Rapper Shah Rule talks about his latest release Smoke which is an ode to his ex-girlfriends, and the rise of desi hip-hop
Indian-origin rapper Rahul Shahani aka Shah Rule was born in Hong Kong, raised in Moscow, and educated in London. It’s safe to say that the artist’s work has influences from all over the world, and that is probably why his tracks resonate with a global audience. His latest track Smoke is, apparently, an ode to the women he has been in a relationship with in the past. “Smoke is a track that is dedicated to women who indulge in the high life. It is inspired by my ex girlfriends. Since I don’t smoke, when I started the track, all I could do was write the hook from my point of view which goes like, She just wanna smoke, the drink is just for show. Then I decided to get a female perspective on board. I sent the track to Dee MC, who vibed with it and recommended to bring D’Evil on board too,” says he.
Dee MC aka Deepa Unnikrishnan is a hip-hop artist and playback singer who is featured in the single and in the track Jagga Jiteya from the Bollywood film Uri - The Surgical Strike. D’EVIL aka Dhaval Parab rose to fame with his single Chal Bhak in 2017, and made his debut in Bollywood by spitting rhymes in the Baba Theme song from Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster 3 the following year.
“D’Evil and I have worked together previously. I instantly knew he would kill this track too, which he did. The beat is by a talented American producer called Deyjan, and I mixed and mastered everyone’s vocals. Canfuse aka Karan Shelar shot and edited an incredible video for us and it was powered by Desi Hip Hop,” shares the artist.
Like many artists from the underground hip-hop circuit in India, Shah Rule was also featured in Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy which introduced mainstream audiences to the rap scene in the country. According to him, the film gave the underground hip-hop community in India the boost it deserved. “For someone like Ranveer Singh to have spearheaded this project, which may have flaws in the eyes of hip-hop purists, it will definitely open more doors for aspiring artists. The sound has now been introduced to the masses but it’s up to the artists now to make the most of this spotlight. Hip-hop music has always been an umbrella term under which there are many sub genres, and India will soon discover that there is more to it than just gully rap,” says he.
Many listeners of pop and Bollywood music have started listening to desi hip-hop and exploring the work of Indian rappers post the film. But is this surge in popularity temporary or will local hip-hop artists be able to sustain themselves through their craft? “Desi hip-hop is on the rise and has been so because of the artists and not any specific sound. The entire responsibility of pushing the culture lies with the artists. The music industry is at our finger tips today since we are living in a digital age. No artist should be making any excuses. You have to go out and make a name for yourself,” he says.
Desi hip-hop is accumulating fans not only in India, but abroad as well. As Shah Rule travels to different cities across the world to collaborate with various artists, he notices that the interest in the Indian hip-hop scene is growing globally yet only a handful of global desi hip hop artists are really making significant money from their work. But even in trying times, Shah Rule believes that as an emcee, one should always believe in oneself. “My journey has been a long and educational one. I needed to go through the grind of putting out mixtapes, countless free shows, learning to produce music myself, knocking on doors, and perfecting my skills as a performer and writer to ultimately get where I am, and I’m still learning. Moving to India in 2015 was definitely the wisest move I’ve made and things have been going in the right direction ever since,” he says adding that the grind continues.
Some of his role models include The Notorious BIG, Big L, KRS One, Nas, Jay Z and so on. “Their flows, cadences, rhymes and storytelling skills have influenced me in some way or the other. It’s hard to pen down specifics but experienced hip-hop heads could tell by hearing me or any artist and figure out who their influences are. For example, from my perspective, Divine has definitely been influenced by Tupac, lyrically, and his flow definitely has elements inspired by Nas,” says the artist who also owns and runs what he likes to call “global storytelling inspired lifestyle brand”.
“Rule Worldwide is my lifestyle clothing brand which upholds values of motivation, and determination. I launched the brand in mid 2018 with a premium line of luxury strapback caps which have been sported by Ranveer Singh, Raftaar, Kubbra Sait, Monica Dogra and many more. I look at myself as a mogul, just like the hip-hop moguls I look up to — Jay Z or Diddy, they always had a parallel entity which supported their brand as artists. Rule Worldwide is my Rocawear or Sean John,” says the go-getter who is currently in the process of designing a complete apparel line.