When sorrow leads to song
By Sarina Trangle
Rahat Chowdhury’s first full-length album eulogizes the afternoons he spent rapping in Van Cortlandt Park with a friend who died five years ago.
The 21-year-old Kingsbridge resident freestyled through his middle school days with his neighbor Angel Jimenez. The two joked about taking their rhymes on stage, but Mr. Chowdhury didn’t get serious about rap until Mr. Jimenez was shot to death at 17. When Mr. Chowdhury released A Seraph’s Gift on May 7, there was an angel plastered above a dancing crowd on the cover art and reference to his friend in the title.
“I was looking up different words for angel and it came up. It just clicked,” Mr. Chowdhury said of seraph, an abbreviation for the six-winged seraphim said to surround God.
“I got into rap with him. It was sort of Angel’s gift to me … After he passed, that sort of sparked my creative flow.”
During Mr. Chowdhury’s sophomore year at the Bronx High School of Science, Mr. Jimenez was gunned down while visiting his cousins in Los Angeles. Within the next three years, Mr. Chowdhury’s grief grew when his friend Jezzie Jimenez was killed in a car crash, her boyfriend died in a fight and another friend committed suicide. Mr. Chowdhury turned to crafting lyrics to cope.
Mr. Chowdhury first took his lyrics on stage during a Science benefit concert he helped organize after a tsunami struck his native Bangladesh in 2008. Mr. Chowdhury hardly practiced before his first rap, which he said wasn’t well received. He rehearsed while his peers performed. During his second song, heads bobbed to the beat and hands waved above the crowd. The audience’s attention “sparked something,” in Mr. Chowdhury, who started saving up to record.
For the past six months, Mr. Chowdhury and his fiancé Hasiba Khan, 20, have trekked to the Ebony Lounge studio in Manhattan.
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