Rapping in Hindi and Punjabi wasn’t always the art that it is has now become. In fact, rapping got a bad rap in desi music because nobody was really doing it well and those that were, weren’t being given the proper platform to showcase a new genre of music. Sure there were some catchy numbers in bollywood songs and trailblazers from early on who were pushing the boundaries. However, the last decade has seen a surge of new artists contributing in new ways to the Desi music scene, break away from conventional tracks, and giving rapping a new identity. Rappers have finally found an outlet in the industry that is giving them their moment in the spotlight for their talent, not a stereotypical persona associated with the moniker. With a wide range of talent, desi rappers are finding a strong footing in the market, increasing their popularity and also adding a new touch to a traditional format.
You may remember him from a breakout hit back in 2005 called “Keep It Undercover” that took many teens and young adults by storm with its themes of young love versus parental expectations. It is still a song that resonates with many individuals who, regardless of ethnicity or background, identify with on many levels. Raxstar proudly stands behind this song for more reasons than the obvious. He has said that, “This duality is an integral part of my identity as a British Asian. The culture I inherited and the one I was brought up in are worlds apart but there are millions like me who are also trying to figure it all out. Music is my creative outlet to explore that journey.” British Rapper from Luton Town has come a long way in the last decade. He has churned out hit after hit like “Jaaneman” drawing from the influences of Bollywood and the smooth R&B records he grew up with. It has been described as ‘The Ultimate Rap Ballad’ and proved to be extremely popular worldwide especially in the Desi community in India and Pakistan. The video to the song went on to be a viral hit gaining over 2 millions views on YouTube.
The mixtapes Lost Ones (2008), Spring Cleaning (2010), About A Girl (2011) and Late On Time (2012) continued to showcase his versatility as an artist musically as well as lyrically. He has been seen as “the go-to-guy for rap features” which has resulted in collaborations with over 100 artists and this list only continues to grow. Songs such as “Flirt” (w/ DJ Surinder Rattan), The Other Man, Cold World and Ego have led Raxstar to tour all over the UK as well as internationally. More power collaborations are in the works that will culminate in the release of 2014’s Glass Ceiling album (RaxstarDW.com). We DeSide sat down with Raxstar to
1.) When did your love for the music industry begin? How do you describe your style of music/rap?
I have so many memories of music growing up. Specifically being a huge Michael Jackson fan and constantly listening to his albums on cassette. My style is a reflection of who I am, a British Asian male born in the 80’s. Too brown for the country I was born in and not brown enough for the place my parents call home.
2.) Tell us more about your musical influence growing up.
Like I said Michael Jackson was a massive influence as I was growing up. One of the first rap records I heard and loved was Warren G’s Regulate. I was a big Busta Rhymes fan growing up too listening to When Disaster Strikes and Extinction Level Event. When I first heard Common’s album Like Water For Chocolate that really inspired me to start expressing myself truthfully through rap. Albums like Reflection Eternal – Train of Thought and Dead Prez – Lets Get Free also had a big impact on me. Bollywood music was always on in my house growing up and also Punjabi folk music artists like Gurdas Maan, Yamla Jatt and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan all beautiful poets that I understand and respect even more now that I am older.
3.) How/when did you get your first break/start?
I started writing my own songs at a young age. From 1999 I started writing and recording my own raps. But my first real break was in 2005 when I met my good friend and producer Sunit. We worked together on the song called Keep It Undercover which was played on the very influential Bobby Friction and Nihal BBC Radio 1 show in UK. The snowball effect of this record being embraced and championed kickstarted my career.
4.) What has been the most challenging part of your journey in this industry thus far?
I think having belief in yourself is difficult. Especially when there is a lot of negativity thrown at artists when all they are really doing is expressing themselves creatively. I always tried to learn from my mistakes. Every release requires a lot of work, planning and financing which has all been done independently. Being an independent artist is a risk and you will lose more times than you win. But there is always a lesson to be learnt and when you do win (which is inevitable) the reward is definitely worth it. We have all been through periods of time where we feel like giving up and the road seems really difficult but I’ve persevered and that is the key I think.
5.) What is the deciding factor for the collaborations and projects you choose to work on? What excites you?
The passion of other creative people is infectious and I love seeing that in others. Also I always think the music is the first thing. If I can connect to a song it is way more important than any other factor. For my own records I have to feel excited about sharing what I’ve done with others. I don’t believe in saving art for yourself, for me it is always made to be shared.
6.) Which collaboration has been the most rewarding for you?
I really enjoyed working on the Ego remix simply because it feels like it was a turning point in our scene. We managed to pull together some very talented South Asian rappers from all over the world and put them on a record together and everybody represented themselves to the fullest on the song. As far as I know it was the first time that had ever been done on a scale like that and it led to this culture of collaboration which I love to see.
7.) Who are some dream artists you would love the opportunity to work with (east and/or west)?
There are so many talented people it’s difficult to have a short list. Any of the artists I’ve mentioned whom I grew I up listening to I would love to work with. I think I could create a very special record with Ed Sheeran if given the opportunity. East wise I think there are so many talented young artists coming out of India and internationally that it’s difficult to keep up but the list gets longer every day. I have some collabs happening this year that I am really excited about but all will be revealed soon!
8.) You have delivered some significant messages through your lyrics/music. What do you hope to get across to those listening to your work?
I just want to express myself and also let any listener know that they aren’t alone in anything they are going through. There have been songs I have released and put lots of time and effort and energy into that haven’t had the wider impact I would have hoped for but I know that those songs reach the people that they need to. Sometimes the song doesn’t chart or have countless views but there will be a handful of people it inspires and that makes it all worthwhile.
9.) What is next on your bucket list for 2015?
My album Glass Ceiling. Before that I have a handful of my solo singles which I have high hopes for. My latest singles are Poison and Queen which features another very talented artist Zack Knight. I hope to be performing more internationally this year, I love travelling so that is high on my list.
10.) Any message for your fans/supporters?
As always I can never say thank you enough. If you have bought a song, come to a show or even shared a video link online, thank you. I get shown a lot of love and I hope I can live up to the expectations that you have of me
Big thank you to RAXSTAR for letting us feature his interview on our site. We DeSide has been following his body of work for some time and it was a real treat for us to be able to interview him. His humility and candor is clearly visible through his answers. We wish him the best as he continues to share his creativity with everyone worldwide. Raxstar has all the makings of a mainstream artist and we will not be surprised to see him in the U.S. music space very soon. Keep following his social media handles for all the latest news and coverage. Check out his latest singles and make sure to download on iTunes.
Photo Credit: Raxstar social media/site