The Indian hip hop music scene has lately been ablaze. The music industry has embraced and to an extent mainstreamed the genre which once hung on the fringes. Hip hop as a genre is said to have been born in the Bronx in New York in the early 1970s. The music was a medium for the African-Americans to vent out against the cultural oppression they faced. Hip hop quickly grew out of just being a music genre, into a culture. The four foundational elements of hip hop culture are DJ-ing/turntablism, B-boying/breaking, MC-ing/rapping, and visual/graffiti art.
Indian hip hop music draws parallels with the west when it comes to embracing the culture. Here too, it was the lower income and the less privileged community that grasped on to the hip hop culture first.
“It was not rapping but the first art form they took to, according to my knowledge was ‘b-boying’, the dance form. If we are talking about hip hop as an art form then not just rapping, b-boying must definitely be included in it.” explained Mo Joshi, Co-Founder Azadi Records.
Mo started off as one of England’s earliest live hip hop acts. In 2017, he started Azadi Records, an independent record label, with music journalist, Uday Kapur. Mo has been associated with developing grassroots subculture movements for over 20 years. Mo’s record label was started with an aim to not be underground and highlight pertinent stories ignored by the mainstream. In an exclusive interview, he spills the beans on the rapid rise of Indian hip hop music and also about what is hip hop?
With time, hip hop has also split into two camps, mainstream and the purer form. Rapping is an inborn trait of hip hop culture and not the other way round.
“If you rap you are not necessarily hip hop but everybody who is into hip hop, raps. You really need to understand those two concepts. What hip hop is as a culture and how India is grasping on to that,” asserted Mo, adding
“When you talk about hip hop, you talk about culture, you tell stories and try to teach people through them.”
Indian hip hop music in Bollywood
“When you talk about Rap, you talk about words rhyming together. In Bollywood there is no hip hop, it is rap. There are some artists who have taken up rapping with the sole intention of getting into Bollywood films,” said Mo.
What is happening in the Indian hip hop music scene is nothing new. It is a cycle of culture repeating globally. A large population in India has grown up with Bollywood or the regional film industry as their popular culture. Rap music in these regional industry predates the rap music in Bollywood. If you look at the Kannada film industry, there has been a lot more rap music than Bollywood films.
The mainstreaming of hip hop culture has led to a sudden spike in artists pursuing this genre. Even singer/songwriters and composers from the traditional Bollywood school of thought are incorporating the genre. There has to be a certain factor that has made this multi-billion rupee industry take notice of the genre.
“A major audience in the next decade is the 13-19 year old population. This segment is completely disconnected with the popular Indian culture. They do not watch reality shows, are not interested in movies, TV shows or anything associated with them. They follow the UK and the US popular culture. Because of this we can say that over the next decade the popular culture scenario is going to shift rapidly. Obviously Bollywood understands this and so the connect with rap music,” quipped Mo.
The impact of the global indie music movement
The success of the global indie music movement is predicted to have a massive effect on the Indian music market. A lot of technology driven label services companies have sprung up worldwide, giving music distribution a whole new meaning. This enables an artist to upload their music on various platforms. An artist, now, does not need a traditional record deal or follow the archaic structures. There are companies providing indie artists all the tools they need to be their own record label, run their own distribution, and manage their own publishing.
“Now you are going witness a sizable shift in the way content is uploaded just like we witnessed with music consumption patterns. When an indie artist uploads his music on a music streaming platform he is already charting without the help of a record label,” asserted Mo.
Azadi Records does not use the Indian infrastructure for distributing or publishing their content. Despite this, both their albums this year have been in the Top 5 albums list.
“This was not possible 10 years ago. Over the next 10 years, the record labels, distributors and publishers are going to scramble to figure out how to keep control of music. This is going to be a difficult task for them,” said Mo.
Music as a valuable commodity
Music is becoming a commodity more so than ever before. Just like we have the stock exchanges, where the listed company’s fortune depends on their performance, market sentiment and other factors, the music business will also work in the same way. The performance of the companies in the stock market will be directly proportionate to their catalogue’s performance. All major labels can list their catalogue as a stock and people can invest in their catalogue.
“The music industry in the next 10 years will witness a massive shift. Every time you stream a song, no matter for how long, it is a monetary transaction. There is a backend figuring out who gets money for that stream. Once these transaction worth billions are regulated and the stock market is developed the entire music industry is going to flip on its head,” feels Mo.
Azadi Records are looking to make each of our artists as an individual business. They are setting up a structure for their artists to set up their own Indian hip hop music label and publishing. They are venturing out their star signing Prabh for this.
“Prabh will bring on artist under his own label and replicate the same structure moving forward. Azadi Records has a stake in it. It also enables us to compete and attract artists. We are looking at a slow growth model rather than start with a massive investment. We own a 100 %of our music and will continue to do so. How much of their music the record labels owns completely, is what is going to be the most valuable asset in the future,” said Mo.