Fusing classical Indian traditions with hip-hop, Los Angeles-based songwriter and rapper Raja Kumari bridges East and West into a style she calls "BollyHood." Kumari sought to be a role model for Asian-Americans on her 2018 debut, The Come Up, while bringing Indian culture to the mainstream with culturally authentic imagery.
Born Sveta Rao in Claremont, California, the Grammy-nominated musician grew up studying Indian classical music and dancing, falling in love with hip-hop acts like the Fugees at a young age. After college, where she majored in South Asian religious studies, she decided to pursue a career in music. Her initial breakthrough came with songwriting. She co-wrote Fall Out Boy's hit "Centuries" — for which she won a BMI Pop Award for songwriting in 2016 — as well as Iggy Azalea's "Change Your Life," featuring T.I. Her other credits include tracks for Fifth Harmony, Twin Shadow, Knife Party, and Gwen Stefani, whose 2016 solo album, This Is What the Truth Feels Like, features five Rao-penned tracks.
After signing with Epic Records, Rao began recording her debut album in Atlanta. Preceded by the three-song EP Curry Sauce, Vol. 1, The Come Up featured production by the-Dream, Timbaland, Mike WiLL Made It, and RedOne. The album's first single, "Mute" (featuring Elvis Brown), was inspired by rapper Future and the Atlanta trap sound. The EP was reissued in 2018 with additional single "City Slums" featuring Mumbai-based rapper Divine. After a year spent building her audience in both India and the U.S., she returned in early 2019 with another EP, Bloodline. The set included the singles "Shook" and "Karma." ~ Neil Z. Yeung