Indian hip hop - Wikipedia

Indian hip hop

Indian hip hop is a part of the South Asian hip hop culture, is a genre of popular music developed in India. Desi hip hop is a term for music and culture which combines the influences of hip hop and the Indian subcontinent; the term desi referring to the South Asian diaspora. The term has also come to be used as an alternative for rap music and even pop music which involves rappers of South Asian origins.


Apache Indian, UK artist of Indian origin, was the earliest to make an impact on the UK charts with a series of hits during the nineties.[1] Baba Sehgal introduced Hindi rap in the nineties with his albums.[2] His album Thanda Thanda Pani (1992) sold 100,000 copies in three and a half months and brought rap music to the Indian club scene.[3] In the 2000s the desi hop scene remained limited largely to the underground, with a very niche loyal audience.[4] Hip-hop culture, including graffiti and b-boying started seeping into the club scene and street culture of big cities like Delhi and Mumbai.[5]

Ashok Kumar’s recitation of Harindranath Chattopadhyay’s poem Rail Gaadi is considered to be one of the first rap songs in Bollywood. It was featured in the film Aashirwad (1968). In the 1990s rap started getting popular following the success of Baba Sehgal’s album Thanda Thanda Paani. [6]

One of the early moments of Indian hip hop was the Bengali-language underground film Gandu which narrated a story of a rapper and had a soundtrack which mixed rap with alternative rock. Besides Bollywood and commercial rap music, the underground hip-hop scene started shaping. Many emerging rappers, crews started to create a buzz in the underground hip-hop scene. In north India groups like 2 ShadeZ, Desi Beam , while in south Roll Rida, Noel Sean, Machas With Attitude, Hiphop Tamizha, Street Academics pioneered respective vernacular rap music scenes. In Mumbai Mumbai's Finest, Bombay Bassment, Gully Gang became popular.

There was increased interest in the rap genre in India after 2011, with many rappers emerging from across the country.[4] This is largely credited to the success of Yo Yo Honey Singh in India and Bollywood, India's Hindi film industry.[7][8] Following huge success of his album International Villager,[9] Singh went on to release several hits songs both in independently and in Bollywood.[10] In the wake of success of Honey Singh, a new trend was formed in Bollywood with many producers roping in rap artists for their songs.[7] Even some big Bollywood actors like Ranveer Singh, Akshay Kumar and Varun Dhawan tried their hands at rapping.[11]

Indian hip hop has picked up steam in the suburbs of India's biggest cities creating big names like Divine, KR$NA, Emiway Bantai, Naezy, Muhfaad, Raga & Raftaar who have been picked up by talent management agencies like OML[12] who now have music videos with millions of views on YouTube.

Due to the exposure through Bollywood, rap became a household term and an increased production of rap music was observed, especially in the Punjabi music industry.[13] There is an ongoing debate among the hip-hop community about the contribution of Honey Singh to the genre. While some artists including Badshah,[14] Ikka,[15] Deep Money,[16] Manj Musik and Bohemia[17] have acknowledged his contribution to the industry, others like Raftaar,[17] some Pakistani artists and Imran Khan[18] have openly denied it. There is also a negative sentiment among some followers of hip-hop culture in India regarding the recent commercialization of the genre.[19][20][21] Even though many fans are not happy with the recent commercialization of hip-hop in India, this commercialization has also led to expansion of the underground scene, with independent artists building a name in Indian hip hop. Because of this, the future of hip-hop in India is generally perceived to be positive.[19][22] There are many rappers in India, rapping in different languages like Odia, Punjabi, Marathi, Bengali, Hindi, Malayalam ,Tamil Telugu,Bhojpuri, Khasi etc.

Telugu hip hop became notable since the early 2000s when artists such as Smita started hip hop culture in the Telugu language. "Hai Rabba" and "Masaka Masaka" are her best hit albums receiving wide acclaim, espescially in the Indian sub-continent.[23] Artists such as Raja Kumari,[24] Roll Rida, Noel Sean, Manisha Eerabathini, Nawab Gang, Om Sripathi any many more started the trend in the new-age Telugu hip hop by including Rap.[25] With the rise of its popularity, these artists started working in Tollywood since the late 2010s.[26][27]

Tamil hip hop is getting popular in India. Artists like Dopeadelicz and Yogi B are known for their acts in Tamil language. Many other south Indian languages like Kannada, and Marathi is also becoming popular among masses in India.[28][29]

Protest hip hopEdit

Protest hip hop came into limelight after mass protest started all over India against the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019. Since the crackdown in JMI, AMU and JNU, and the 2020 Delhi riots several rappers from all over the country have joined the cause with their own sonic protest. Rappers like Madara, Rapper Shaz, Santhanam Srinivasan Iyer (EPR),[30] and Sumit Roy gained recognition for their protest songs.[31][32]


  1. ^ Larkin, Colin (1998) The Virgin Encyclopedia of Reggae, Virgin Books, ISBN 0-7535-0242-9, p.13
  2. ^ "Baba unplugged".
  3. ^ Gargan, Edward (August 23, 1992). "THE MANY ACCENTS OF RAP AROUND THE WORLD; India: Vanilla Ice In Hindi". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  4. ^ a b Mehrotra, Palash (12 August 2012). "Indian rap scene: A revolt that will not get televised". India Today. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  5. ^ Kappal, Bhanuj (12 October 2013). "Inside Mumbai's Burgeoning Hip-Hop Scene". The Sunday Guardian. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  6. ^ Ghosh, Devarsi. "Before 'Gully Boy': Rap's journey in Hindi films (1968-continuing)". Retrieved 2020-05-15.
  7. ^ a b Nijher, Jaspreet (17 December 2014). "Punjabis who rocked 2014: Imran Khan, Honey Singh, Badshah, Dr Zeus". The Times of India. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  8. ^ "Rappers on the rise". The Times of India. 9 June 2015. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  9. ^ "Punjab's bhangra-rapper comes to Bollywood". Mid-Day. 6 May 2012. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  10. ^ "Yo! Yo! Honey Singh tops the chart of trending videos of 2012". India Today. 18 December 2012. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  11. ^ Abraham, Letty (13 September 2015). "Rap music is making a comeback in Bollywood films". Mid Day. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  12. ^ Chakrabarti, Samrat (2015-12-13). "Hip Hop on the Central Line". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2017-09-14.
  13. ^ "From Bambi Bains to Aman Sandhu: Punjabi musicians talk about their journey". The Times of India. 24 June 2015. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  14. ^ Jones, Raaj. "BADSHAH INTERVIEW @104.8 OYE FM BY RAAJ JONES". Youtube. Oye 104.8 FM. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  15. ^ Jones, Raaj. "IKKA SINGH RARE INTERVIEW (TALKING ABOUT HIS MUSIC & YO YO HONEY SINGH @104.8 OYE FM BY RAAJ JONES". Youtube. Oye 104.8 FM. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  16. ^ Jones, Raaj. "DEEP MONEY - RARE & MUST WATCH INTERVIEW @104.8 OYE FM BY RAAJ JONES". Youtube. Oye 104.8 FM. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  17. ^ a b Batra, Ruhi (15 March 2015). "Honey Singh versus the bitter rest". The Times of India. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  18. ^ "Imran Khan says "I don't even know who Honey Singh is". Satisfya". Youtube. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  19. ^ a b Omulo, Bob (19 September 2014). "How India is Taking to Hip Hop". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  20. ^ "Rap is rebel music worldwide, here it's 'pop rap': Badshah". Hindustan Times. 29 July 2015. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  21. ^ "Imran Khan: Rappers are destroying image of Bollywood music". The Times of India. 20 December 2014. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  22. ^ Mahmood, Rafay. "Bohemia: More than just forties and shorties". The Express Tribune. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  23. ^ "Singer Smita turns nostalgic; remembers her first song with MM Keeravani - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2021-01-01.
  24. ^ "'My brand of hip hop is a bridge between a traditional Telugu home and the American culture' - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2021-01-01.
  25. ^ "Asura's Telugu rap album hits the right notes". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 2021-01-01.
  26. ^ mojumder, oishani (2019-02-27). "The rise of Telugu rap". Deccan Chronicle. Retrieved 2021-01-01.
  27. ^ Pasha, Gouse. "11 Rap Songs In Telugu That You Must Listen To Right Now!". Chai Bisket. Retrieved 2021-01-01.
  28. ^ "It's a rap! New single goes viral on day one". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  29. ^ Tagat, Anurag (2019-06-07). "Can't stop, won't stop: the rise of Tamil rap". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  30. ^ "Rapper EPR's Song About Farmer Suicides Is Powerful Beyond Belief". The Quint. 2019-10-23. Retrieved 2020-06-04.
  31. ^ Majumdar, Meghna (2019-12-23). "How art on social media became the face of anti-CAA protests". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2020-05-03.
  32. ^ "Voice Of The People: Protest Music In India". Retrieved 2020-05-03.