Desi hip hop

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.


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 early 2000s.[1][2] 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.[3] Hip-hop culture, including graffiti and b-boying started seeping into the club scene and street culture of big cities like Delhi and Mumbai.[4]

In 2011, Silicon Valley technology executive and Hip-Hop enthusiast Hardik Dave'[5] launched for South Asian Hip-Hop artists. In 2019 DesiHipHop Inc partnered with Sony Music[6] Entertainment India to scale this category & culture globally.

Also, 2017 saw a major boost in this genre through the start of Rap battle culture introduced by an entertainment and music production house named 6FU. Rap battles are a culture of western countries, however India witnessed its first rap battle in regional languages through 6FU's first event Frontline in Delhi.[7] The label started youtube channel in 2017 has given under grounder rappers a new hope to be heard and establish rap as a career. 6FU was started by Trouble who hosts rap battles and cypher (freestyling) sessions where more than a dozen rappers perform turn-by-turn on the same stage to see who has the better verses.[8]


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 Dr Zeus,[9] Bohemia (rapper),[10] the band RDB[11] and recently with Emiway Bantai. Bohemia also collaborated with hip-hop artists such as Kurupt, Sean Kingston, Iraj Weeraratne and Baby Bash & The Game (rapper).The group RDB also worked with different hip hop artists such as T-Pain[12] and Ludacris.[13] 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,[14] and similarly rappers Riz MC and Heems of the group Swet Shop Boys incorporate many South Asian influences in their music.[15][16] In 2017, Pakistani rapper Ali Kaz collaborated with 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.

In 2017, Los Angeles based Hip Hop group - Bhanga Bangla - introduced a type of Trap music[17] that leans heavily on South Asian stories from the trap. They went on to create a new trap movement that has sparked the attention of audiences around the world.[18] In 2019, Divine and Naezy collaborated with American rapper Nas.[19] In the same year Divine collaborated with Dave East for his song Remand.[20] In the month of January, 2021, KR$NA was featured on American rapper Hi-Rez's song "Crossroads" with popular American rapper, Royce da 5'9''.[21]


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.[22]

In 2014, Raftaar stated that he was not getting credit for lyrics of the song "Yeh Fugly Fugly Kya Hai".[23]

In 2015, Manj Musik released a song titled "DesiHipHop" on MTV, which upset Bohemia who has run into problems with Manj in the past.[24]

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".[25]

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.[26] There is an ongoing debate among the hip-hop community about the contribution of Honey Singh to the genre. While some artists including Badshah,[27] Ikka,[28] Deep Money[29] and Manj Musik have acknowledged his contribution to the industry, others like Raftaar,[30] Bohemia[30][22] and Imran Khan[31] 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.[32][33][34] 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.[32][1]


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  2. ^ "Bohemia Bio". MTV. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
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  16. ^ Narayan, Sanjoy (2017-08-10). "Rapping with a subcontinental backbeat". Retrieved 2017-08-20.
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  18. ^ "Bhanga Bangla lends support to Bangladesh student movement". Dhaka Tribune. 2018-08-06. Retrieved 2019-05-18.
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  20. ^ "Divine & Dave East Make The Mumbai-Harlem Connection On "Remand"". HotNewHipHop. Retrieved 2020-06-16.
  21. ^ "Rappers KR$NA, Hi-Rez collaborate with hip hop legend Royce Da 5'9". The Siasat Daily. 2021-01-02. Retrieved 2021-02-21.
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  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ Jones, Raaj. "DEEP MONEY - RARE & MUST WATCH INTERVIEW @104.8 OYE FM BY RAAJ JONES". Youtube. Oye 104.8 FM. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  30. ^ a b Batra, Ruhi (15 March 2015). "Honey Singh versus the bitter rest". The Times of India. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  31. ^ "Imran Khan says "I don't even know who Honey Singh is". Satisfya". Youtube. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  32. ^ a b {{cite
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  34. ^ "Imran Khan: Rappers are destroying image of Bollywood music". The Times of India. 20 December 2014. Retrieved 14 September 2015.