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Best Indian Hip-Hop Projects of 2023 (So Far)

2023 has been a great year so far for the Indian Hip-Hop scene particularly due to the increased interest shown for desi hip-hop music by the new gen Indian film makers and reality shows. While there’s been a shortage of full length albums, there has been a massive surge in alternative hip-hop and trap music in India in the form of EPs and shorter Mixtapes. Today we look at 8 of the best projects released this year so far.

8. TE#RR#OR#ISM^ – $ohunnid

$ohunnid is an up and coming hypertrap producer and rapper from Gurgaon. I was introduced to him through his 2022 album ‘venlux’. The album featured the, in trend, hypertrap sound in it’s purest form. Despite having it’s fair share of flaws, it marked an important event in the Indian underground scene. In this new EP, $ohunnid seems a lot more confident in himself, his melodic flows and adlibs are a lot more zesty, his vocal tone and texture, a lot more mature. It would be interesting to see where this, Yeat inspired youngin goes from here.

7. HARD CHOICES- Gurinder Gill

Indo-Canadian Punjabi rapper/singer Gurinder Gill’s first solo studio album ‘Hard Choices’ comes after his exponential rise to fame through his collaboration with AP Dhillon and Shinda Kahlon. Everything from the cover art to the song titles determine that Gill is here to make a statement, to reestablish himself as the main character of his story and the 808 heavy production feeds that fire. Even though there are one or two weak links in the tracklist, the highs of the tracks like Wake Up, Lonestar, Forever overpower the lows. ‘Hard Choices’ is one such album that has something for everyone to relate to.

6. AAPAH – Harass

Aapah is a 5 track Boom Bap/Drumless project by the Bihari rapper Harass in collaboration with producer Laudrup. It is a conceptual EP which narrates the lifecycle of an artist through his lens, simultaneously paying respect to his idols, Tupac, Jaun Elia, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and poet Rudaaki. Laudrup provides a perfect platform with his sample heavy beats for Harass’ bilingual pen to flow like butter.

5. MEEN – yungsta

Yungsta and Sez’s Meen is probably one of the grandest independent releases of the country this year both in terms of numbers and sonics, featuring Yungsta’s best work till now. The two artists showcase some great synergy to narrate rapper’s come up story through a Piscean lens. With the aid of this project, Yungsta let’s out all his bottled up emotions following the Head, Heart, Hand decree; a very unique concept for an album.

4. QUEERBOPS – FINSTA

Driven by emotions, FINSTA’s latest mixtape Queerbops can be summed up by her own lyrics ‘Bande rap vap karte khaali, they make songs, I make statements’. Each and every song on the mixtape has it’s separate identity, something to come back to. Be it the extremely appealing hooks and melodies or the passionate bars, FINSTA made sure that she puts the ‘bop’ in Queerbops. All three features added immense character to their respective tracks, strengthening the big ‘fuck you’ message that the tape sends to the cis-het people who look down on the queer.

3. SANJU & SALLU – BAGI MUNDA & JASKARAN

Two of the most dynamic rappers in the underground right now come together to have fun and showcase their skills. The album gives a Punjabi twist to the traditional Memphis rap subgenre amalgamating Bhangra and Bollywood sounds to it. Jaskaran and Bagi Munda flaunt their kinship throughout the project, trading bars and feeding off each other’s diverse energetic flows. A large number of quotables make an already captivating album even more gripping.

2. Rog – Lil Kabeer

Delhi based producer-rapper Lil Kabeer dropped his self produced mixtape ‘Rog’ early this year. Dwelling in the cloud rap/rnb trap sound, the tape boasts one of his best performances ever, lyrically and in terms of writing melodies. Kabeer talks about the longing of his loved one, being lovesick on some exceptional and varied beats. The mixing of the project also deserves a special mention as it gives an isolated, distant yet warm feel to the tracks. Rog is truly a milestone in Hindi cloud rap genre.

1. Full Moon – Darcy

With Full Moon, Darcy takes us further into his HYP3R universe acquainting us with his struggle of living trap lifestyle. He builds a sonically cohesive mixtape plunging into the hypertrap subgenre. The sonics are backed up with a solid storyline, captivating lyrics spiced up by the Mumbai lingo and an impressive overall rollout of the tape. Darcy has managed to manufacture a project with absolutely no fillers, each bar and each song adds some character and meaning to the overall theme of the album.

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