First amongst equals
Punjabi rappers may come and go, but the ‘pioneer’ will always get his due. So feels Karachi-born and California-bred rapper Bohemia, credited with single-handedly launching the genre of Punjabi rap into mainstream music.
But being ‘original’ isn’t enough to him. Bohemia must remain on top. “I am the king of rap and if I cease to be one, I’ll do something else,” he says while on a trip to Ludhiana, where he performed at Splitsville on the night of December 31.
Think of Punjabi rap and most Indians are sure to recall Honey Singh and Hard Kaur. As much as mention the names and Bohemia brushes aside the impending comparison. “They are kids. They have a long distance to cover before they call themselves rappers. As far as the rest of the so-called Indian rappers go, their music angers me, annoys me. It’s garbage,” says Bohemia, without taking names in particular. The rapstar, thrilled with the warmth and affection of his fans, is in his element and seems to carry attitude around like his mobile phone, sure as he is of his music and huge fan following.
How does he define rap? “It’s is a medium to introduce one’s culture to the audience, to express oneself, one’s struggle and background,” he offers. “And to be a rapper, one has to grow up in California to understand it. And that is that,” he adds, offering another of his many reasons why the new brigade of ‘desi rappers’ in India aren’t rappers at all.
Elaborating on his point further, Bohemia shares that though he has been getting acting offers from Bollywood (ever since he broke into the scene with his 2009 title track for the film, Chandi Chowk to China and followed it up for a song in Desi Boyz) the roles invariably are comical. “This is how rap is treated in the country. Most don’t understand,” he laments.
In that case, does Bohemia enjoy a fan following in Punjab, which he thinks he deserves? “My true fans understand me. And there are many of those. They love me. They display their fondness for me by inking my face on their bodies,” he says proudly. “And Ludhiana has moved me with the love it has showered on me. I feel honoured.”