Adapting Rap In Pakistan

When the Karachi-born Bay Area rapper Bohemia released an album including lyrics in Punjabi in 2006, he kicked off a new wave for rappers in Pakistan. Hamzah Saif describes how contemporary Pakistani rappers moved on from the English raps of Eminem and began to embrace the vernacular:

The new rappers owned their product. Their rhymes, rapped in street vernacular, had now found a vocabulary familiar with representing their own experience. … Kasim Raja’s track Black Hoods Black Sheeshay illustrates this indigenization of creative trajectory. While the track shares a celebration of braggadocio and automotive culture with commercial American rap, its engagement with alcohol is a radical departure from the substance abuse celebrated by Eminem and Bohemia, “Not into drugs / we’re into cars… Poppin bottles but only sodas / livin far from drugs, we’re against drugs / we’re against drugs…” …

Vernacular raps added another new dimension to Pakistani rhyming. Rappers were no longer just rapping; they were rapping in their language, itself a socio-political statement. “Why should I rap in someone else’s tongue?”, says Jawad from [rap group] DirtJaw, “I love Punjabi very much.” This sentiment was quick to catch on among non-Punjabis as well.

(Video: “Black Hoods Black Sheeshay” by Kasim Raja)

(Hat tip: 3QD)