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Posted at: Mar 18, 2017, 2:29 AM; last updated: Mar 18, 2017, 2:29 AM (IST)

Rapping their way to success

Honey Singh gave a new lease of life to an old genre of music with his debut album in 2011. Encouraged, a large number of budding rappers are following in his footsteps

Srishti Millicent

Rap, or rhythm and poetry as it is called, is not new to western music. It has been so closely associated with hip hop that these two terms are often used interchangeably.  In India this genre of music is quite recent by western standards with Baba Sehgal’s ‘Thanda Thanda Pani’ released in 1992 being dubbed the first official rap song of Indian music.

Baba Sehgal brought the hip hop revolution to the Bollywood industry in the 1990s with his albums such as Dilruba, Main Bhi Madonna and Dil Dhadke to name few. Despite their success, nobody suspected that the hip hop culture will find roots in India. 

It was already a sensation in the Hollywood music industry led by popular names such as Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur, Biggie etc.  Baba Sehgal’s song ‘Thanda Thanda Pani’ was itself inspired by  famous rapper Vanilla Ice’s song ‘Ice Ice Baby’. 

Apache Indian was another UK-based artiste of Indian origin, who popularised this genre by giving a series of hip hop hits during the 1990s.

The early 2000s saw a surge in popularity of a few songs by Indian rappers who rapped mostly in English like Rishi Rich, Juggy D and Indian Danish band Bombay Rockers. In 2002, rap went desi when Bohemia introduced Punjabi rap with his debut album Vich Pardesan De, which was recognised internationally. He also coined the term desi hip hop. 

In 2007 bending the gender rules and breaking stereotypes, rapper Hard Kaur, the first female rapper of India, came out with few rap songs, including ‘Ek Glassi, Do Glassi’ (2007), ‘Move Your Body’ (2007) and Talli (2008), which ruled the charts.

The second coming of rap on the Hindi music scene can be attributed to Yo Yo Honey Singh. His debut album International Villager in 2011 made a huge breakthrough in Indian music and Bollywood industry. It changed and energised the rap music scene altogether. Although he has been often criticised for using explicit words in his lyrics yet his songs such as ‘Chaar Bottle Vodka’, ‘High Heels’, ‘Blue Eyes’ and ‘Brown Rang’ have a huge fan following. 

Encouraged by its success a large number of budding rappers emerged and the genre finally started to get the right attention it deserved. It also saw an increase in production of rap music, especially in the the Punjabi music industry. Many talented rap artists like Raftaar, Badshah and Irfan Khan benefited and made a name for them. 

While the rap music found many takers but the lyrics used in many songs came in for criticism by many people. They felt that a lot of songs emphasised on topics such as money, girls and drugs or even promoted violence. 

However, plus side is that this new found popularity has given rise to many new artistes who focus on serious issues ailing our society and write songs about these. New artistes like Naezy, Brodha V, Divine and initiatives like SlumGods have given some respect to the hip-hop/rap culture in the country.

Divine’s recent song ‘Farak’ talks about a mother’s love and initiatives like SlumGods are using hip-hop to showcase the positive side of the slum Dharavi  in Mumbai. 

Talking about the rise of new talent in the field of hip hop, Brodha V says, “I like to see people bringing their own styles to their music.  About the future of the hip hop scene in the country, Brodha V says, “A lot of youngsters are into rap and hip hop. So, it’s definitely the future of the Indian music scene.” Currently, he is working on his new album and is going to announce his India tour soon. 

Another rapper who is promoting hip hop genre is New Delhi-based KRSNA . He has recently launched his hip hop label ‘Right Now Entertainment’. He claims it to be the first hip hop label of the country. When asked about rise of the hip hop culture in the country, Krsna says, “I think hip hop in India (or desi hip hop) has come a long way in the last four years. People have started becoming receptive to it. I’ve been a hip hop artiste for more than 11 years, so I have really seen how things have changed and the evolution of the genre in India. Ten years ago, we wouldn’t have dreamt of making a living in India with this kind of music, but that’s where we’re at now.” 

Not only the metropolitan cities but even other cities have seen a rise of talented artistes who are pursuing a career in this field. Many rappers from the North are working hard, encouraged by its popularity. The hip hop culture has come quite far from the days when people had no idea about it to a genre people are acknowledging and appreciating it. Whether it is because of the mainstream artists or the newbies that remains to be seen. 

These days even the remixed versions of old Bollywood songs like Tamma Tamma Loge (Badrinath ki Dulhaniya), Humma Humma (OK Jaanu) and many more such numbers add a twist of rap to make the songs more appealing. The hip hop genre is here to stay, it seems.

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