Sapna Magazine Archives

The Archives 2004-2020

Hip Hop vs. Hindi

In 1998 Timberland accidentally bought an Indian CD and started a musical revolution. Through this production mogul’s influence, artists from Beyonce to Britney Spears have been using South Asian beats to captivate their listener’s with the “new sound.” The “new sound”, that Desi kids have been aware of for years, is now sweeping the nation. Yet Desi hands are not doing the sweeping and many uneducated stereotypes are also being marketed along with the music.

We all love Beyonce, but I don’t know how much I love her shaking around in a coin bikini in the sand, tossing around some belly dancing here and some Bharatnatyam there. She is feeding the stereotype that the Middle Eastern culture and the South Asian culture are one in the same. She is not the only offender, I don’t think the Rap or HipHop community in general cares much about representing either culture correctly, e.g. black girls with relaxed hair in belly dancing outfits doing Desi moves. Sunaina Maira, author of Desis in the House, a study of second-generation Indian Americans growing up in New York, says that for young Desis “these images bring back memories of growing up unrecognized and of confronting racism.”

Even with the misuse of culture, surprisingly most South Asian youth are excited about the use of Hindi in Hiphop and love to promote it. It could be that we as a minority are happy to have our culture represented in the mainstream. “It’s gratifying to hear ‘your music’ at the gym,” says Sejal Shah, a writer in Park Slope. “It was as if the Bend It Like Beckham soundtrack I’d been listening to on my Walkman had suddenly been picked up by the speakers and was being broadcast.” For many young South Asians, the first time they heard “Beware” on the radio is already an indelible, pivotal moment—ask them, and you’ll hear a lot of “I thought a CD was playing” or “I was so excited I called a bunch of people, and was like, ‘Holy shit, turn it on.’ ”

Tower Records has already reported a huge increase in the number of Indian albums sold. “Now I have rappers asking for beats,” says Jay Dabhi (formerly Lil’ Jay), a New York DJ for 12 years who, during non-Indian gigs, never used to play the vinyl his parents lugged here. “Now it gets the biggest reaction,” says Jay. He along with other desi DJ’s, who had been remixing hiphop with Hindi for years, are finally making a profit out of it.

There was Beatle Mania, there was the Latin Invasion, now it seems like it is time for the Desi Explosion. — NOREEN MIA