Looking Beyond The ‘Badshah’ Of Desi Hip Hop

All set to rock fans with his new studio album, we speak to Badshah about being a superstar musician in the 21st century.

May 16, 2024

In the recent past, if you look at some of the biggest chartbusters and popular songs, one person has some role to play in it—Aditya Prateek Singh Sisodia. You know him better as Badshah. One of India’s most successful hip-hop and rap artists also is a prolific songwriter and record producer. He is currently preparing for the launch of his highly-anticipated third studio album, titled “Ek Tha Raja”. This album follows the success of his previous releases and promises to be a grand affair. The album announcement video features Shah Rukh Khan, lending his star power to the project. “Ek Tha Raja” boasts 16 tracks and collaborations that haven’t been seen before, showcasing a range of musical styles.

Badshah’s unique blend of hip-hop, pop, and desi influences has made him a household name in India and beyond. Starting in Hisar, Haryana, his natural flair for music was not to stay hidden for long. He started rapping during college and quickly gained recognition for his catchy lyrics and energetic performances. His big break came in 2012 with the release of the song “Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui,” which became a national sensation. In the last 12 years, he has delivered a string of chart-topping hits, including “Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai,” “Kala Chashma,” and “Ghar Waapsi.” Beyond his music, Badshah has also collaborated with some of the biggest names in Bollywood, lending his rapping talents to popular movie soundtracks. He has also been a judge on several reality TV shows, further solidifying his position as a music industry icon.

In a conversation on the sidelines of his performance at the recently concluded Royal Stag Boombox, we asked Badshah to share when he realised that he had reached the pinnacle of his career and ‘arrived’ on the Indian music stage. To which he cheekily responded, “I realised a long ago, it’s only the people who didn’t.” His music is characterised by infectious beats, clever wordplay and themes that connect with young audiences. Badshah’s versatility as an artist is evident in his ability to seamlessly switch between rapping in Hindi, Punjabi, and English. A perfect example of this would be his record-breaking live performances in Leeds and London in 2023. He became the first Indian rapper to sell out Wembley’s Ovo Arena in London.

A true influencer, Badshah’s influence extends beyond music. He is a trendsetter when it comes to fashion, and his signature style often includes oversized sunglasses, blingy jewellery, and trendy caps. The secret, he reveals, is comfort: “People don’t realise a lot of luxury brands or luxury items are really comfortable. So, I am looking for that epitome of comfort, which some of these brand have cracked.” In season six of the television-OTT chat show, Koffee With Karan, hosted by filmmaker Karan Johar, Badshah along with Diljit Dosanj discussed their love for fashion at great length. He wore a Balenciaga sweatshirt on the show that allegedly cost upwards of INR 50000.

Badshah’s sources of inspiration are varied but each moment and person has left an indelible mark on his life as he says, “I think the people that I have met over the years, have helped me become who I am. Their influences, the learnings I got from them or vicariously through them. That has been the most beautiful part of my journey.” Despite his meteoric success, Badshah remains humble and his dedication to his craft becomes obvious when he says that creating music is a conscious effort. “There is so much music that has been churned out, you just have to make sure that– my process is that I listen to a lot of music, and then I say, ‘Okay, this is not what I want to make.’,” he explains his creative process.

However, given a choice, he will opt for his role as a songwriter—“ I have always been a writer first. I love doing that. I love writing.” As long as his songs are not repetitive without losing track of what makes him authentic, Badshah will deliver on the promise of a chart-busting track.

Not one to sit idle, Badshah is also invested in the hospitality and fashion businesses with brands such as Dragonfly and Badfit, respectively. To give back to the community, he is associated with Tata Memorial Hospital on pediatric cancer initiatives and quietly champions women and child welfare through his involvement with NGOs.

Badshah’s biggest achievement is his ability to stay relevant and create musical pieces that resonate while pushing boundaries and experimenting with new sounds, ensuring that his music stays fresh and exciting. “I think ‘living it large’ would be a great message that I would like people to take away and enjoy every moment,” he says. With his infectious energy, captivating music, and undeniable star power, Badshah’s reign over the desi rap scene will continue for years.