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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. Creation of the term "desi hip hop" is credited to Bohemia.[1]

Following the launch of Bohemia's second album Pesa Nasha Pyar (2006), whose tracks such as "Kali Denali", "Kurti" and "Sahara" became big hits, there was a new-found interest in desi languages during the late 2000s.[2][3] Even though there were several occasional hits during this period, the desi hip 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]




Bohemia is credited for introducing the rap genre of music in Pakistan with his debut album Vich Pardesan De in 2002. Pakistan. Bohemia introduced Punjabi rap with his debut album Vich Pardesan De (2002) which was recognized internationally.[6][2] Bohemia introduced punjabi rap in the nineties with albums including Paisa Nasha Pyar.[7] His album ' Vich Pardesan de(2002) sold 100,000 copies in three and a half months and brought rap music to the Indian club scene.[8] Apache Indian, another artist of Indian origin was the earliest UK artist to make an impact on the UK charts with a series of hits during the nineties.[9] Female rapper Hard Kaur made many popular tracks for film soundtracks including "Move Your Body" (2007) and "Talli" (2008).[10][11][12]

There was increased interest in the rap genre in India after 2011, with a large number of rappers emerging from all corners of the country.[4] This is largely credited to the success of Yo Yo Honey Singh in India and Bollywood, India's Hindi film industry.[13][14][15][16][17] Following huge success of his album International Villager,[18] Singh went on to release several hits songs both in independently and in Bollywood.[19][20] 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.[13] Even some big Bollywood actors like Ranveer Singh, Akshay Kumar, Siddharth Malhotra and Varun Dhawan tried their hands at rapping.[21]


Hindi rap has picked up steam in the suburbs of India's biggest cities creating big names like Divine and Naezy who have been picked up by talent management agencies like OML[22] also signed by music labels like Sony Music India,streaming sites like Saavn who now have music videos with millions of views on YouTube.


The popularity of desi hip hop music over time has spread beyond Hindi and Punjabi in Pakistan and India and has been becoming popular in other places in the subcontinent such as Bangladesh and East India. The hip hop scene in Bangladesh started in the 1990s with groups such as Deshi MCs and Stoic Bliss.[23] Popular rappers of Bengali descent include Black Zang[23] and Shafayat Hossain from the rap group Jalali Set.[24] Other musicians who have worked with creating an 'urban Bangla' scene include singers Mumzy Stranger[25], Nish. and producers Pritom Hasan[24] and Lyan Roze. The mainstream Hindi and Punjabi hip hop scene and Bengali music have been bridged together such as the title song from the film One which featured singer Vishal Dadlani and rapper Raftaar,[26] the latter of which later produced and rapped a song for the Chaamp soundtrack.[27]


With the advent of MTV in India, early 2000s saw a surge in Indian rappers who rapped mostly in English, following the suit of American rappers.

Mixed languagesEdit

Rappers across the world have always liberally borrowed styles from their inspirations and conveyed their message in the languages that hit hardest in local tongues. It is no surprise therefore that the boom in hip hop in India has led to groups like Street Academics, Swadesi and Dopeadelicz.[28][29] Noted for being the pioneers of Malayalam rap, Street Academics grabbed public attention with contemporary themes with their multilingual lyrics, depicting the existential angst of current generation.[30] Swadesi boasts of big name Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and Malayali rappers like Mawali, TodFod and Mayavi while Dopeadelicz consists of Tony Sebastian and Rajesh Radhakirishnan who rap in Hindi, Marathi and Tamil. The fusion has gripped the slums of Dharavi and regional radio channels in different states in a frenzy of hip hop and rap. In 2017, Control Alt Delete, India's biggest underground music festival, for the first time featured hip hop as part of the ensemble of artists.[31]


Desi hip hop has crossed paths with Western hip hop multiple times, notably when musicians from both sides of the world collaborate. American rapper Snoop Dogg has worked with different artists such as rapper Bohemia,[32] J.Hind and band RDB.[33] Bohemia also collaborated with hip-hop artists such as Kurupt and Baby Bash.The group RDB also worked with different hip hop artists such as T-Pain[34] and Ludacris.[35] In 2016,famous Indian rapper Badshah worked with dancehall musician Sean Paul in a song called "Move Your Body" with DJ Shadow Dubai. Desi rappers born and/or raised in the West have also bridged the cultures within their music, incorporating desi influences into their music. Anik Khan has blended Queens culture with Bengali influences into his music,[36] and similarly rappers Riz MC and Heems of the group Swet Shop Boys incorporate many South Asian influences in their music.[37][38] In 2017, Pakistani rapper Ali Kaz collaborated with famous WWE music producer Jim Johnston for the theme song of WWE wrestler Jinder Mahal.In 2017, Badshah did another international collab with Major Lazer as a commercial promotion of Tuborg Brewery


When Bohemia released his fifteenth single "Charso Bees" from the album Da Rap Star where he wrote "Loki bolde ve appa karke vakhaya". Later, on the single "Hummer" from Nishawn Bhullar's album The Folkstars, Honey Singh rapped the verse "Loki bolde ve appa karke vakhaya". This made Bohemia angry and he started dissing Honey Singh at his concerts.[39]

In 2014, Raftaar stated that he was not getting credit for lyrics of the song "Yeh Fugly Fugly Kya Hai".[40]

In 2015, Manj Musik released a song titled "DesiHipHop" on MTV, which upset Bohemia who has run into problems with Manj in the past.[41]

In 2016, when Manj Musik posted a picture on Instagram claiming Badshah and Raftaar as the "Desi Hip Hop Kings", he was dissed by J.Hind who referred to Manj Musik as "The Wedding Singer".[42]

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.[43] There is an ongoing debate among the hip-hop community about the contribution of Honey Singh to the genre. While some artists including Badshah,[15] Ikka,[16] Deep Money[17] and Manj Musik have acknowledged his contribution to the industry, others like Raftaar,[44] Bohemia[44][39] and Imran Khan[45] 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.[1][46][47] 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 desi hip-hop is generally perceived to be positive.[1][2]

Notable artistsEdit


Artist Known for Years active
Bohemia Pesa Nasha Pyar

Da Rap Star

Thousand Thoughts

Raxstar "Ego"

"Brand New Swag"


Badshah "DJ Waley Babu"

"Saturday Saturday"


Kapoor & Sons soundtrack

Yo Yo Honey Singh International Villager

Desi Kalakaar

Yaariyan soundtrack

Kick soundtrack

Riz MC Microscope


"Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)"

Lazarus "Open Heart Surgery"


Heems Nehru Jackets

Wild Water Kingdom

Eat Pray Thug

Raftaar "Swag Mera Desi"

"Desi Hip Hop" "Baby Marwake Manegi"

Fateh Doe Bring It Home 2009–present
Divine "Yeh Mera Bombay"

"Mere Gully Main" "Jungli Sher" "Farak"

Ikka Singh "This Singh is So Stylish"

"Sapne" "Half window down" "Shuruwaat"

Brodha V "Aathma Rama"

"Indian Flava" "Aigiri Nandini" "Let Em Talk"

Raja Kumari Change Your Life (Iggy Azalea song)

"Never Give Up" "Mute" "The Come Up(EP)"

Krsna (Rapper) "Kaisa Mera Desh"


"I'm Ready Ft. Raftaar"



Artist Known For Years Active
Street Academics "Chatha Kaakka"

"Native Bapa" "16 Adiyanthiram"

Hiphop Tamizha Hip Hop Tamizhan

Meesaya Murukku International Tamizhan

Machas With Attitude Red + Green = Brown

"Making our Money" "Ready Steady Po"

Swet Shop Boys Cashmere

Sufi La

Khatarnaak Hip Hop Collective "Seedhe Slum Se" 2013–present


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