India’s Hip Hop underground is poised to breakout in 2021
Under the radar Hip Hop that previews what comes next
Over the past decade, the Indian hip-hop community has established itself as a major cultural force across the globe. The arrival of gully rap - a style of hip-hop pioneered by the likes of Mumbai-based Hip Hop artists Divine and Naezy - changed everything. From being used as a stylistic choice that resembled a garish gimmick in the early noughties by composers and corporate India, to becoming one of the most profitable and forward-thinking artistic communities with tremendous sway over the South Asian population, Indian Hip Hop is a genre that is redefining the way we engage with and consume culture in the country.
Artists such as Prabh Deep, Seedhe Maut, Sez On The Beat, Ahmer, Kr$na, Emiway, Brodha V, Raftaar, and many others command considerable influence over their audiences and are making music that is informing discussions around the country’s socio-political, economic, and cultural issues facing India’s youth. In 2020, we saw Indian Hip Hop announce itself on the international stage with Nas’ Mass Appeal label partnering with Mumbai-based Gully Gang Records, and the skyrocketing growth of home-grown labels such as Azadi Records and Kalamkaar also gaining eyes and ears abroad.
While the spotlight shone on the aforementioned artists, and audiences generally stuck to listening to artists that had a bit of hype around them, there were many releases in 2020 by newer artists that are completely reimagining the sound of Indian Hip Hop – and they will play a pivotal role in defining its sound in the future. Artists and collectives such as Teesri Duniya, The Siege, Tufail, Tre Ess, F8L and Parimal Shais released incredible projects that snuck under the radar and offered listeners a sneak peek into how the genre will sound in the future. Covering narratives that range from personal insecurities and vulnerability to human rights issues in Indian Occupied Kashmir, these artists have gone beyond the initial sonics and ideas adhered to by the first generation of Indian Hip Hop artists and are introducing soundscapes and narratives that are pushing boundaries.
Grahan (Sammad & Udbhav)
Grahan is an artistic collective from Delhi spearheaded by the creative efforts of artists/ producers Sammad and Udbhav. Building their catalogue on a foundation of hindi-pop melodies and bollywood samples that have been warped and manipulated beyond recognition, these artists are creating soundscapes that betray a sense of vulnerability and hedonistic capitulation that occurs when faced with the harsh realities of life in a society that is ill-equipped to deal with and provide for its young - where ambitions and dreams are stifled by the hands of religious and corporate slavery.
The Siege aka Siegen Moopanar is one of Mumbai’s most exciting young artists. His latest project, titled Really Brown Really Rare, offers a unique insight into the lives of a young artist living on the fringes of India’s financial and commercial capital. Exploring the intricacies and complexities that govern Mumbai’s social and cultural fabric over an expansive array of lo-fi soundscapes, The Siege is going to play a major role in shaping what the city’s Hip Hop scene will sound like in the future.
Tufail Nazir is a revolutionary young MC from Srinagar, in Indian Occupied Kashmir. Carrying the legacy, aspirations and hopes of his people, Tufail relies on his lyrical dexterity in Koshur, Urdu and Hindi to spread the message of his people across the world and highlight issues that are often ignored by the mainstream media in South Asia.
Hailing from Ranchi, Jharkhand, one of India’s most turbulent regions, Tre Ess AKA Sumit Singh Solanki is redefining the way we look at and hear local music. His debut project, Sipping Off Troubled Waters, is a genre-defining juxtaposition of local tribal music, trap and alternative hip-hop and brings forth a range of issues facing the people in the region today. From environmentalism to the battle between local insurgents and the State which has claimed countless lives in the crossfire, Solanki brings a refreshing honesty and urgency to narratives that are often lost in the glamour and media circus that surrounds India’s cultural landscape.
Natiq has been a mainstay in the Indian underground community for a while, often cropping up with productions in the early works of artists such as Naezy. His ability to flip tracks from India’s rich catalogue of recorded music and spin them into laidback lo-fi productions has seen him emerge as a celebrated artist in the Indian underground and he will definitely play a pivotal role in shaping the soundscapes of the plethora of young MCs emerging in the Indian scene.
Hanumankind is a force of nature. Having lived in the U.S., he brings an energy to his music that is unmatched and infectious. Instilling pride in his Southern Indian identity, Humankind has collaborated with some of South India’s most exciting new producers and created a catalogue that you simply can’t ignore. Equally adept at creating tunes that have the ability to move audiences in clubs and make you stop and think about your life, this Bangalore-based artist is set to have a big year in 2021 with the release of his debut album.
Parimal Shais has a vision that breaks the stranglehold that North India has on the Indian cultural landscape. His debut project, Kumari Kandam Traps Vol 1, is a comprehensive document of Southern Indian culture, bringing together rappers from Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and other South Indian states for the first time ever and spit over club-friendly, 808-heavy productions that also sampled some of South India’s legendary music composers.