AP Dhillon’s rise to global stardom has been nothing but meteoric. No evenings at a club or a house party are complete without his songs being played at full volume and sung along. He’s got a million fans and a streaming count that runs into billions—he is an artist on top of the world and on top of the charts and his concerts are sold-out the moment the tickets go live. He has made everyone wonder how a boy from Gurdaspur, Punjab, who starts off in a garage with his friends, goes on to become a global sensation. But, who is he really outside his music? How does he compose his songs? What inspires him? All these and more questions are answered in the latest docu-series on Amazon Prime Video titled AP Dhillon: First of a Kind.
Here’s what we loved and didn’t like about the series
What we loved:
The origin story
You’ve heard the man sing in Punjabi, but listening to him speak the language a few minutes into the show tells you how real the docu-series is going to be. His very first line, "My name is Amrit", uttered oh so earnestly, is a window into his two personalities—one a global phenomena called AP Dhillon, based out of Vancouver Island, and the other who has his heart in Gurdaspur, Punjab. The episode titled ‘Brown Munde’ tells us what both his homes mean to him. He tells us how when he went to Canada in 2015, he felt like a small fish in a very big pond. He might be a whale in the music scene today, but there was a point in time when he was just a boy who didn’t know much English, didn't have any friends or family, and earned a living by doing odd jobs. The only thing that he had was his music. Seeing him go back home amid the lush green fields of Punjab to his family—he shares a special bond with his grandmother and father—is emotional to its very core.
The team behind the music
A musician is as good as his team, and AP Dhillon and his ‘Brown Mundes’—Shinda Kahlon (the man behind those hard-hitting deep lyrics), Gurinder Gill (vocalist), Gminxr, and his managers Kevin Buttar and Herman Atwal—exemplify this. The good thing about being Punjabi in Canada, especially in a place like Vancouver is that news spread fast if you’re great at something. And that’s what brought Gill and Dhillon together, who met in school in 2015. As Kahlon and Gill worked together, it was only a matter of time before they got together to compose music (Watching the raw footage of them singing the unmixed and first versions of tracks that are now chartbusters is refreshing.) The track Fake dropped in the first half of 2019 and the rest, they say, is history. It’s not just Dhillon’s story but the entire team's as they, too, are independent artists who worked their way to the top, after being rejected by several music labels as their music was not ‘conventional’,
‘Brown Munde’ - the game changer
Every musician has that one song they owe their career to. For Dhillon and co., it is 'Brown Munde’, which dropped in September 2020 and went on to become an anthem because of what it represented. While we grooved to the song and played it on loop a million times, it was only when we looked up the meaning of lyrics that we appreciated Kahlon’s mastery of words. The song talks about how this bunch made a name for themselves, after starting from nothing. With 633 million views on YouTube as of today, the song was composed in just one day—the beat of the song was ideated while the song sequence was being shot. A song about the hustle sure had to have the ‘Brown Mundes’ hustling.
What didn't strike a chord:
It seems too perfect
A docu-series shows us only what the makers want us to see. In this case, there’s a lot that seems too good to be true. Take for instance, how the team makes their songs with relative ease and there are very few disagreements on the lyrics or the beats. Also, some of the concerts evidently seem to have their problems, but you never see them losing their mind over things not going their way. We see him as the shy Amrit who says he has PTSD from his concerts in India due to the heavy security. “I tried to be the version of AP Dhillon they wanted to see”. But we don’t see how he manages to effortlessly put himself in that mind frame. We would certainly have loved to see that side of him in an unfiltered manner.
We still don’t know much about the man and his creative process
We see him sing, compose, and mix tracks from his studio but there is extremely little insight into his thought process, and why he chooses a certain beat for a certain track. Besides Brown Munde, we don’t know the story behind his other popular tracks that are mentioned in the passing. The same goes for Kahlon and how he goes about penning those wonderful lyrics that even a non-Punjabi speaker now knows by heart. Things are only touched upon at the surface level and we only learn about them successfully blending Punjabi with Trap music, but how they did it, continues to be a mystery.
The show claims to tell us a lot about the man and not the artist, but we wish we could learn more about his childhood, his family, what he does when he experiences a creative block, and a lot more.
The last two episodes are like mini concerts
As much as I love seeing the singer in his element on stage, the last two episodes didn't work with me. It was meant to be a docu-series and not a concert film that shows him performing across cities around the world. Yes, it is indeed commendable to see Dhillon and his ‘Brown Mundes’ perform to packed arenas, but it is overkill. The last episode is from his appearance at Lollapalooza 2023 in January this year. I had attended the show and I understand why it was included in the series—with a crowd as large as 40,000 in attendance, there couldn’t have been a better event to show the growing fandom that he enjoys.
But just like the drone shots that only show the bigger picture, this docu-series doesn't focus on things happening at the surface level, the more real things.