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Organic Intelligence XXIV: Women In South Asian Hip Hop

In this month's antidote to the algorithm, Arusa Qureshi introduces tQ's subscribers to the best female artists in the South Asian rap scene, such as Irfana, pictured below

The Desi hip hop scene has seen immense growth since the turn of the century, with heavy hitters like Bohemia responsible for bringing South Asian rap into the mainstream. Hip hop culture has worked its way into the consciousness of major cities like Delhi and Mumbai but until the past decade or so, the genre has remained largely male-dominated. Thanks to the influence of subgenres in the US and the wider dissemination of hip hop via digital media, however, South Asian women have gradually found their way in and through their skilful fusion of languages, melodies and tones from the diaspora, they’ve cemented their position as some of the scene’s most exciting innovators. Though at home and abroad, stereotypes relating to South Asian women as Bollywood starlets and nothing more prevail, there are a select few that are fighting against such labels with their confident and hyper-localised styles and strong feminist messaging.

We’re lucky to live in a time of immense talent here in the UK, as far as women in hip hop, grime and drill are concerned. In the US, early pioneers like Roxanne Shante and Queen Latifah helped open the door for present-day chart-toppers like Nicki Minaj and Cardi B. But in the 50th anniversary year of hip hop, in countries all over the world, women are organising, making noise, and bypassing gatekeepers to ensure that the next 50 years isn’t solely about the men. This edition of Organic Intelligence provides a spotlight on women in the South Asian diaspora who are defying expectations as rappers and making their voices heard across borders.

Listen to the music from this month’s Organic Intelligence via Spotify, Tidal and

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