With a few milestones under his belt, Indian Hip Hop recording artist, Imran Mandani, loves a good challenge; in an industry where only a handful of Asians have hit the American mainstream airwaves, the Chicago native rapper enjoys carving his own path while constantly evolving his brand. From finishing a pop song to abruptly dropping a fast freestyle verse on a rugged rap track, a listener wouldn't know what to expect next, but the unpredictability has recently garnered interest from different audiences. "I try to be diverse" says Imran, whose musical influences are just as eclectic as the plethora of playlists on his iTunes app. However, he wasn't always a music connoisseur. During his school days, Imran was more concerned about coming up with impromptu rhyming retorts to stereotypes during freestyle battles on stage than creating a wide ranging album. "Everyone had the same '7:11-on-the-dot' punchlines and clichés for me” he explains, and although people were impressed with his lyrical abilities, he became discouraged. "People loved me for my verbal talent, but I was still Indian and didn't try to act ghetto. My culture also had different expectations of me, so Hip Hop just became a pastime," he elaborates further, understanding now what he didn't back then, back when Hip Hop was just coming out of the Gangster Rap era: that music trends keep changing and that people should follow their passion in order to be happy in life.
For Imran, the love for Hip Hop started in Eighth grade; a time when Discman CD players were equivalent to today's smartphones. It wasn't long before he started writing rhymes of his own, honing his craft till the break-through moment in High School when he could suddenly free-style. Then it was college; years that flew by in a blur for a nostalgic Imran Mandani recalls rapping for groups of people outside of dorm lobbies, bars, open mics, and fashion shows. "I remember the time I was at a fraternity and I closed my eyes and randomly free-styled to Trance music. When I opened my eyes, there was a crowd all around me" boasts Imran. Despite generating a sizable campus fan base, he put Hip Hop to the side when he graduated college. After a hiatus, friends encouraged him to create an online presence and record a mix-tape. While recording one in a friend's bedroom, he decided to shift gears and take mix-tape material and original music ideas to a professional recording studio. Imran finished "You Should Dance" and "Beneath the Ocean Tide", lyrically thick EDM songs with a Hip Hop vibe that won semi-finalist rounds in a couple songwriting competitions. The songs caught the attention of DJ Keith Calderon, a show promoter who introduced him to Curtis McClain (the vocalist behind Marshall Jefferson's 1986 hit song "Move your Body", the first track to push House music to the international charts and remixed in 2012 by Ultra Records DJ, Benny Benassi) Impressed by the tracks, Curtis collaborated as a backup vocalist to the remix of Imran’s next original song, “Sunshine through Rain”. While the original song has an 80's electronic pop vibe, the remix is a pure dance club track with Curtis featured prominently in the song's bridge.
Imran recently finished his fourth song, "In Another Dimension", for his debut album. It is a pop and EDM song with rapping and Dubstep in the song's bridge. He also finished a freestyle remix to Banks and Steelz' track "Giant" and submitted a freestyle verse on Tech N9ne's Warrior Built Project. Taking the same creative approach as his original music, Imran did the vocals for both at the recording studio and designed the cover art for each contest himself, as well as getting lyrics videos made. "These types of remix competitions are usually for audio producers, but I just add and alter some instrumental elements only so I can focus mostly on the rapping. I mute out vocals in the songs' verses since I have official project stems and drop in Hip Hop vocals with my rendition of what the choruses are about. This allows me to compete, show people I can adapt to any genre, any hook, and also have high quality mix-tape material." The artist took a similar approach in November of 2013 when he won as a semi-finalist for his rapping in Linkin Park and Steve Aoki's "A Light that Never Comes" official remix contest. The competition was cross promoted with Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 product launch campaign. Imran later won Semi-Finalist placements for two songwriting competitions. Both annual contests received thousands of international submissions and featured a judging panel of music industry leaders. At the start of August 2014, he was selected to be part of the management team for the legendary Hip Hop group, Wu Tang Clan. The internship opened up doors to freelance work for major record labels and mainstream artists. Learn about Imran's brand below.
"Rhyme Dilation" is a pun to Time Dilation, a theory in Albert Einstein’s Special Relativity that, simply put, explains that time is relative: notably, an outside observer would measure time slowing down significantly for someone traveling at speeds near the speed of light. (The faster you move through space, the slower you move through time) Rhyme Dilation draws inspiration from Einstein’s revolutionary ideas because Einstein’s legacy is a quintessential story of hope. His story is similar to the same struggle we all go through in life as we try to make it in whatever endeavor we undertake. Einstein, who had no scientific merits at the time he published his theories, was not acknowledged for his work for a long time because it was too unorthodox. However, despite his rough life circumstances, he never gave up. Einstein’s struggle included being considered worthless by his father and professors, as well as financial burdens and a divorce.
"Rhyme Dilation" consists of the slogan "Don't keep it real, be Ethereal” which breaks down to, “Don’t keep it real, be - the - real.” The philosophy behind the motto is not in “keeping it real” with one’s ego or “street cred” but by being “The Real” or connecting with the Divine force within oneself. Rhyme Dilation is about encouraging listeners to not only give importance to education but to think outside the box and dare to be different. Follow your passion in life and never give up in the face of adversity. Imran says that anybody who stays true to who they are and works hard to succeed despite their circumstances is "real."
While Einstein’s concept of Time Dilation explains the phenomena of time, Rhyme Dilation is about how time drifts by differently when an artist is in the “flow”. Getting into your "flow" Is about getting into your element and getting into the zone. Psychologists define "flow" as a state of mind where one is completely submerged in an activity with full focus and so lost in the present moment that one’s sense of time is altered. Imran calls this "Rhyme Dilation" because it happens to him whenever he's making Hip Hop music. The concept goes deeper than that though. To Imran, flow isn't just limited to Hip Hop. Rhyme Dilation is not just about being able to “flow” or rap; it’s about being in the "flow" in all areas of your life.
At the end, music has a time travel effect. You can make a four minute song that becomes timeless and affects people's viewpoints and emotions for many years. So, being real then, means taking responsibility for that. Rhyme Dilation is also about dilating, or expanding Hip Hop, to incorporate and embrace other styles of music. Imran strives to create a balance between "Underground" and "Commercial". The cover art for his music is abstract and surreal. His music melodically has a "Top 40" feel but lyrically has poetic and spiritual subtly. The music incorporates elements from Hip Hop, Pop, and EDM. Rhyme Dilation includes Imran’s clothing brand; Ensemble, Raju Ensemble, and Rani Ensemble.
Raju or Raja and Rani are Sanskrit titles for nobility. Raju means "King" and Rani means "Queen". Imran believes everyone is a King or Queen. In spirituality, we already have the Divine within us. If we get in touch with our inner wisdom, we can become empowered. The Ensemble brand consists of the slogans, "Orchestrate your Life" and "Life is a symphony, tune in”. Ensemble has two meanings: A group of musicians who perform together are known as an "Ensemble." Ensemble also means a coordinated outfit or costume. Ensemble by Imran Mandani combines both meanings. Rhyme Dilation and the clothing brands are incorporated, trademarked, and copyrighted brands.