on my current vibe and mood. If I’m feeling low or going through a rough phase, I tend to lean towards creating melancholic vibes, experimenting with different genres and beats. In the past, I specialized in Lo-Fi music, and tracks like ‘Wo Pal’ and ‘Haar Gaya’ are a testament to that.
However, I also enjoy exploring new genres, and dark melodies have become somewhat of my specialty. When blending different genres, I make sure to understand how to express their essence in my songs. It’s essential not to force anything, as authenticity and genuine emotions are crucial in creating a captivating musical experience.
Finding comfort in a particular style is natural, but to truly bring out the energy and skills, one needs to be in their own zone. That’s when the magic happens, and the music resonates with the audience in a profound way.”
9. What do you think about the future of Desi Hip Hop (DHH)? Who are your favorite artists in the current scene? And if there’s one thing you wanted to change in DHH, what would it be?
“The future of DHH looks incredibly bright. Many artists are consistently delivering excellent music independently and releasing it on various platforms. One crucial aspect is for artists to maintain peace and support each other, fostering a collaborative environment. With unity and consistency, the future holds great promise for DHH.
As for my favorite artists in the current DHH scene, there are several who inspire me. Artists like Sikander Kahlon, Prabh Deep, and KKG have left a profound impact on me, both musically and artistically.
If there’s one thing I could change in DHH, it would be to see more diversity and representation of different styles and themes. It would be wonderful to witness a broader range of voices and perspectives, enriching the DHH landscape and connecting with an even more extensive audience. Looking ahead, my next plan involves venturing into Bollywood with my tracks and melodies. I aim to make my mark in the industry, bringing my unique style and artistry to a broader audience.”
10. As a 21-year-old artist, what are the major challenges you face while trying to pursue music in India? Also, what are your future plans and your vision for your music?
“One of the biggest hurdles is managing the mixing process within a limited budget. Figuring out how to create high-quality music and deciding whether to prioritize audio releases or invest in music videos is often a tough decision. There are numerous aspects to consider when it comes to mixing, and if a song isn’t mixed well, it might require rearrangement, changes, or even re-recording.
Another challenge is determining the right time to release a song. It’s crucial to strike the right balance and strategically plan when to put the music out into the world. The timing can significantly impact the reception and reach of the song. Despite these challenges, my passion for music drives me forward. Looking ahead, my future plan is to keep honing my skills and creating more captivating tracks. I aim to explore various genres and push my artistic boundaries.”