Badshah On His Greater Vision, Sacrifices For Success And Taking Desi-Pop Global

Megastar rapper Badshah has spent the last decade triumphantly tearing down the boundaries of India’s music scene. Awallprintss’ Safeeyah Qadhi sat down virtually with the star for a candid interview on his ultimate purpose, sacrifices for success and breaking fresh ground as an Indian artist.

Badshah appears on my screen in effortless fashion, donning clear statement glasses, a beige beanie and a Balenciaga raincoat.

He’s beaming ear-to-ear as he greets me, instantly warming up the atmosphere.

There is a genuine sense of accomplishment on his face when I congratulate him on his latest ground-breaking collaboration with Latin giants J Balvin and Tainy. The trio joined forces on trilingual anthem Voodoo, which currently has 40 million views on YouTube, for an epic fusion of culture in a move that formally marks the first step in Badshah’s journey to putting Desi music on the global stage.

The Jugnu hitmaker, real name Aditya Prateek Singh Sisodia, honestly explains that making a hit is no longer a difficult job with a near-formulaic process. For that reason, he believes there is a need for a change in “vision” in order to successfully integrate Indian music as part of the mainstream.

“I think the vision needs to change,” the 36-year-old says. “I think the outcome that an artist wants needs to change. For example, BTS makes you want to go to Korea and J Balvin makes me want to learn Spanish. So all these artists are somewhat responsible for their cultures.”

“Once you realise that, I think you start doing bigger things, things that are greater than monetary causes or greater than fame, greater than followers and greater than everything. When that happens I think the outcome is going to be far greater and it's going to have much more longevity than what you might otherwise have seen.”

The Pani Pani singer notes that Balvin’s conviction in unapologetically sticking to his roots and refusing to dilute his culture in a bid to make it more appealing to the mainstream is something he has adopted.

I get the immediate sense that he sees music as bigger than his own sense of self, it forms part of his desire to serve others.

With 15 billion streams and over 7 billion views on YouTube in his arsenal, it’s impossible to ignore Badshah’s meteoric rise to stardom.

In spite of having the numbers firmly stand in his favour, he tells me how he sets his own benchmarks for defining success – largely based on his satiation as an artist.

“For me, success has two types,” he says. “I think one is a tangible success, which are the stats, the numbers and the milestones that you achieve. Then the other is your creative satisfaction in the songs that you make.”

“I've made a few songs which I hate performing on stage that have been huge hits, that is not success for me. If I've made a song, I love performing it and people love listening to it, that is success for me right there. All these numbers don't matter but they're great motivators. Ever since I was born, it’s like you have to be first in class, you have to score this many marks, there’s these numbers and those numbers. It's a measure of success in the real world and you cannot ignore that but I am blessed to be able to balance both types.”

When I probe him on his ultimate milestones, he counts one of his tangible targets as taking home a Grammy for a desi-pop anthem. Although, it appears the accolade is more symbolic of a bigger victory for the star.

“Winning a Grammy would inspire so many kids just to be brave and follow their dreams and become great in life and not be average because I think it’s a sin to be average,” he explains.

That mindset is echoed in his advice for those who look up to him.

“My advice is just do not give up,” he says with striking humility. “Never give up. I have seen people who are way more talented then I am, I have seen people who are much sharper than I am but I never gave up. The only genius thing that I ever did was not give up, nothing else and that’s what you need to do.”

Sadly, he believes his victories have left many blinded to his humble beginnings.

“I think people in general think I was probably born with a Rolls Royce and that I was born rich,” he says. “They don’t think that I worked really hard to be where I am. They think there’s always 10 girls and 20 cars with me. When in reality, it doesn’t even matter to me if the AC is on, I can sleep anywhere because I have lived a hostel life and I come from a very basic background.”

He adds that whilst it’s hurtful to be told he doesn’t deserve his platform, he has resigned to this being a part of having his name in lights.

Regardless of his mounting list of accomplishments over the last 16 years, Badshah remains sure that his time in the limelight will draw to a close eventually – something he is adamant will not impact his desire to continue creating music.

“I’ll still make music because the first song was for myself and even today the songs I make are for myself so I’ll keep on making music it does not matter,” he says.

He adds that there is ample music in his private discography that will never see the light of the day because it contains lyrics that could make him look “extremely vulnerable”.

His extreme highs have not come without a cost. The singer has been publicly very candid about sacrificing his personal life in pursuit of his art, a decision the superstar admits he seldom thinks about.

“Right now, I might not feel it but when there aren’t a lot of people listening to me, I know something’s going to hit me,” he explains.

“But I don’t think about it because right now is about the music which keeps me going and I love it. I know I have sacrificed a lot but I think it’s all worth it because I think I was born to make music and nothing else.”

Refusing to set limits on himself, the rapper says he strongly adopts the “I can” mentality, a by-product of his mother’s commitment to supporting his dreams as a child.

“This thinking has come to me from her,” he says. “She's very much like ‘why not?’ and ‘of course you can’. It's very important. You hear all these motivational speakers talking about manifestation and it might sound cliché but it's true. The answer is always in front of you - hard work and positive thinking.”

J Balvin (left) and Badshah (right) teamed up with Tainy for hit track 'Voodoo.'

Badshah’s varied portfolio of music has become somewhat of a trademark for the star with a conscious effort made to produce ever-evolving music.

“It's extremely important to continue to keep your palate clean when you start making a sound,” he says. “So it's a conscious effort and hence that's why every song that I make you can never guess what is coming your way, except for my voice and [my catchphrase] ‘it’s your boy Bad-a-shah.’ I have kept it that way.”

When I ask him about his ‘why’, what keeps him going when he’s uninspired he highlights that realising “nobody has ever done what I’m doing” remains his “biggest motivator in life.”

He counts Elon Musk and Kanye West among his greatest inspirations for breaking fresh ground in their respective fields, something he hopes to join them in by being the first artist to take Indian music worldwide.

Whether or not he is successful in his dream, he expresses genuine optimism in that he will be remembered for trying.

The Tabahi creator says: “It's more than my want, it is my duty and my responsibility to my culture and my sound. I might not do it, I might not get the Grammy and somebody else might get to perform at the Super Bowl but I want to be remembered for being the first one to at least think about it and do something actively about it.”

Badshah’s unwavering desire to give desi music a global platform whilst remaining authentic and operating with candour that is rarely seen in stars today could just be the reason he does it.

Voodoo is out now.

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