Thought Brownie releasing what he himself describes as an unlikely rap album

by James Hendicott
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Thought Brownie, a.k.a Hari Shenoy, is a naturalised Irishman from India, a man in his early 40s releasing what he himself describes as an unlikely rap album.

It’s the consequence of some life changes: tackling autoimmune disease that came up during Covid, and finding the power of artistic persistence as he began writing four lines every day to create a larger whole, the product of which is the record ‘Man Of Substance’.

Shenoy’s remarkable selection of influences take in the war in Ukraine, Studio Ghibli, Indian history, and a single simple question: what do you want to do with the time you have left?

“I was a music journalist covering independent music, mainly rock and metal in India,” he says. “I did that for five years from 2007 to 2012. It was a brilliant experience that gave me access to new artists and to learn why they did what they did. I enjoy writing in general and writing about music in particular.”

“In my 30s, I went all in on a corporate job. My life was all about running on the hedonic treadmill. I wanted early retirement, after which I said to myself that I will finally relax, resting on the laurels of jobs well done. In January 2021, I got diagnosed with an autoimmune health condition that shifted my perspective. It made me aware of how nothing is promised. I know I can leave my life right now, and I must make sure I can live my life right now.”

“I began writing the album when Russia invaded Ukraine,” he continues. “I have been to Kyiv and loved the time I spent there. My Ukrainian friends made me feel welcome the way people from India make their international friends feel welcome. It hurt to see them hurting. War made me wonder why we, as a species, are so blatantly invested in acts of self-sabotage. Carl Sagan’s speech about the “Pale Blue Dot” felt more relevant than ever and I decided to adapt it into rap.”

“All other tracks began falling into place as I explored topics related to time, mental health, ambition, inner peace and growing up.”

“Writing four lines a day gave me a foundation on which to build the album,” Shenoy explains. “It was like gathering blocks of marble and chiselling away at them bit by bit. I was able to set the flow by rapping to a metronome or to hip-hop backing tracks on Youtube.”

“It got complicated in the next stage when I wanted to get it set to music, then record and mix and master the tracks. I tried my hand at making music and beats using a midi player, and I was able to make something basic. My tastes in what good beats sounded like exceeded my ability to create them. Thankfully I was able to connect with Vlad Tavaniuk who worked with me to compose music for the album.”

“I kept wondering what kind of hip-hop my favourite philosophers, writers, thinkers and all round smart and kind people might listen to. My album is an effort at creating something that they might enjoy. It is for everyone who wants to see how another person is doing their best to figure life out.”

“I plan to write at least four lines every day, for the rest of my days, dropping words like it’s hot. My next album, tentatively named ‘Grand Ego Disintegration’ is in the works. I am also writing a script. If anyone wants to collaborate, or even to get some ideas if they are stuck, I’d love to help!”

Man of Substance by Thought Brownie is out now.

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