Desi hip-hop artists with their relevant lyrics and energetic music are heard more than ever. With the arrival of new artists and the spread of fresh music, desi hip-hop has reached a new high in recent times. Corruption, growing up in underprivileged living conditions, police violence and women’s rights are all covered, in the verses, topics that should be addressed, but for different reasons and agendas, are glossed over. .
This socio-political style of hip-hop, known as ravine rap (âravineâ means âstreetâ or âneighborhoodâ in Hindi), highlights the honest portrayal of local people. From hard-core to lo-fi, the rap scene in India is seething, and nothing can control these new age artists who, literally and figuratively, are spitting their truth.
Here we take a look at some of the most dominant gangs in the desi hip-hop scene and how they are helping new age artists showcase their talent on a huge platform.
KALAMKAAR – RAFTAAR
Jointly founded by Ankit Khanna and Raftaar, Kalamkaar encourages young hip-hop, rap, pop and EDM musicians to emerge an exciting roster of young rappers and underground artists.
Kalamkaar was formed with a roster of young artists such as KRSNA, Deep Kalsi, Brishav, Karma, Rashmeet Kaur and Yunan.
Some common elements that most of Kalamkaar artists exhibit are lyrics where they lightly brag about their success, their inspiring story of rags to wealth and lyrics dominated by the use of typical Delhi slang.
These distinctive qualities separate their gang from the rest of the rappers across the country. Led by Raftaar, the gang doesn’t mince words, whether it’s conveying the truth right now or making a diss trail.
Krishna Kaul Aka KR $ NA is among the best underground artists in India, the flow of his rap is something that leaves you wanting more. His song ‘Seedha Makeover’ with over 10 million views in the Kalamkaar timeline definitely ranks among the artist’s best songs.
Inspired by American rapper Eminem, Karma is another dynamic artist under the label. His song ‘Main Wahi Hoon’ with Raftaar who is known for his “Chopper flow”, has over 45 million views on YouTube. His rap style is energetic yet calming, and much like KR $ NA, he carries a distinctive flow throughout his tracks that takes his rap playing to a whole new level. Mrunal Shankar, a relatively new member of the hip-hop gang, has only two songs under the label “Kattey” and “Drunk writing”, but they are enough to get listeners hooked on his rap style.
GULLY GANG – VIVIAN DIVINE – MUMBAI, INDIA
Vivian Divine is an iconic figure in the Mumbai hip-hop scene. He is originally from Mumbai and founded the entertainment Gully Gang with JD in 2019 and is today responsible for bringing street hip-hop to the mainstream commercial industry and Bollywood with works in “Gully Boy” and “Sacred Games”. The brand has become a full-fledged entertainment house supported by some big brands and partners.
Gully Gang Records manages and unearths desi hip-hop talent, featuring some of the most talented artists like MC Altaf, Sha Rule, D’evil and Divine himself.
The songs of the artists featured on the label have common qualities; the use of Bombay slang in the tracks, the lyrics that revolve around their success and growth in life, their riches and heavy worms targeting enemies. Family and friendship is also an important theme that the artists of the gang focus on.
Divine rose to fame through his work in the Netflix series âSacred Gamesâ where he wrote and rapped the song âKaam 25â, but the defining moment that redefined his career was with the movie âGully Boyâ. Not only was Divine as an artist recognized by the film, but the whole community became known and started to attract listeners. Shah Rule is a rapper who borrows his name from Shah Rukh Khan and singer Ja Rule, and his own style is equally diverse and multicultural. Shah Rule’s music is a combination of pop, hip-hop and R&B, as he has lived in many countries and is inspired by several hip-hop giants.
MC Altaf is another hip-hop artist featured under the label and rose to prominence in 2019 after appearing in Zoya Akhtar’s film “Gully Boy”. He is known for his Bronx inspired approach to his songs.
ARTISTTAAN – RAGA – NEW DELHI, INDIA
Raga is a hip-hop musician from Delhi who persevered despite adversity. With the backing of superstars such as Raftaar, Badshah, Ikka and Imran Khan, the independent label has provided fans with some of the most talented musicians in hip hop and R&B. Artisttaan develops, organizes and produces music with label artists and regularly publishes music. Some of the most prominent artists under the label are Yawar, Harjas, Newtone, Moit and Rish.
In their songs, the artists mainly talk about their humble beginnings and their origins. The lyrics, like most of Delhi’s rappers, revolve around money, fame and success. They also talk about their youth, their childhood in lower middle-class settings and their childhood.
Some of Raga’s most famous songs are âRap ka Mausamâ, âKaisa Hai Bhaiâ and âPooch Mera Naamâ. The artist is known to use Delhi slang and powerful verses, the Trans-Yamuna region of Delhi where Raga is from is also a recurring element in his songs. Other artists working under the label, Harjas and Newtone bring an absolutely different style. Their music is authentic and their phenomenal verses are some of the reasons they have become one of the recognized hip-hop gangs in India.
KALI DENALI MUSIC – BOHEMIAN
A Bay Area, Calif. Based label Kali Denali Music was launched by Bohemia and J. Hind in 2015.
Rapper OG Bohemia is well known in the community for his heavy Punjabi voice and his very first full album “Pesa Nasha Pyar”. J. Hind is another rapper on the label. Strongly marked by his own Indian origin, he has always seen his environment through two lenses: his East Indian inspirations and the culture in which he immersed himself, on a daily basis in the United States.
The songs of the artists on this label are mainly about struggles in life and thus become remarkably relatable. The main language used in the songs is Punjabi. Songs like âUmeedâ and âZamana Jaliâ received high praise on streaming platforms and garnered a huge amount of love from fans.