Remembering Punjabi Rapper Sidhu Moosewala’s Legacy, Talent, & Artistry

Remembering Punjabi Rapper Sidhu Moosewala’s Legacy, Talent, & Artistry
Indian Express

Ever so rarely, do there come artists who transcend the transitionary boundaries of what it means to create, what it means to be an artist, and what it means to be considered a one-in-a-million act. Despite the many complexities that he embodied, breakout rapper Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu aka Sidhu-Moosewala’s legacy is one that will last. He was not only a lodestar of desi hip-hop but managed to become a global cultural phenomenon; putting the Punjabi rap scene on the global map with his chart-topping music.

There are many who can only dream of the kind of fame that Moosewala managed to attain in his brief six-year artistic stint. His story is one that is typical of those from Punjab, a village boy making it all the way across the world to Canada to pursue his studies and perhaps a better life. Hailing from Moosa, a village in the Mansa district of Punjab he moved to Brampton, Ontario in Canada post his graduation in electrical engineering in 2016, where he first start testing the musical waters.

The Musical Journey, The Rise To Fame & The Global Cultural Phenomenon

While his musical journey began with songwriting for the song License by Ninja and singing the duet G Wagon, his name to fame was his 2017 single So High which he released on his YouTube channel, one that made everyone take notice of him. Soon enough he was able to amass 10.7 million YouTube subscribers, making him one of the most exciting artists of our generation and also one of the country’s most impactful musical exports in a generation.

In 2020, The Guardian named him as one of the Best New Artists, making fellow Canadian rapper Drake take notice of him and follow him on Instagram. The Punjabi rapper’s musical impact is one that was able to cross cultures and borders and make a dent in the mainstream world of music. Over the course of his music career, he charted on multiple Canadian and UK music lists, places where he spent much of his career as well as where he managed to gain immense popularity with the Sikh Diaspora, thus cementing his place in the spotlight as a South-Asian rapper, next to other popular contemporaries in the West. The gamut of British artists he frequently collaborated with, include Steel Banglez, Stefflon Don, and MIST.

Punjabi rapper Sidhu Moosewala's music
Punjabi rapper Sidhu Moosewala's music

The Convoluted Personal History, The Controversies & The Contradictions in Moosewala’s Music

One of the greatest lyricists of our times, his music was laced with trap and drill beats with Punjabi music sampled through it. Rapping about gangs, gun violence, caste pride, and his rags-to-riches story, his music was oftentimes clubbed under the genre of gangsta rap.

Influenced by Tupac, his music much like his idols was one of contradictions. While Moosewala’s music never had any tones of objectification of women or glorification of alcohol and drugs, one that is common when it comes to the Punjabi music industry, in a lot of ways he was no different than those that came before him. His music too talked about gun violence and taking pride in one’s caste positioning (songs like Issa Jatt and Jatt Da Muqabala reek of casteism) and gang glorification. Moosewala was very much in tradition, unfortunately, of men in Punjab whose lives are fraught with gun violence and who are socialized in such environments.

For the most part, Moosewala’s politics had been fraught with contradictions. Though he voiced strongly for farmer’s rights during the farmers’ protests last year, had used his own funds to create better sewer systems in his home village and also started his political stint as a Congress MLA to champion the voice of the locals in his area, he had time and again been involved in cases of gun violence, been held for violating the Arms Act and was found to have been in possession of AK-47s.

Despite his problematic politics, what lies at the core of the artist’s death is gun violence, a problem sadly all too common in regions of Punjab and one that is causing irreparable damage. This was a tragic death that the 28-year-old didn’t deserve, and neither do the youth of Punjab. It also came a day after his security was withdrawn by the Punjab Government in their highly politicized move to crackdown on VIP culture.

Post his death, many fans were quick to notice the tragically poetic and prophetic lines in his recent song The Last Ride which goes “Jawani vich janaza uthugu,” (my coffin will be borne at a young age). In what can be poetically inferred as his last ode to his idol Tupac, is not only the similarity in the way both were murdered in their cars but also the tragic twist; the cover art for The Last Ride is an image of Tupac’s car, the very same one in which he was killed.

A game-changing artist in the truest sense, his legacy is one that cannot be forgotten. He is an artist who was able to put the Punjabi music industry on the global stage and a man who wanted to do right by his people despite the many contradictions he held within himself and his politics. He was a musical talent unlike any other in this generation and he will be sorely missed.

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