On Language and Hip Hop

It is always difficult to choose a topic to write on, usually it is based on the music I am listening to at that time. The problem with this approach is that the playlists changes faster than one I can imagine, thus you almost never have a topic that sticks with you.

Over the past few weeks I have been constantly listening to rap and hip hop music. An odd choice I agree given my music preferences for the past 7-8 years. but rap and hip hop for me is like that old acquaintance that you meet once in a while and still cherish the time spent together.

I usually listen to English music but what really got me interested this time was Punjabi and Hindi rap. This made me think as to what really changed. Rap and hip hop finds its roots in Bronx where African American residents felt marginalized in various ways from the mainstream culture. What was required was an outlet, something they could call their own and thus rap was born. Over the years the lyrics might have changed the lifestyle of artists would have changed but what has stayed constant that rap has been a view into what is like living in urban poor black neighborhoods. Their dreams, hopes and fears. The song Fuck the Police still symbolises a common voice against targeted police brutalities.

Desi yeh, desi woh, desi-desi sab
Par kitne desi hain jo gaano mein apne bolte sach!


No matter how hard I try I can never relate to these songs, the only thing that attracts me is the beat.  With music being made in my own language, I am at a much better place to understand what really the song is trying to say. I agree, the lyrics are very different but yet I relate to it. It is a ground view on what I have seen while growing up, what people around me talk about what they think. Even if I disagree with what the songs are trying to say they still remain a part of who I am.

Some great artist to listen to while making sense of the relation between language and hip hop is Sidhu Moosewalla who sings in Punjabi.  Sidhu has been my favorite artists for the past few months he has a great beat to his songs and unique way of singing what has been sung so many times. If I am not wrong he started releasing his songs just a few months back and has become an instant hit. After he released his song Just Listen, I was sure he would define the face of the Punjabi hip hop industry. This song was a response to everyone who had questioned his roots and his motives to become a singer. All musicians who grow big at an exponential rate are in the receiving end of the same kind of hate that Sidhu has been and everyone has a response to the hate like Sidhu has. What makes him different is his honesty or what really makes him different is that he sings in the language that I grew up with.


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