Dee MC: In Bollywood, a promise of ‘exposure’ which is used as a convenient excuse to exploit artists

By Bryan Durham - February 4, 2020

Dee MC: In Bollywood, a promise of ‘exposure’ which is used as a convenient excuse to exploit artists

Rapper Dee MC (real name: Deepa Unnikrishnan) has been consistently churning out hits, touring, and was part of several brand campaigns. Her debut album Dee=MC2 (out October 2019) was well-received as well. She recently performed a couple of songs from that album on Vh1’s Listen, a few days ago. Here’s what she had to say to us about her journey so far…

Hip Hop has been an inherently foreign concept. How ‘swadesi’ have you and your peers made it?

I believe our journey in the past decade has shaped the swadesi sound of hip hop we hear now. Personally, I made the conscious switch of writing more Hindi than English only after my first international tour in UK back in 2017. Representing India there made me realise how important it is for the world that I’m a brown skin lady talking about things from a different perspective. Since then, in all my international shows, I have felt how moved South Asians were by my words and how despite not understanding the language, people from different ethnicities walked up to me curious about my journey as an artist. The change in my music was instant and came naturally since 2017, inclining towards the ‘swadesi’ side. 

You have Jagga Jiteya and Shuru Karein Kya under your belt in Bollywood. Has the added exposure helped? 

Working on both the tracks was a learning experience. Projects from Bollywood often come with a promise of ‘exposure’ which is used as a convenient excuse to exploit artists. My first project in Bollywood helped me learn a lot of dos and don’ts which I have followed since then. ‘Shuru Karein Kya’ was an absolutely humbling experience. Getting to work with an ace director like Anubhav Sinha first hand is something me and the other artists cherished each moment of. What I love about these projects is that since Gully Boy, Bollywood is now letting the rappers write and rap in their unique distinctive styles. Unlike before where they wanted everyone to sound Punjabi!   

How important are brand singles and non-film music in growing as a hip-hop artist?

As any artist, brand collaborations is a big source of livelihood. As far as music is concerned, hip hop can never solely depend on Bollywood. On a yearly basis we get more non-film music from Hip Hop than film based music. And the number is only going to keep growing, it’s the internet generation after all. Hip Hop music videos have transcended into the million view category without much help from the entertainment industry. 

If you had to make a protest song on one of today’s burning social issues, which one would you pick?

I have refrained from making socially relevant music just because some issue is trending at the moment. Music like that won’t be genuine enough and will not carry the same weight as opposed to a well thought out conceptual song. Tracks like Rang and Vadhaiyaan from my recently released debut album tackle issues such as brown skin prejudice, and the current state of affairs in our country respectively. Vadhaiyaan is a song I wrote back in 2017, but it was as socially relevant in 2019 as it was back then. No More Limits is another song I made in association with WashUnited for Menstrual Hygiene Day, talking about my personal experience with the taboo surrounding periods. This year I am reflecting more on personal growth (including mental health) and my listeners can expect the same in my music too. 

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