HE is a rapper, producer, sound engineer and the owner of music label Monsta Village Entertainment. He is known on stage as MC Bullet, a name he set for himself as someone who achieves things by setting a target and hitting it. Despite his enormous success, he is known to many fellow artistes and aspiring musicians as a brother and a friend. Someone whose hard work, humility and kindness stem from his humble past.
He was born Varmendira Sasthiri Krishnan. His father was a headmaster and his three sisters were teachers. His aspirations to become a musician was not well received.
Growing up in an estate, he did not know what hip hop was.
“I am a big and tall guy. I wear baggy pants and long T-shirts, so people labelled me a rapper. But I didn’t know what a rapper was at the time,” said Bullet.
He picked up the craft of rhythm and poetry in English. He took inspiration from Too Phat, Altimate, Poetic Ammo and BoomerangX.
To practise, he needed a beat. He also had to be creative.
“One of the most important tools in practising rap is a metronome, to keep the beat. Even something as simple as a 4/4 beat. But I didn’t have one of those. So I used my father’s motorcycle.
“You know how the turning signals of a motorcycle go on and off? I used the blinkers on my father’s motorcycle to keep a beat and rap to it,” said Bullet with a smile.
He was confident that music was what he wanted to do, but his family disapproved. So much so that he ran away from home at the age of 15.
To survive, he held multiple jobs in the day and performed at night. But he did not neglect his studies.
He still remembers his first performance, at a place in Sunway where they give aspiring performers a chance to be on stage between sets. It was an open mic gig.
“Looking back, I realise what I did was dangerous. I was young and I had no guidance in the beginning. All I knew was that I wanted to do it.
“I don’t even know how I was so brave to do such a thing at the time. If you ask me to do the same thing now, I don’t think I can do it. I had such an eagerness back then.”
“It was God’s plan. I pray to nature and my Guru before I do anything,” he added.
After SPM, he began to join reality shows. At 17, he participated in Blast Off and became one of the top 20 Malaysian artistes in that competition. The year after that, he joined Geng Stars and became one of the top seven Asian artistes in that competition.
However, his biggest break came when he was 20.
As an aspiring rapper, Bullet was a big fan of BoomerangX.
“They were the world’s first Tamil hip hop group.”
Because of his experience, Bullet was invited by the leader of the group, Coco Natha, to the studio to do some work. Bullet was still an amateur at the time. However, to his surprise, Natha invited him to join the group.
“It was a big deal. It was a dream come true. I was a part of the Tamil hip hop scene.
“The group held the record for the highest number of records sold by a Tamil hip hop group, at 60,000 units. I think we still hold that record,” Bullet said.
Although he mainly performed in English, Bullet soon had to learn to perform in other languages like Tamil, Malay, and even a language that he did not know – Telugu.
After releasing their second album, the group received a call from India inviting them to do music for a Tamil Kollywood movie.
“We thought it was a prank. So we made outlandish demands like first-class hotels. A few days later, we got an email with our flight tickets. That was when we realised it was real.”
They recorded the first song, Hip Hop Hooray at A.R. Rahman’s Studio. The movie producers liked it so much that they asked the group to make another song.
When they received their second offer to do music for a movie, they accepted. However, this time they did not know they had to do it in Telugu, because they were not told. But the group managed to pull it off anyway.
They did this by hiring a lyricist in Hyderabad. Using words he crafted, Bullet matched them to a beat and adjusted both accordingly.
At the same time, he studied to become a graphics designer. It was one of his father’s conditions. He became a graphics designer and did branding for both the public and government sectors to fulfil his father’s wish. At the same time, he pursued sound engineering, which was one of his targets.
It is this personal understanding of the struggles and hardship of a passionate musician that inspired Bullet to set a lifelong target of starting his own music label after 20 years. That was how Monsta Village started in 2014.
“I do not want the younger generation of musicians, no matter the language or music style, to go through what I did. Instead, I want to help them reach greatness by using what the musicians of my generation have built. I want them to know that Uncle Bullet is always happy to help.
“Even when I am not around, I want the company to continue this legacy,” said Bullet.