From Peace to Bindis and Bangles, Raja Kumari has incredibly transformed the hip hop music scene in India and across the world. Though her upbringing was in the USA, her family kept her closer to the Indian roots through the medium of music. Having been trained as a classical Indian dancer, she fell in love with hip hop music when she was just 10 years old and then there was no looking back! Let’s take you on a fun-filled ride as we explore the phenomenal journey of the Hip-Hop Queen, Raja Kumari!
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Childhood and Early Life
Born to Telegu parents who migrated to California, Raja Kumari pursued religious studies as an undergraduate student and specialised in South Asian religions. Growing up in a South Indian household, she was introduced to Telugu music as a kid and she started learning Indian classical dancing from the young age of 7. When Kumari was in fifth grade, she came across hip hop music and started enjoying it. Spending hours watching MTV, Raja Kumari fell in love with Hip-Hop through the music of Michael Jackson, Madonna, Lauren Hill and Missy Elliot.
By the time she was 14 years of age, Kumari had been discovered as a freestyle MC. She was popularly known as the Indian Princess. Alongwith pursuing MCing she also completed her training in Kathak, Kuchipudi and Bharatnatyam. She has also given some excellent performances at the Ravindra Bharti in Hyderabad.
Even when Raja Kumari was in school, she would do freestyle rapping in cyphers and realised that it was her true calling. She felt that rapping came naturally to her, and the experience of doing so got even better when she started to write her own songs. As a youngster, she performed at clubs, loved the feeling of being on stage and enjoyed the thrill of sharing her music with other people.
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Becoming Raja Kumari
When Kumari was certain that it was music that she wanted to pursue, she wanted to find the right name to represent her music. That’s when she named herself ‘Raja Kumari’ which can be translated as the daughter of a king. Kumari wanted to choose a name that would be rooted in her Indianness and spirituality. At the same time, she wanted to make a statement that she is fearless, confident and royal.
Finding her Muse in India
Kumari believes that India has had a huge influence on her music. She says that India is her motherland and will always a part of her life. Even though she was born and brought up in California, United States of America, she would often visit her family back in India. That way, she kept a part of her intact with our country’s rich culture and history. When she decided to move back to India in 2016, it didn’t seem like an alien place. In fact, it felt just like home.
When she was a young girl, apart from listening to hip hop music, Kumari spent a lot of her time listening to AR Rahman, Classical Indian Music and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. All of this has impacted her and continues to do so, which she brings out perfectly in her music and performances. Kumari feels that her being Indian and explored different fields of Indian music gives her an edge over others.
Raja Kumari’s debut single in India, City Slums has been certified three times platinum by the Indian Music Industry. The single has already garnered 37 million views on Youtube. She collaborated with hip hop star DIVINE for the song and shot it in a short span of just 24 hours! What makes the song stand out is that it captures Mumbai’s hustle and has beautifully amalgamated old school hip hop vibes with it.
She has also co-written, performed and featured in several background vocals. Some of her most popular songs include Change your life and Centuries.
She also wrote with famous music artists like Gwen Stefani and her debut solo single ‘Mute’ featuring Elvis Brown received a lot of critical acclaim. Raja Kumari also starred in a brief role in the movie Gully Boy as a judge.
Kumari recently hosted the American Music Awards Pre-show telecast and has been nominated MTV European Music Awards thrice under the category of Best India Act.
Here is a list of songs recorded and written by Raja Kumari.
- City Slums
- Krewella and Nervo
- Bindis and Bangles
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Raja Kumari has truly emerged as an inspiration for many women aspiring to make a name in the Hip-hop music and is one of the very few artists who have embraced their Indian roots! For more such interesting blogs on inspirational women around the world, stay tuned to Leverage Edu.