Badshah: If you struggle with it, the song's no good

Jan 14, 2018, 10:00 IST | Sonia Lulla

Ahead of his debut album, Badshah spills the beans on delivering chart-topping numbers

Badshah
Badshah

The suspicion expressed when we bat for Badshah's wit isn't lost on us. Having charted the Punjabi rapper's trajectory since his Bollywood debut in 2014, it's easy to assume that the man who unfailingly delivers the years' party anthems, does compose catchy but in fact seamless tracks. After all, how testing can it be to create a Kar Gayi Chull or rehash a Kala Chashma, right? Yet, a tête-à-tête with Badshah is sufficient to burst this bubble. The engineering dropout, with a penchant for math, balances his keen eye for detail in his craft, with a sharp sense of comprehension of his surroundings. Ahead of the release of his debut album, ONE, Badshah talks to mid-day about its newly released second single, Kare Ja, an innately groovy track that's been garnering clicks since its debut last week.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

That song has already crossed over 10 million views in two days. Did you expect this reception?
I was surprised because this is a lyrical video [audio only]. But, I knew with Kare Ja I was creating something [special]. I knew I wanted a beat/hook line that's repetitive, continuous. I prepared the structure of the song, roughly 70 per cent of it, in one day. I'm really glad it has been appreciated.

How will this album be distanced from the rest of your work?
There will be lyricism in this album. Sonically, it will be different from my previous songs. There will be things that will make you think. You'll want to sit and listen to it, maybe even learn from it, and ask questions. This album will be a culmination of my time in the industry, and the life that I've lived. With over 12 tracks, fans will be treated to a few collaborations too. I've done a song with Pakistani singer Qurat-Ul-Ain Balouch. She's among my favourites. We're contemplating roping in an international voice as well. Ahead of the March release, we will also release another single.

In a previous interview, you'd mentioned that rappers must "let a tune come to them" to create authentic music. How does Badshah arrive at his tunes?
As soon as you start to struggle, you are not going to create a successful song. A tune has to be the most natural thing that comes to you. Sometimes, some silly things may come to your head, and that's when your character comes to the fore. You should welcome that.

I do know that you travel with your equipment so that you can start exploring a tune wherever it strikes you...
I recall with precision where it was that I arrived at the tune for Kare Ja. It was during a midnight drive in Chandigarh's Sector 36. I arrived at the basic structure, in 2013. So, yes, a tune can come to you anywhere. You don't have to try and "get into the zone".

While tackling questions on the criticism around rehashing '90s songs for films, you spoke about how the trend was fading away. What trends should aficionados look forward to in 2018?
I was having this discussion with a music director recently. I think, remakes are going to stay for another year, if not more. As a listener, as much as I want to hear new music, I think remakes are also welcome. But, they should sound nice. If they are created only with the intention of promoting a film, they can sound artificial. But, otherwise, remixes can have a great contemporary flavour. Right now, the rate of consumption of music is staggering. So, everyone has an opinion on the sort of sounds that will become trendy. But, irrespective of the sound, the content needs to be honest.

There has constantly been this disconnect between veteran singers and young music composers on meaningful lyrics, with the former criticising the lack of it in the newer creations. I ask you this because you uphold Gurdaas Maan among your favourite, do you think this divide will ever fade?
Today, people are exposed to a variety of genres. You can enjoy a ghazal by Jagjit Singh, and then hymn a track from the '60s or '70s. You can hear jive, and then also enjoy a Despacito [by Luis Fonsi]. So, listeners can enjoy it all. If a song sounds good, the presentation doesn't matter. If the listener enjoys it, that's enough. Having said that, this debate on lyrics will never end. In the future, artistes will approve of lyrics that we may question. Probably, we'll have an opinion on them as well.

Coming to your brand, Badfit, which I assume stems from the love for Kanye West's Yeezy sneakers and jackets that many Punjabi singers have spoken about, how involved are you with the creation of the apparels?
I am completely involved. I design everything and even pay visits to the factories. The response to the brand has been fantastic. The second collection just sold out and we launched the third one recently. We're in talks with fashion portals to put the attires on sale. A shoe collection will launch in March. If I talk about my inspiration behind the brand, I think it comes from giving people what they want at a reasonable price. In India, people look at us, our attires, and aspire to find the clothes we wear. But, they aren't available here. There's this fashion revolution that's happening on the other side of the world, and I want to bring that here. I want to make India more fashionable so that people don't feel out of place when they travel to Milan, or elsewhere.

Talking about your entrepreneurial endeavours, you also spoke about starting a production house?
I produced a Punjabi film [Ardaas] last year that was well received. This year, I have a couple of things lined up. There's a TV show, based on Hip Hop. The channel intends to launch it on a big scale, so, I cannot reveal much about it yet. There's also a web series. I will also produce a film, hopefully a Hindi one.

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