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Mass Appeal India Signs Rapper Raja Kumari

Raja Kumari and Nas
Andrew LoPiccolo

Raja Kumari and Nas

The California-born MC is among India's most popular hip-hop acts.

MUMBAI – Indian-American rapper and singer-songwriter Raja Kumari has signed to Mass Appeal India, the label announced Monday (March 9). Kumari, aka Svetha Rao, is one of India's biggest hip-hop acts and among the few female English-language artists to have made a mark in the genre here.

The California native follows rapper and frequent collaborator Divine to Mass Appeal India, a partnership between Nas-owned U.S.-based entertainment company Mass Appeal and Universal Music India. Both acts were previously signed to Sony Music; Kumari was with Epic Records from 2015 to the end of 2019.

Her first release with Mass Appeal India will be the single "NRI", which will be out on April 10. It will be followed by a new EP.

In an interview with Billboard, Kumari said she signed with Mass Appeal India because their mission mirrors her aim of creating music that's a "bridge from the West to the East." Says Kumari, "I think every artist is looking for a partner or a team that understands their vision and where they want to go."

"The fact that Mass Appeal, a label that has so much impact and understanding of authenticity, have created Mass Appeal India proves they understand how important this region is, to the world and the future of music," she says. "Their dedication to India has really inspired me to know that they're going to be the ones who are going to help me go to the next level."

Kumari, who currently spends nine to 10 months of the year in Mumbai and the rest in Los Angeles, says the next level would be to break through to other International markets.

Before she moved to India in 2017, Kumari was a successful songwriter in America. Her credits include Fall Out Boy's 2014 single "Centuries," which hit the top ten of the Hot 100 and Iggy Azalea's 2013 cut "Change Your Life," which earned Kumari a Grammy nomination through the album The New Classic's best rap album nod in 2015.

She shot to prominence in the Indian music industry with the song "City Slums" which featured a guest spot by Divine. Via Epic and Sony Music India, she released the EPs The Come Up (2016) and Bloodline (2019) and a number of singles including the month-old "Bindis and Bangles," which was co-written with Divine.

The highlights of her young career as a performer include headlining a stage at the 2019 edition of the NH7 Weekender, widely regarded as the country's most popular multi-genre music festival, and a stint as a judge on last year's reality TV hip-hop competition MTV Hustle.

She has also dabbled in Bollywood. Apart from a cameo in the film Gully Boy, she has contributed to the soundtracks of Hindi films such as Judgmental Hai Kya and Zero. This month, she will be seen on Revolt TV as the host of Internationally Known, on which she plans to showcase Indian hip-hop.

The rise in recognition has not been without a share of controversy. A line on her track "Roots," a July 2018 duet with Divine, drew allegations of casteism. Despite repeated calls on social media to respond to the criticism, she only addressed it in August 2019, in a short documentary made by Sony.

"That whole experience made me [want to] live in India more because I realised there are certain things that I didn't understand the same way as someone who has grown up here," says Kumari who has studied ancient Indian history. "It made me a lot more sensitive to the way they live and feel. It was a learning curve."


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