Check out our interview with talented Indian American Global Sensation and India’s Top female rappers Raja Kumari (43MM Spotify Streams and over 100MM YouTube views).
Born/Raised in LA, Raja got her start as a songwriter, penning hits for Gwen Stefani, Iggy Azalea, Fall Out Boy and garnered her first Grammy nomination and shortly after, launching her own solo artist career in India and quickly rising to the top. She was the first female artist that hip hop artist NAS signed to his label MASS APPEAL, then she parted ways and started Godmother Records and this past spring, she made her debut with The Bridge, out now.
Raja Kumari is going on The Bridge World Tour this fall, check out www.rajakumari.com for more information.
Follow Raja @therajakumari
Hey Raja, please tell us a little bit about you.
I am a musician, visual artist from Los Angeles, California. I’m Indian American, and I have made my career over the last few years. Pioneering female hip hop in India. So I’ve done a lot of performances there, as well as written a lot of songs for American pop artists in the US. So I kinda have my feet in both worlds.
Describe your sound in three words.
Empowering. Fusion. Fun
Who influenced you, and why did you choose to make music?
I’ve been influenced by a lot of musicians. But I chose to make music because music was kind of my rebellion in in my own way. I grew up learning Indian classical dance, and performing it all over America, all over India. And it was something that really took over a lot of my time. I gave like 200 performances with dance and when it came time to make music, that was kind of my rebellion. I think music is something that you can do so much through it; you can affect so many people on the platform that is so large, so that’s kind of why I started making music.
Do you play any instruments?
Yeah, I play piano and as a classical dancer, I have an intricate understanding of rhythm. So I do play some some percussion.
Do you ever get nervous?
Not for music, things, I think I get nervous when really exciting things are about to happen.
And I get nervous around, like social situations sometimes.
Tell us about your new album, THE BRIDGE.
My new album, THE BRIDGE is a project that I made during the pandemic over the course of two years, at my house, with the same group of people. This enable me to really able to focus on my healing, as I had just started therapy. Because I had started therapy, I feel like this album is really different. THE BRIDGE is about connecting the two parts of myself: before I talked a lot about duality, and identity, and I think THE BRIDGE is about bridging from the west back to the east, the ancient to the future and music was the is THE BRIDGE between us and God. And that was something important to me that I really remembered how important God was in my message. And, and this album is a bridge from the artists that I have created to evolving into the, into the artists that I’ve always wanted to be.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
Performing the songs and meeting people who are impacted by the music and hearing that my music is being played and in places that I wouldn’t expect, like I got a text the other day that they were playing my music at the frontlines at the SAG AFTRA protests, and I was like, “Wow!” I’m continually taken aback anytime my music is played in places to help people feel more powerful or liberated or when it’s put into films. And you know, the character is having this like moment and the song comes in, it just really means a lot to me that I’m able to be the soundtrack to people’s lives.
As a popular artists who are followed by so many people, how do you feel about that pressure of doing what’s right?
Encourage people to follow their dreams. I feel like it’s definitely like a full time job, just keeping myself together, making sure I stay positive that I’m positively affecting the people in my life that are working with me, my team, my friends, my family. I try to share that information with my followers and the people that support me and my fans online. It’s really important to put that forward. But if I’m ever going through something, and I feel it’s something that people should know, I definitely do, but I do like to use my platform to encourage people.
What mindset helped making you so successful and popular?
Well, hello, thank you for that nice question. The mindset of the audacity to believe in myself, I think a lot of people maybe are scared to believe that they could accomplish something, but I’ve always had the audacity to believe in myself to the highest level. I’m like, I’m gonna be President and I would just go towards it, you know? I heard Kobe Bryant call it the ‘Mamba mindset’ or Beyonce talks about ‘Sasha Fierce’ and for me, that was ‘Raja Kumari’, my birth name is Svetha Yallapragada Rao. So you know, that character, that mindset is what made me push myself to where I am today.
What advice would you give to your younger self and why?
Ha, it’s so hard because I feel like I don’t really want to change any of it. I think. I think I learned my lessons the way that I did. But I guess I would tell myself that at the end of all of it, after you’ve gone and learn from everyone, you’re going to come back to exactly how you started writing in the beginning, and your style will go back to exactly how you started. So don’t be influenced by people that you think are cooler than you are no more than you. The more you trust in yourself, the faster you’re going to get exactly where you’re meant to be.
How would your best friend describe you?
A toddler. Ha ha I think the people that are close to me know that the inner child in me comes up whenever I am overwhelmed or they’re like, ‘how do you go from being like this like fierce popstar, to being this toddler just crying with no makeup on, your hair curly or whatever. Ha ha So I guess yeah, my best friends would describe me as a toddler. And that’s the truth.
If you are a book, what would be the title of the book and why?
The Magic Manifester. And why? Because I feel like my made my life like a vision board and like the lyrics and I’ve said in my songs, I’ve said them like years before they manifest and I’m just like watching it in real time. So Raja Kumari, the Magic Manifester.
What’s next for Raj Kumari 2023?
The Bridge World Tour, kicks off October 6 in India, then we go to Canada and the U.S. Come out to see us, it’s gong to be an experience you won’t forget.
What’s my favorite healthy food?
I really love dates. I think everyone that knows me knows that I keep them with me sometimes. When I’m really busy I don’t eat on time and then I just take eat one or two of those and it’s like, natural Red Bull. You’ll be ready to go.
What’s my favorite cheap food?
I mean anything with melted cheese. I think that’s the problem. That’s why when I was vegan, I found it very difficult.
How would you explain your fashion style?
It evolves. But it’s always had this touch of Indian you know whether it’s in the jewelry or garments. It’s always East Meets West but it’s about silhouettes and really classy different types of looks, but I love to do like a sari with a cape. Or I like to have Indian jewelry on with my with my Western clothes. So that’s kind of my fusion.
What is your own definition of happiness?
Wow, this is deep in weird ways. I think just being able to do what you love and being able to make a living from that. It’s loving your family, sharing that and being able to do what you love in the world.
Okay, if you can meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?
Cleopatra, because she was a bad bitch. And she was very powerful in a man’s world. I feel like it would be really interesting to just have a conversation with her; I’m obsessed with ancient history.
What would be the dream holiday and who would you go with?
I have different types of dream holidays, but honestly, the things I really want to see are like Pompeii; I really like archaeological sites. So dream holiday would be with my best friends and going to see some cool archaeological sites.
Photo Credit: Nick Belohlavy @nickbphotoguy