The Desi hip-hop artistes with their relatable lyrics and energetic music are being heard more than ever. With new artistes coming in and fresh music being delivered, desi hip-hop has reached a new high in recent times. Corruption, growing up in under-privileged conditions life, police violence, and women's rights are all talked about, in the verses—topics that should be talked about, but for different reasons and agendas, get brushed under the carpet.
This socio-political style of hip-hop, known as gully rap ("gully" is Hindi for "street" or "hood"), highlights the honest portrayal of local populations. From hard-core to lo-fi, the rap scene is bubbling, and nothing can control these new age artistes from, literally and figuratively, spitting out their truth.
Here we look at some of the most dominant gangs in the desi hip-hop scene and how they are helping the new age artistes to showcase their talent on a vast platform.
KALAMKAAR - RAFTAAR
Jointly founded by Ankit Khanna and Raftaar, Kalamkaar encourages young hip-hop, rap, pop, and EDM musicians to bring out an exciting roster of young rappers and underground artistes.
Kalamkaar was formed with a roster of young artistes such as KRSNA, Deep Kalsi, Brishav, Karma, Rashmeet Kaur, and Yunan.
Some common elements which most of the artistes under Kalamkaar showcase are lyrics where they slightly brag about their success, their inspiring rags to riches story, and lyrics dominated by usage of typical Delhi slang.
These distinctive qualities separate their gang from the rest of the rappers in the country. Spearheaded by Raftaar, the gang doesn't mince their words, be it conveying the truth in today's time or making a diss track.
Krishna Kaul Aka KR$NA is amongst the top underground artistes in India, the flow in his rapping is something that leaves one wanting more. His song 'Seedha Makeover' with over 10 million views in the Kalamkaar timeline definitely ranks as one of the top songs by the artiste.
Inspired by American Rapper Eminem, Karma is another vibrant artiste under the label. His song 'Main Wahi Hoon' with Raftaar who is known for his "Chopper flow", has over 45 million views on YouTube. His style of rap is energetic yet soothing, and just like KR$NA, he carries a distinctive flow throughout his tracks that takes his rap game to a whole different level. Mrunal Shankar a comparatively new member of the hip-hop gang has just two songs under the label yet 'Kattey' and 'Drunk writing,' but they are enough for listeners to get hooked with her style of rap.
GULLY GANG – VIVIAN DIVINE – MUMBAI, INDIA
Vivian Divine is a poster child for Mumbai’s hip-hop scene. He’s a Mumbai native and founded the Gully Gang entertainment with JD in 2019 and today is responsible for taking street-style Hip-Hop to mainstream commercial industry and Bollywood with work in 'Gully Boy' and 'Sacred Games.' The brand has grown into a full-fledged entertainment house backed by some major brands & partners.
Gully Gang Records manages and unearths desi hip-hop talent, featuring some of the most talented artistes like MC Altaf, Sha Rule, D’evil, and Divine himself.
The songs by artistes featuring under the label have some shared qualities; the use of Bombay slang in tracks, lyrics that revolve around their success and growth in life, their riches, and heavy verses targetting haters. Family and friendship is also a significant theme that the artistes in the gang focus on.
Divine rose to fame with his work in the Netflix series 'Sacred games' where he wrote and rapped the song 'Kaam 25,' but the game-changing moment that redefined his career was with the movie 'Gully Boy.' Not only did Divine as an artiste got recognise by the movie but the whole community got known and started attracting listeners. Shah Rule is a rapper who borrows his name from Shah Rukh Khan and singer Ja Rule, and his own style is just as diverse and multicultural. Shah Rule's music is a combination of pop, hip-hop, and R&B, as he has lived in numerous countries and draws influence from several hip-hop giants.
MC Altaf is another hip-hop artiste featuring 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 has persevered despite adversity. With endorsements from superstars such as Raftaar, Badshah, Ikka, and Imran Khan, the independent label has provided fans with some of the most talented musicians in the hip hop and R&B field. Artisttaan develops, curates, and produces music with label artistes and releases music regularly. Some of the most prominent artistes featuring under the label are Yawar, Harjas, Newtone, Moit, and Rish.
In their songs, the artistes mostly talk about their humble beginnings and their backgrounds. The lyrics, as most of the rappers from Delhi, revolve around money, fame, and success. They also talk about their early life, growing up in lower-middle-class backgrounds, and how they grew up.
Some of the most well-known songs by Raga are 'Rap ka Mausam,' 'Kaisa Hai Bhai,' and 'Pooch Mera Naam.' The artiste is known for using Delhi slang and powerful verses, Trans-Yamuna area in Delhi where Raga comes from is also a recurring element in his songs. Other artistes working under the label, Harjas and Newtone bring an absolutely different style. Their music is authentic and their phenomenal verses are a few reasons behind them becoming one of the recognised hip-hop gangs in India.
KALI DENALI MUSIC- BOHEMIA
A record label based in the Bay Area, California, Kali Denali Music was launched by Bohemia and J. Hind in 2015.
The OG rapper Bohemia is well known in the community for his heavy Punjabi vocals and his very first full-length album ‘Pesa Nasha Pyar.’ J. Hind is another rapper featuring on the label. Strongly affected by his own Indian background, he always saw his environment through two lenses: his East-Indian inspirations and the culture he immersed himself in, on a daily basis in the US.
The songs by the artistes under this label mostly talk about struggles in one’s life and thus become remarkably relatable. The core language used in the songs is Punjabi. Tracks like 'Umeed' and 'Zamana Jali' have garnered accolades on streaming platforms and have gathered a huge amount of love from fans.