Music | The Princess and the Throne


Songwriter and rapper Raja Kumari, aka Svetha Rao, just lately took a break day. It was principally to pamper and prepare Kush Kumar, a French bulldog that she affectionately refers to as her baby. “I am in full mother mode, simply watching him and coaching him. He has already discovered to take a seat, so I am very proud,” she says.

This 12 months, the 33-year-old rapper, primarily based out of Los Angeles and Mumbai, has been busy. She levelled up with the discharge of her new EP Bloodline and her cameo in Zoya Akhtar’s hip-hop movie Gully Boy in February. She was additionally a decide on the just lately concluded hip hop actuality TV contest MTV Hustle, alongside desi digital music producer Nucleya and rapper Raftaar.

“It introduced me into [people’s homes], particularly within the smaller cities. My reveals are often in Tier 1 cities,” says Rao. Extra just lately, she labored with rising rapper Shah Rule on ‘Kaun Hai Tu’, delivering a chorus in Hindi for the primary time. Surprisingly, it did not jar. And ‘Shook’, the primary single off Bloodline, was nominated on the MTV European Music Awards (EMA) beneath the Finest Indian Act class.

It put her in the identical class as various main names, from Delhi rock veterans Parikrama to singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad, rapper Emiway Bantai and electronica singer-producer Komorebi. That stated, this was her third nomination for an MTV EMA. “That is the hat-trick,” she says with fun. It nonetheless means quite a bit to her-and although she misplaced to Emiway she says that she is ” to see if folks responded to that report (Bloodline) worldwide. It is in all probability my largest work up to now.”

Over the previous three years, Raja Kumari has efficiently moved into an area she has at all times wished to claim-representing desi girls rappers. Her slick, snarling deliveries, interchanged with extra silken vocal harmonies on songs like ‘Metropolis Slums’ with Mumbai rap star Divine, have introduced her fairly some fame-but when the 2 teamed up on the 2018 music ‘Roots’, Raja Kumari misfired with lyrics like: “Transfer just like the Queen of Mumbai (bye)/ You do not need no drama/ Auntyji come attempt/ Untouchable with the Brahmin movement/ From the motherland/ What you reap you sow.”

Broadly criticised for the misinformed wordplay, Rao’s upbringing in Los Angeles has usually come up for scrutiny, alongside accusations that she’s co-opting an area that ought to belong to native, street-bred rappers. And the Raja Kumari trade machinery-she’s launched music through main US label Epic Information and Sony Music India-has not often paused to deal with problems with privilege and inventive use of the Indian id.

That stated, a lot of Rao’s journey up to now has concerned the mainstream-before she totally launched her solo profession in 2016, she wrote songs for artistes like Gwen Stefani, Fall Out Boy and Iggy Azalea. Extra just lately, she additionally offered the phrases and voice to advertise Katrina Kaif’s make-up line Kay. Together with her latest look on MTV Hustle, she’s bought much more recognition-and the feedback sections on movies for ‘Shook’, ‘Kaun Hai Tu’, ‘Roots’ and ‘Metropolis Slums’ (all gathering hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube) are filled with reward for her talent.

In 2016, when she first got here to India as a musician-she had visited beforehand for charity work and dance performances since she was a child-there appeared to have been a number of humbling moments that led her to be taught “about Indians my very own age and the way they see the world. Once I bought right here, I realised that the diaspora has some concepts that aren’t fully correct,” she says. Maybe her earlier errors got here from the angle she had on Bloodline, which Rao admits was aggressive, saying she felt protecting about how Indian tradition was portrayed and consumed by the West.

I’m to see how folks internationally responded to Bloodline. It’s in all probability my largest work up to now

Lately, she says she’s a lot calmer and extra targeted on partaking together with her youthful viewers, particularly women. “The variety of messages I get day-after-day from younger women that say, ‘I began writing due to you, you gave me confidence in my physique with the best way that you just costume’-that’s what I discover simply stunning,” she says.

The rapper does admit that within the technique of hyping her persona and model, she does not get a lot of an opportunity to spend time in songwriting mode. “You turn out to be a model,” says Rao, “a spokesperson to your platform-but then, the start of it’s at all times music. I really feel like, earlier than I get burned out, I gotta make music.” On that depend, she’s bought a brand new single popping out within the subsequent few months, however she is not gifting away any particulars for the time being. This has been her longest stint in India-over 9 months-and she’s been writing and recording new materials in Mumbai. “It has been a very, actually wild experience this 12 months,” she says. “However in my head, I simply really feel like, ‘Now transfer on.’ There’s a lot to do.”

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