If the rap scene in Pakistan is at its most inventive, thriving in multiple languages and narratives, Adil Omar (the Islamabad-based rapper, producer and songwriter) has made some phenomenal and significant contributions.
Having released several singles and EPs in the past, Adil Omar released his first major album, Transcendence, with its own film, in 2018. The audio-visual experience included some juicy musical collaboration[s]; artists who contributed to Transcendence included Elliphant, SNKM, Talal Qureshi and Tim Armstrong of Rancid.
Adil unleashed his vulnerabilities and struggles he has been through on Transcendence, with songs like ‘Searching for Salim Omar’ – about his late father – as well as the song ‘Searching for Adil Omar’ in particular. Wild as the music videos may have seemed, it took a great deal of courage for Adil to create a narrative from personal truths.
The announcement for Mastery – the second album to be released in 2020 – soon followed.
Adil released the title track, ‘Mastery’ with a music video that showcased the many inner and outer sides to him but freer. It was dropped by Noisey, the musical arm of Vice Media.
The second single, ‘Mission’ followed and with the third single, ‘The Great Unraveling’ – that is once again attached with a music video, what’s clear is that having mastered sharing experiences, lucid dreams and the world according to Adil Omar poetically via rap songs, his focus is now on the production side much more so than Transcendence.
‘The Great Unraveling’ as a music video, is Adil in a completely different frame of mind. He feels freer, which is reflective in the production as well as the video. And, lyrically too, he’s goofing around at times but the narrative is also there… as the words go, “And if you could be me/You would too/Step up to the plate/Son, whatchu wanna do?/Hold onto your standards/Cause every human unravels/And you can choose if it’s magic/Or brutal, screwed up and tragic/ Illusions for fools are not my thingy/I can make ‘em all dissolve in infinity/Beautiful worlds reside inside so look for/Them in your mind and find what you have took for/(Granted, God dammit).”
If the rap doesn’t - for some strange - get you, the sound certainly will. And it’s both unpredictable and yet so much more approachable than Adil’s past works. This concoction of beats and grooves is like rap music that is keeping up with the times. Less obscurity, more clever innovation and the 4 minutes 45 seconds song never asks anything of you except keeping an open mind. And you just might start spitting the words, ‘Have you ever heard something this groovy’.
The song is produced by Adil Omar with guitars by Dave Sitek (TV on the Radio), bass and additional keys by Durran Amin, Lil AK 100 and additional vocals by Brevi and it does not make for an easy production to bring to life. It is nothing like productions you will find on other rap and hip-hop productions – in any language – in Pakistan.
Adil seems to know it because the music video is not just trippy effects or a psychedelic carnival but has an elevating tone, showing what a refined producer and songwriter he has grown to be.
It’s not just rap; it’s the groove, the little sounds that you will continue to catch upon multiple hears that will keep you hooked.
Speaking to Instep about whether great music is a result of times in great upheaval, Adil didn’t mince his answers as he notes, “I don’t know.”
When asked about how we are living in echo chambers, especially in music and how he avoids it, Adil reveals his great secret, “I don’t pay much attention to what others are doing. My journey is mostly inward and I’m documenting my life and experiences as honestly as I can through music.”
No wonder both Transcendence and the pieces of Mastery that we have heard so far echo just that.
If Transcendence was Adil pouring his life in poetic rap, where does he see himself heading with Mastery? Is it an idea or self-experience?
“Everything I do is self experience and consciousness channeled,” said Adil. “Mastery is the stage I’m at in life post Transcendence. My own mastery (so far) of every mood, style and vibe that exists in the Adil Omar universe on one album.”
‘Mastery’ showcased many sides to Adil Omar. ‘The Great Unraveling’ feels freer from constraints as if a weight has been lifted with Transcendence and this is where your (Adil) production skills have become as strong as your lyrical skills - that are risky, personal and unlike everything else in independent music. Was that effort made by choice or happened by chance?
“Lyrically and musically all that I do happens very naturally. I just try to be as honest and transparent as possible and where I’m at in my journey. I’m having a lot more fun than I did before and the album reflects that.
“As a producer, in terms of sonics, I’m very scientific in my approach and let my synesthesia guide me. I break a lot of production and musical rules that many people will tell you are wrong but f*** it. I do what makes me happy and I create what I would want to listen to.”