Indian Record Labels Don’t Know HipHop
Since the beginning of time for Desi HipHop there has been very minimum to absolutely no support from the mainstream. Although a few rappers have cracked deals with major label’s but that has not manifested into something really big and rather has lead to their work put on hold leading to disappointment of the fans and the artist themselves.
The latest example being Brodha V. Around 2 years ago, Brodha V declared that he was signed with Sony Music and he decided to push all his music under their label. This instantaneously put Brodha V in the spotlight. Prior to getting signed he was already a force to be dealt with in the underground, his last mixtape, “The Death Punch” was perhaps one the most celebrated Indian Mixtapes till date and received appreciation from audiences worldwide and he was also a part of MWA (Machas With Attitude), one of India’s oldest and favourite crews. We have nothing against the major labels but it is almost like a Déjà vu of sorts. Labels sign the rappers but then they are almost clueless of how to cater to the masses. The required funds are not allocated, there are always going to be a creative difference with most of the time they (labels) tell the artist to either dumb down the lyrics or make it more CATCHY hence diluting the creative element, the release dates are always pushed or delayed due to one reason or the other.
In the past we have seen Bohemia had his conflicts with Universal Music group. There was an exchange of dialogue on twitter regarding the same when Bohemia decided to use it as the medium to put out his thoughts. He went through the same cycle again when Bohemia got signed to Sony Music but left it due to creative differences. He now has his own label, “Kali Denali Music“.
Another artist which has been in the game and got his name around the circuit is KRSNA, previously known as Young Prozpekt has his battalion of fans. KRSNA being one of the few bilungual rappers to make some serious heat in English as well as Hindi has also had his share of experiences with Universal Music group. I have known KRSNA personally since his Prozpekt days, the only thing changed is his stage alias, his flow and delivery is still on point and is one of the best lyricist out there.
DesiHipHop.com was able to catch up with KRSNA and this is how it went.
Q1. What is your opinion about the labels in India regarding Hip Hop music ?
To be honest, labels in India don’t understand how Hip Hop/Rap music works. There are no labels taking Hip Hop seriously in India, which means investing in it & seeding for the long term. Labels in India see Hip Hop only in the context of pop/bollywood music right now, which means they believe it has limited appeal outside of the mainstream, which they will realise is not the case in due time. With that said, some labels are helping the scene along just by giving artists a platform to showcase their talent through their YouTube channel, which may not be a whole lot but it is a start. We need more labels to believe in Hip Hop music as a standalone genre, it is one of the most popular forms of music internationally (if not the most) and there is no reason it shouldn’t be the same in India.
Q2. How was your experience being signed ?
I have mixed feelings, it was a great learning experience putting together an album in a short span of time and going through the whole process. I am grateful that I got the opportunity to make an album and be financially backed to a certain degree. However, there was a lot to be desired on the promotional front, I feel the whole effort was wasted because we could not capitalise on the product. If labels expect to make money back from their artists, they need to push the artist at the right time and right places, they have to make an investment and stick with that for a while. Expecting overnight returns with no promotional efforts will not work, especially where something as niche as English Hip Hop is concerned.
Q3. Do you think is it just the Labels which are not justifying the artists efforts or is the public out here yet to come to terms with Hip Hop music ?
I think it’s both. The audience for commercial Hindi/Punjabi Hip Hop has grown exponentially. It is mainstream now. Labels understand this, so for them this sort of commercial Desi Hip Hop is a viable investment. When you look at the rest of the Hip Hop scene, it’s almost non existent because the audience is extremely small. At the end of the day you need to look at a label as a supplier and where there is demand, there will be supply.
Q4. How would you recommend an independent artist to approach hip hop music as a livelihood in India ?
Well, unless you are cracking 4 to 5 paid gigs a month you are technically struggling or have financial backing of some sort. Which rapper apart from the commercial bollywood lot are getting that money right now? None really. So either give up your notions of being ‘underground’ or don’t give up your day job.
My real advice here would be, to stay independent and get yourself in a position where you have a product thats strong enough for you to actually negotiate a good deal for yourself. Make rap your side hustle if you have to for the time being – don’t be too quick to give up your source of income. Work till the point that your music becomes a bigger source of income than your salary.
Q5. What is your strategy to release new music and spreading it ?
I’m in the process of setting up an Independent Label with a friend who is also my business partner. We want to build along the lines of Tech N9ne’s Strange Music & Hopsin’s Funk Volume where we do more edgy stuff and push boundaries with the music we release but at the same time have a hand in creating commercial Hip Hop music that could fit the mould of bollywood down the line – we are not shying away from that. My next release will be through our platform after which we will look to sign newer artists.
Q6. A message to upcoming artists and also what projects are you working on currently ?
My message would be that just grind it out, there is no substitute for hard work. Sometimes you might feel like you are just wasting your time and doubt everything you do but don’t lose hope and give up. Keep going.
I am planning to go back to basics and put out some Hindi material next. I am in the writing process right now and I know it’s been a while since I put anything out, but hopefully when the project comes out – it will be worth it.