Raja Kumari Isn’t Afraid to Be ‘Ferocious’ on ‘Bloodline’ (INTERVIEW)
Raja Kumari is currently living in a dream world. But this isn't just any dream world—it's one she's spent the last few years molding, and now she's finally ready to share it in the form of her single, "Shook," and new EP, Bloodline (Feb. 22).
"I’m living in a dream world that I’ve created through manifestation," the California rapper and singer told PopCrush before performing at her showcase in New York City. "It’s really nuts. I wanna live in a world where people can dress me up like Princess Jasmine ... I'm sitting with diamonds in my hair and everyone’s accepting this behavior."
If you don't know about Raja Kumari, you've definitely heard her music. She's penned songs for Iggy Azalea, Fifth Harmony, Gwen Stefani and Fall Out Boy, just to name a few. After awhile, she wanted to be the voice behind her own lyrics, so in 2016 she dropped her debut EP, The Come Up, a collection of fiery pop and rap loosely influenced by traditional Indian music.
As an Indian-American artist, Kumari found it difficult to find her place the U.S. market, so she went back to her roots and brought her sound to India.
"When I left America to go to India, it was not exactly the best time in America because [Donald] Trump had just been inaugurated," she explained. "I just wasn’t happy with the vibrations. It’s not like I abandoned my home country, but when I went to India, I felt needed and understood and accepted in a way."
As she got more comfortable with her sound and performance onstage, she brought that energy back home to the U.S. "I needed that experience of going home and gaining the trust of the Indian people," she said. "I think that was the final thing for me to [be able to] switch into full mode. Now, nothing can hurt me."
The growth and strength Kumari gained being abroad inspired her latest musical project, which the artist describes as "an aggressive, unapologetic project." Kumari was also able to work with a dream team of writers and producers, including Danja, who's worked with Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado and Madonna, as well as Sean Garrett, whose songwriting credits include Beyonce's "Ring the Alarm" and Usher's "Yeah!"
"This project was really a challenge for me because I felt like I mastered what I had done [previously], and I was craving to push myself further," Kumari shared. "How do I put myself on the same level as the MCs that are in America that have worldwide acclaim? You have to show different flows and wordplay. I just took the risk. I really, really went out of my own box."
If there's one thing you'll notice on this record, it's Kumari's voice. Influenced by Sizzla and Buju Banton, Kumari likened her vocals to a drum. And while some critics may find her vocals on Bloodline too aggressive or rough for a woman, she prides in how she attacks the mic.
"As a woman, I just [put] myself in a space that usually reserved for men," she said. "Some women would say, ‘I don’t want to sound this aggressive or scary.’ And I’m ferocious on this record. I listen to it when I’m in my normal form, not my [stage form], and I’m like, oh my god… But it makes me feel strong."