Wednesday, May 12, 2021
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Finding calm in chaos with Raja Kumari

“I feel like my songwriting is prophetic,” says Raja Kumari, about her latest single ‘Peace’, that was released last week. A laid back R&B number, it is a departure from the rapper-singer-songwriter’s usual hip-hop style. Recalling that she had co-written the song (with friend and collaborator Elvis Brown) in early January, she says, “I’d been going through a lot, missed my family as I’d been in India for quite some time, it was lonely… So I wanted to say something positive.” However, it is also relevant to the current state of the world, offering an escape with her smooth vocals and calming visuals.

Chatting on Instagram Live earlier this week, she is impeccably turned out as always, although it is late night in California, where she has been quarantining with her family for the past few months. There is plenty of love in the comments for her work, especially the new single. Even her mum is a fan, says Raja Kumari. “It is her favourite because it is so peaceful and she can send it to all her friends. In the other songs, when I drop an F bomb, she can’t share it. So we have issues,” she laughs. Her parents were also involved in the dreamy video for ‘Peace’ which was shot in their backyard. Rolling meadows, splashing streams and wildflowers included. And for those saying this is not what they expected from her, she says, “I’m a singer, so when I first started rapping, I didn’t know that would become more popular than my singing!”

The lockdown has taught her many things, including the true meaning of self-care, she says. Apart from going vegan and making other health-related changes, she explains, “I was going 20 million miles per hour and did not realise that self-love is sleeping on time, staying hydrated, choosing happiness and joy in every moment. Becoming my own support system has become the most important thing.”

Raja Kumari’s collab wishlist

  • Drake
  • Missy Elliot
  • Megan Thee Stallion
  • Arjit Singh
  • Sidhu Moose Wala
  • Guru Randhawa
  • Badshah

It is something she learnt through her career as well, getting into an industry where “no one looked like [me]”. To make Indian culture as mainstream in America as Latin culture is, she feels will take more than one artiste. “Ricky Martin got through, and that is why we have Maluma, Bad Bunny, Shakira today… I believe we have a lot of talent. So if we keep elevating our quality, we can have the renaissance that people like Hasan Minhaj, Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kaling and others have been working for,” she says. This desire is why she partnered with Bumble’s ‘Levelling the Charts’ initiative to mentor upcoming young artistes in India. Her advice? “Perseverance, belief in self, consistency, manifestation, setting intentions, removing limiting ideas and beliefs, and having the audacity to believe in your dreams. These are the things that create superstars,” she says.

Even when Indian hip-hop artistes make it in the industry, there can never be too much representation on the global stage. Which is why when Raja Kumari was invited to host Apple Music’s New India show, she played songs by Abhi the Nomad, Dee MC, Divine, Raftaar and Naezy among others, for an audience that spans 83 countries. She curated a similar collection for Revolt, a music cable network from Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs. “It feels good, because we didn’t really have a platform before this. So any chance I get, I try to make sure I put a shine on my people,” she grins.

With half a million followers on Instagram, Raja Kumari has never shied away from activism on her social media page. Having grown up in the US, she says the current political situation and the Black Lives Matter movement has shaken many people “out of their slumber”. Counting herself one among them, she says, “I was affected by this idea of being a model minority, understanding my privilege and re-educating myself, and unlearning things. If I can bring in alternate information that my followers can research on their own to make a decision, I think it is my duty and responsibility to share it.” And to the haters, she simply says, “I wish them the best.”

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