Mumbai, 3rd April 2023: Amidst the boisterous slums of Area 226, Manglwar Peth, Pune, India’s vernacular Hip-Hop scene comes alive. Walls ridden with posters of leading emcees from the metropolis are evidence of the far-reaching impact of rap music.
However, while the ever-increasing influence of India’s top-selling artists does not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with their celebrity status, underground rappers are often spotted sporting Tupac Shakur t-shirts and New York Yankee Caps on Pune streets.
One of the artists who stand out is Sambata. Born Pratham Jogdand, the young emcee from Pune has made a profound impact on the Indian Hip-Hop scene with his ferocious ‘choppy’ flow and provocative vernacular writing. To many, Sambata’s hard-hitting rap records serve as an honest commentary on poverty, street crimes and violence in his neighbourhood.
Watch Pinnak here:
“I started speaking my mind and expressing myself through rap music when I was just 14. I think that is what this genre is about. That is what I have learned after listening to rap for years,” Sambata says.
The underground emcee often honours the rich spirit of his poor surroundings through music. His Marathi rap records are a vivid narration of his people. For many, ‘Sambata Don’ – as he is often addressed owing to his fearless old-school “gangsta” rap music – truly captures the far-reaching global influence of Hip-Hop.
“You shouldn’t be allowed to listen to Marathi rap if you don’t know who Sambata is,” said one of his young fans. For his avid fans, Sambata is a modern poet and a cult. Sambata released his first independent single ‘Palti Fire’ on 4th November, 2020 on YouTube.
For the young rapper, who was just 18 at the time, ‘Palti Fire’ turned out to be a massive breakthrough record which spread across the Marathi-speaking listeners in Maharashtra and Marathi-diaspora across the globe. Perhaps, the world was surprised to see a young artist from Pune’s slums finessing classic rhyme schemes and just being himself.
The prolific rapper has dropped three rap records ever since then. “Classic Hits… all of them,” says one of his many young listeners. “You learn a lot more about the street code from Sambata than you ever will yourself!” the fan asserts.
Watch Nako Raste Changle here:
Like much of India’s nascent yet affecting Hip-Hop scene, Sambata released his records on his own. Besides ‘Palti Fire,’ his nascent discography includes ‘Kaarte Nibaar’, ‘Nako Raste Changle’ and ‘Pinnak’. While a brief discography of just 4 records might seem like a small number to many, Sambata’s impact is unprecedented.
Without a well-trained production crew, big label deals or huge independent budgets, the rapper sits at over 50 million streams on YouTube and Digital Streaming Platforms. When asked about his biggest inspirations in rap music, the rapper subtly points towards his t-shirt with a photograph of Tupac Shakur. “There are so many of them that I’ve looked up to as artists,” Sambata says. “However, if I am to be absolutely honest, Kendrick Lamar, Nipsey Hussle, Sidhu Moose Wala, YG and Tupac have left a lasting impact on my music,” he continues.
Sambata’s biggest imprint on underground rap is his vernacular legacy. The young rapper still represents the streets he is from and has carved out a path for upcoming regional emcees and record producers. The young artist chooses to stay original and unapologetic in his creative pursuits. While Hindi and English rap has dominated the burgeoning Hip-Hop scene in India for a long time, Sambata is one of the very few artists who has matched Hindi & English rap’s commercial success with ‘Marathi’. “I will not leave my people and I’ll certainly not leave where I’m from. My purpose is about entertaining my people and motivating them,” Sambata says. When asked about whether he plans on making it big in the music industry, he takes a brief pause. “The industry will come to us. Isn’t Public Enemy the biggest Hip-Hop act to ever live and they never left their people?” Sambata responds with suave.
Watch Palti Fire here:
Sambata’s confidence is not unfounded. India has become home to global Hip-Hop labels including Def Jam Recordings India. Known for signing the prolific African American rap group ‘Public Enemy’ – one of the earliest Hip-Hop pioneers who used rap music to raise their voice against oppression and racism – in 1988, Sambata might become one of the biggest Indian rap stars with a cause in the coming years.
Def Jam India’s recent releases capture their strong will to represent Indian Hip-Hop in its truest forms. Ever since its foray in India, the label has helped several rap artists to freely express themselves through their music including Madhya Pradesh’s Dino James, Punjab’s Wazir Patar, Delhi’s Fotty Seven, and more.
With iconic labels such as Def Jam foraying into Indian rap music, well-deserving young artists like Sambata might just find their place in Indian and global music & entertainment.
“I’m a gangsta. I may not be from Los Angeles and Nipsey Hussle has never met me,” the young rapper says. “But I have… through his music in my beat-up earphones.”
Listen to Sambata’s leading rap records here on Spotify.