#HaqSeBolo Podcast Ep#4 Dee MC: ‘Hip-Hop Changed My Life’
The Mumbai rapper held no prisoners as she delved into the positioning of women in Indian hip-hop, an artist’s responsibility to reflect the country’s history, the entrepreneurial side of making music and more
“For hip-hop to last as something much more than a trend, the people of India need to be made really woke through hip-hop music. Make them so fucking intelligent that the government is scared of hip-hop artists,” says Mumbai rapper Deepa Unnikrishnan aka Dee MC. #HaqSeBolo’s fourth episode features the 25-year-old hip-hop artist who brings both melody, truth and history to her spitfire verses in conversation with Rolling Stone India Executive Editor Nirmika Singh. Bolo is #HaqSeHipHop’s audio and video podcast series chronicling the journeys of some of the biggest names in Indian hip-hop.
Dee MC is known for keeping it real, laying bars on mental health, societal stereotypes, feminism, self-growth, religion and more. With the recent release of her debut album Dee=MC² and her journey paralleling the rise of hip-hop’s popularity in India, the Mumbai MC reflected on the position and leverage that female artists hold in the genre, Indian hip-hop’s need to be keyed into the country’s history, the internet’s role in the growth of the genre’s landscape and more.
“The internet is where everything started,” says Dee MC. On Bolo, the rapper recounted how she first discovered hip-hop through a pop song, taking note of the rap verse sprinkled into the mix. When she finally put out a cover in 2011, a listener reached out to the MC, connecting her to Mumbai’s underground hip-hop movement where things moved forward as the rapper was exposed to text battles, building tracks, an education in old school hip-hop and more.
Dee MC revealed that the label ‘female rapper’ bothered her when she first started out in the scene, noting that as time passed, she stopped viewing the tag with insecurity. “I’m focusing on my own music and how to improve my own quality. That’s been my goal since the time I started rapping,” she said. As a 19-year-old living at home with her parents, the rapper’s main struggle then was to get from Kalyan to Mumbai in order to attend gigs. “I didn’t face anything different being a female artist. I just had problems being a female in this country,” she says about the restrictions she would face as performances ran late into the night. Ultimately, Mumbai changed the game for her — the city shaped and fed her hustle — and Dee MC eventually moved out after finding her footing as an artist in the local scene. “Women have to think ten times about what they’re doing when compared to their male counterparts,” she said.
The rapper is known for being vocal about issues she identifies with. Her 2019 track (off her debut LP) “Rang” deals with colorism while “Vadhaiyaan” deals with freedom of choice for women, 2018’s “No More Limits” (for Menstrual Hygiene Day India’s campaign) speaks of the restrictions society places on people on their period and 2017’s “Taking My Time” is a battle cry for self-growth. The MC describes her sound as a mix of anger and willingness to bring about change.
“The day hip-hop music revolutionizes the way people in India vote or the way people think about the history of their own country, I feel that that’s the day when there’ll be some actual revolution,” said Dee MC. The rapper also emphasized the need for Indian hip-hop to delve into the country’s history to spark awareness and change. “Black people, throughout the history of hip-hop, have made black history equivalent to the history of hip-hop. They’ve made it a point to research and talk about what went down with their own people. I feel like we have not even scratched the surface of that when it comes to what the Britishers did to us,” she said.
Dee MC also took a deep dive on Bolo into the startup enterprises that successful artists tend to run as. “It’s only when people who actually understand what hip-hop is, artists like me who are not just artists but also feel the need to have some entrepreneurial skills in them…It’s only when people like us take the reins of hip-hop in our own hands and decide where it goes into the future, will it survive. Otherwise, it’ll be just another trend,” she said. The rapper underlined the need for artists to focus on what they might otherwise ignore in the pace of churning out content. “Whoever broke out as an artist did so because they focused on what everyone else ignored,” she said, highlighting the importance of paying attention to the quality of the beat, the recording and mixing, the music video, etc. “If you start this because it’s a trend, it’ll only be a trend in your life,” she said.
Dee MC also got candid about going mainstream as an underground artist, the untapped leverage that female artists hold in hip-hop, why it took so long for her to release her debut album and more. “Hip-hop gave me the identity to do what I always wanted to do,” she said. Watch the fourth episode of #HaqSeBolo below: