Badshah On His ‘Bad’ Alter Ego, Being Misunderstood

One of the most successful rappers of the industry today, Badshah has just dropped his latest song, ‘Bad Boy x Bad Girl’, in collaboration with singer Nikhita Gandhi and actress Mrunal Thakur. In an interview with Sneha Menon Desai, he talks about his fascination with being bad, people’s perceptions of him and being an emotional person underneath the glitz and glimmer.

Sneha Menon Desai: Your song is called ‘Bad Boy x Bad Girl,’ your Instagram handle is @badboyshah, your line of clothing is BADFIT. What is the fascination with being so bad?

Badshah: Honestly, I think it’s an alter ego. I’ve always tried to create it ever since I was in school, because I think I am extremely good, seedha saadha. It’s like a fantasy; a part of my personality that’s out there. I am pretty boring otherwise.

SMD: You’ve come to be associated with so much swagger that when I think Badshah, I think bling, I think killer shoes, I think over the top. Does it ever get tiring to put up the act? What is Aditya when he is having a bad day?

Badshah: I could tell you that it’s better than a lot of people’s great days, but, only because I’ve worked hard for it. It’s just me, it’s not an act. I enjoy what I wear – I love my jackets, I love my sneakers. Even before I entered the industry, I was wearing pretty much the same clothes, just the jackets and the sneakers were not as expensive as they are right now, but I’ve always been into fashion. I used to buy whatever I could afford; I’ve even bought shirts for Rs. 50 in bus stands. I buy whatever I like, so that’s fashion for me. It’s not tiring for me. I don’t do tiring stuff. I don’t do gym, it’s tiring.

SMD: In 2020, when the world was reeling under a pandemic, you went on to be titled the world’s no. 1 song writer on YouTube. How do you think titles like this fit into the bigger dream that you’ve made for yourself?

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Badshah: I think they are just a step closer to the bigger dream. You cannot deny that numbers are motivators. That’s what has always been fed inside of us in the system – yeh class mein first aaya, yeh class mein second aaya, yeh class mein third aaya – so they have been motivators, they help the brand, but that’s all.

As long as people are listening to my songs, as long as they want to come and see me in a live concert, that’s all that matters. But these titles make you happy. It’s a flex, it’s like having the nicest shoes and nicest ethics.

SMD: Does the creative satisfaction ever get lost in the numbers game, or have you figured out how to separate the two?

Badshah: It does. It has clouded a lot of creativity. When you solely want to ride on the numbers, that’s when you’re heft up, like, ‘This video has these many million views.’ That is not the right parameter of a song being a hit. In fact, if anyone asks me which song is a hit and which one isn’t, I tell them, ‘You know? If you like a song, it’s a hit.’ It’s so customized now, it’s so personal now. If you like a song, you listen to it, why should it matter if it’s a hit or not? If you enjoy it then just consume it as much as you want to, and when you get bored of it, move on to other song. I think the consumption practices have changed drastically.

SMD: What’s the most misunderstood thing about being Badshah?

Badshah: Almost everything. Like, buying views and all of that stuff. That was not buying views, that was actually just promoting my song. At first, you used to do ads on television, put up posters on billboards, and now you promote your songs to make your song reach a wider audience. It’s the medium that is being consumed the most. Maybe [people also think that] I drink a lot, I am just a party person, because of the vibe they get. They think that I was born successful, I was born with a Rolls-Royce. They think that I don’t have to work hard; everything is given to me on a plate, I just rhyme random words and it becomes a hit song. Those are a few of the misconceptions.

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SMD: There’s no denying the fact that your music is enjoyed by people around the world, but there was also a wave where it kind of became cool to hate on Badshah.

Badshah: It still is.

SMD: Have you figured out why?

Badshah: Yeah. I try to get into the science of it. It’s just human nature. It is to become anti-establishment. Till the time you’re an underdog, everybody wants to support you. Once you become successful for too long, then it’s not cool to support you, right, it’s cool to find another guy. People want to invest their emotions into something that’s cooler, right. Why would they want to invest their emotions into something or someone who has made it? They think he doesn’t need you. I think it’s a cycle – they support you, they hate you, and then they support you again. I think an artist just has to live through these cycles and not lose focus, which is very hard. It’s easier said than done.

Artists are emotional. We are made of emotions, everything is emotional. I think artists cry if they see a good scene – they’re just overwhelmed.

SMD: So, Badshah cries?

Badshah: I do. I cry easily, aansoo toh taiyar baithey rehte hai. It’s an expression. I think crying, for a lot of people is just an expression. They do not know what to do with the emotions, they get overwhelmed, it’s just emotions. It’s all good, it’s okay, I am just having an emotional reaction.

SMD: You’ve defended a lot of your lyrics that have come under scrutiny. You’ve said that there’s no way that you would body shame anyone, leave alone a woman, and in fact, you’ve even made it cool to be dark-skinned – which it is. But in 2021, do you have a team that is going through your lyrics with a fine-tooth comb, or is it just your bunch of cousins still jamming?

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Badshah – No, I am going through everything, because I am writing everything. If I start thinking about the constraints inside, then it’ll limit my creativity. But at the same time, I think I am also an aware, responsible, adult who lives in the society, who probably does not still realize how big of an impact he makes, but who is aware, that he makes an impact. Like, the butterfly effect can happen anywhere. So, I do, but I just create first and then edit.

And a little bit of it should happen too. When you’re young and reckless, you don’t know what you’re doing. But when you grow up a bit, you understand that is cheez ka sensationalism for the sake of it is stupid. It’s not artistry. I think what would be cooler as an artist is to stay within those lines and create that sensationalism, that’s what I learned.

SMD: What is the last count on the sneakers and do you still have the coolest collection in the country?

Badshah: I do. That is going to be a perpetual thing at any given time. I will have the best collection, no dispute.

SMD: Badshah (King) it is.

Badshah: Shunya (Zero).