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Events That Changed the Fate of Indian Hip-Hop

Indian hip-hop can be considered as one of the fastest growing entertainment industries of India, but if we become a little nostalgic and go back ten years it was just a small part of the flashy Bollywood industry.

Every other hip-hop listener in India knows that rap in India was initiated by Baba Sehgal and Bohemia, popularized by Honey Singh, and underground hip-hop was familiarized to people by the Emiway-Raftaar beef. Gully Boy and MTV Hustle can also be regarded as major factors.

But there are many more unpopular reasons which drifted the trajectory of its rise. Today Rap India brings you those unpopular reasons in a broader perspective which paved the path of Indian hip-hop from being a small fraction of an industry to becoming one of the biggest entertainment industries itself.

1.) The Akshay Kumar Factor

Yes! Akshay Kumar has impacted the rise of rap culture in India mainly through his three movies – Singh is Kinng, Chandni Chowk to China and Speedy Singhs. The last one he did as a producer was released globally as Breakaway and in India as Speedy Singhs. Although the film turned out to be major flop, it had cameos from Drake and Ludacris. Ludacris even did a song in the film named Shera Di Kaum with RDB, which was well received by the masses.

Akshay also collaborated with Snoop Dogg on ‘Singh is Kinng’ for the title song which turned out to be one of the greatest overseas collaborations of that time. Akshay also brought Bohemia to the table in Bollywood through the ‘Chandni Chowk to China’ title song. That’s how rap initially began to popularize in India on the face value of Akshay Kumar where he himself was rapping on two later mentioned songs.

2.) Disbanding of Mafia Mundeer

Mafia Mundeer is regarded as pioneer pop-hiphop crew in India. Along with some pop singers like Alfaaz and J-Star, it comprised of many rappers which currently are top names in the industry – Yo Yo Honey Singh, Badshah, Raftaar, Ikka and Lil Golu. Although the fans of this group never wanted the group to be disbanded and still want them to reunite again, if we look at this situation from a broader perspective it has been beneficial for the Desi hip hop scene for the following reasons:

  • After the disbanding of the crew, the rappers went on to explore their own paths and popularize themselves through their art, giving audiences alternatives for listening to rappers.
  • Raftaar went on to establish his own label Kalamkaar which turned out be one of the most influential record labels of DHH and he also had feud with Emiway Bantai which changed the scene of hip-hop in India forever.
  • Badshah filled the void left by Honey Singh during his break, which resulted in Badshah giving major pop chartbuster hits, with songs like ‘Pagal’, ‘Genda Phool’ and ‘Paani Paani’ representing Indian music globally.
  • Ikka went on to give some major hits in Bollywood with songs like ‘Badri Ki Dulhaniya’ and ‘Dilbar’, later on he also dropped his album ‘I’ which is regarded as one of the finest hip-hop albums of India.

3.) Sony Music India signs Divine

Before Divine got signed by Sony, the only rap songs which were popular in India were party songs blended with pop elements but Divine brought the street knowledge in the form of rap songs to the table. Before this type of rap was considered to be a highly Punjabi Language dominated art but with an excellent platform provided by Sony, Divine managed to create a niche for himself and Hindi rap based on struggle stories.

4.) Affordable Internet Services

It seems strange when someone says that cheap internet has resulted in the rise of hip-hop, but it’s one of the primary factors not only for rise of DHH but also the whole social media market.

In September 2016, Jio launched itself in the Indian telecom market with free internet services initially and later on providing users with internet at cheap rates, which resulted in other internet service providers bringing down their rates to sustain themselves in the market. All these factors resulted into an increased number of internet users in India; people flooded themselves into social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube, etc. This also increased the demand of smartphones in the market, and the cellphone manufacturers also rolled out affordable smartphones.

Then came the event which shook up social media later in 2018, the Emiway-Raftaar diss war. If this diss war would have happened before the era of Jio, it wouldn’t have gathered much attention like it did. Rappers also had feuds in the pre Jio era, but they went unnoticed and didn’t reach the number of people being reached today. Affordable internet services are the reason for the emergence of many reaction channels, news channels, meme pages, etc. through which artists also promote their songs nowadays.

Earlier smooth internet services were limited to big cities, but in the post Jio era it was easily accessible to people, which helped hip-hop to spread wider and deeper into the society.

5.) Emergence of Hip-hop labels

Being independent is a trend which is currently floating in the scene, but the emergence of hip-hop labels like Kalamkaar, Artistaan, Gully Gang, etc. which don’t hinder the artistic freedom of a rapper has resulted in the rise of the scene and gave a platform to some of the finest rappers in the scene like Kr$na, Karma, Raga, MC Altaf, and Aavrutti. Signing deals with major labels like Sony Music and Mass Appeal has turned out to be a cherry on top.

6.) Kr$na-Muhfaad Beef

This was one of the iconic beefs of the scene, it uplifted the level of lyricism in the culture. All of a sudden everyone in the community started talking about references, multi-syllable rhyming, double-triple entendre, etc. Tracks like Seedha Makeover, Freeverse Feast (Langar) and Dum Hai can be regarded as predecessors of lyrical game before this beef.

This feud between Kr$na and Muhfaad created an opportunity for people who knew how to do breakdowns of the tracks and they started educating the audience about the technicalities of rap.

After the emergence of breakdown videos, rappers didn’t put the limitation on their pen thinking that the audience won’t understand what they are trying to convey through their art. The complexity of lyrics was increased in the scene and still keeps on getting better due to the competitive nature of the art.

7.) Recently

Some recent controversies related to the insult of religious sentiments of the people have steered up in the scene. After the social media trial of MC Kode, which resulted in the end of his career and his brainchild Spitdope, rappers would be utmost careful about what they write in their lyrics.

But this isn’t first time that a rapper was being targeted for disrespecting religious sentiments, Emiway was also targeted for his diss song against Divine – Gully Ka Kutta, and the controversy later on ended up with Emiway muting those hurtful words in the song. If rappers to continue being accused of hurtful lyrics in their songs, the days are not far when we can see a censor board for songs, similar to the one we have for Bollywood movies.

So, these were the numerous different reasons for the rise of hip-hop in India, but the scene can still be considered to be in its early phase, where it’s still trying get a strong foot hold and pave its path. We hope you liked reading our blog on this topic and might get to know the author’s perspective on the rise of Indian hip-hop. You can mail your suggestions and reviews to the author at – jaybajaj.ph@gmail.com .