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The East-Meets-West Rapper

Her Indian and American identities forge a forceful style all her own.

Groovy yet sharp, with a dancehall-reggae feel, “Shook” by Raja Kumari is an act of resistance. The video, in which Kumari dons a half-sari over a camouflage jumpsuit and flaunts a bindi on her forehead, lands the ultimate punch. In short, it’s shook, in a way only she could pull off.

“I am thriving in a space that’s not designated for me,” Kumari says. We’re talking over coffee and quinoa in Mumbai, and Kumari couldn’t be more pumped. She headlined the Adidas Nite Jogger shoe launch the night before, and it went spectacularly well. Hip-hop, after all, is the musical toast of the season in India, following the massive success of Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy, a film that celebrates rappers from Mumbai’s slums. Kumari has long supported Divine and Naezy, the street rappers who inspired the film, and has a song with Divine called “City Slums.” She even has a cameo in the flick.

“The audiences here have been so loving; they’re why I live 8,000 miles away from home,” Kumari says.

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Tags: #india, #music, #rap
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