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These are the 3 Indian female R&B and hip-hop artistes you need to know — besides M.I.A.

These are the 3 Indian female R&B and hip-hop artistes you need to know — besides M.I.A.

Desi queens

Text: Aravin Sandran


Raveena Aurora

Background: New York-based singer-songwriter Raveena's music is all about self-acceptance and the normalisation of queer brownness. The second generation Indian-American's candied vocals cut through so smooth like a samurai sword through butter. That might sound a little overkill, but her debut EP Shanti in 2017 and the luscious visuals of her 2018 single "Honey" prove that there's no such thing as too sweet. Bring on the gulab jamun.

Latest single: Raveena's "Temptation" is a flirty sunset-hued ode to bisexual love. Inspired by Bollywood actresses of the sixties and seventies, the music video sees Raveena meander through lush tropical foliage to meet her love interest the gorgeous Kenyan model Gannina Oteto. Its insouciant and atypical portrayal of non-white queerness is a rare sight in mainstream media, not to mention it dismantles traditional notions of biphobic conservatism in South Asia.

Hottest lyrics: "You're milk and honey/A drink I drink before bed."

What the Internet is saying: "Seeing Raveena makes me want to eat nothing but fruit and veg and drink five gallons of water for some reason."

Joy Crookes

Background: The coquettish looks of this half-Bengali, half-Irish songstress belies her deep raspy vocals. At just 20 years of age, Crookes has already been captivating her audiences in the U.K. with her debut EP, Influence. Her seductive blend of soul, jazz and R&B powerhouse ballads is complemented with resonant lyrics and cultural commentary that seek to uplift her peers of South Asian heritage.

Latest single: Dropped in late 2018, her newest single "Don't Let Me Down" speaks tenderly about a failed summertime relationship. The music video sees Crookes portraying the strength of Hindu goddess Lakshmi with an assortment of hands caressing and emoting behind her. "My 16-year-old self was always interested in goddesses and how the arms of this particular deity symbolize all of its different qualities. The song itself came from a vulnerable place, and for me, these arms show my strength in the situation and how I overcame it," she said.

Hottest lyrics: "Melanin is not your enemy."

What the Internet is saying: "Better than ASMR. It's honey on my ears."

Raja Kumari

Background: Trained in classical Indian dance since she was little, Svetha Rao aka rapper Raja Kumari first started out writing for urban appropriators Gwen Stefani and Iggy Azalea. She soon realised that her talent and culture were being exploited as gimmicks so she stepped up with her own material and has not looked back since.

Latest single: Opening with an intro in Malawi's native Chichewa language, "Shook" fuses South Asian cultural references ("When the last time you seen a Hindustani stunt?") with black street dance rhythms. With an infectious bass-heavy beat and a gritty car wrecking yard as its backdrop, the track has already racked up more than two million views on YouTube. It's no wonder she's been compared to other voluptuous hip-hop female divas such as 2018's breakout latina Cardi B.

Hottest lyrics: "The world blind but my third eye see the heat."

What the Internet is saying: "Guess I've found my theme song for 2019."

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