Shah was recently named one of the 10 most recognizable Asian rappers as well as one of the top 6 emerging rappers in Toronto. His first video ‘Don’t Do It Mandela’ accumulated over 100,000 views at a viral rate and the latest ‘Ridin Shotty With God’ has surpassed that. Can-India talked to the rising star about his mission to create meaningful music and connect with the ‘desi’ audience in Toronto.
With a name like ‘Shahmeer’ which means King of Kings, you could say that rapper Shah was destined for success. However his musical path was not without struggle—more of a personal nature than the industry itself. After all his very first video “Don’t Do it Mandela” accumulated 100,000 views at a viral rate (and is currently sitting at 173, 000 views) which is no mean achievement. He talked to Can-India News about his music and why it is so important for him to connect with the ‘desi’ audience in Toronto first. Here are excerpts of the interview.
What led you from commerce to medicine and then music?
I have always had this desire to help people which I think is a very Canadian thing. My dad who worked for women’s rights as a young student of Aligarh University also inspired me. Initially I chose the commerce stream because change takes place with money. Then I realized that I could make money from anything that I wanted and decided to do something meaningful viz. medicine. I was soon bored with medicine as the rules and regulations slowed progress, so I became a sports team doctor. First for the New York Knicks and then the New Orleans’ Saints (who won a Super Bowl championship during my time with them). This was not rewarding either. I had sacrificed a career in entertainment for medicine but soon realized it was not for me. I needed to do something that I could enjoy every day and more importantly have a positive impact on the world by bringing people more happiness and fun. That’s how I got back to music.
Why did you choose rap?
Rap is definitely the genre to speak to social issues as you can be very literal in your messages. It is also a genre that speaks to me and that I enjoy.
What was your family’s reaction?
This is a common ‘desi’ question and people are even more shocked to learn that they were 100% supportive. When I first told them what I wanted to do they thought it was joke. Then I explained my plan and they understood it. Now that the first videos have been released its nice to see them enjoy the success it is accumulating. I’m a perfectionist so it took a long time for the presentations to be ready for the public.
Does your commerce and medical background influence your music?
Yes! As a rapper, you must decide whether to pursue popularity or make meaningful music. I’ve been able to use my understanding of business and intelligence to create a strategy that allows me to speak to listeners that want to have fun as well as those that want depth.
How did you get your message and music out there?
The way that the message is delivered is two-fold. In “Payday”, the outer layer will seem like it is just about getting money which is consistent with other catchy rap party music. But people familiar with the content, which is the gender wage gap in this song, will catch it the first time. Others may have to listen to it a couple of times. In traditional rap songs like “Rookie Card”, there is a very strong word play (or punch line) where the rap fan will appreciate the intelligence or the comedy behind certain lines. In this day and age subtlety is key because people don’t want to be bashed over the head with an educational message when they just want to have fun.
Is ‘Day of Shah’ your first album?
Yes, it’s the first official album.
What’s your fan base?
My fan base is very multi-faceted. The original fan base was hip hop heads in Toronto, New York and New Orleans. Now that the name ‘Shah’ is known, there’s a lot of support from the desi world as well. And I want to do a better job of connecting with them. I was raised in a low-income neighbourhood in Toronto where there weren’t other Indians around me, so it is really important for me to connect with my own people. The third type of audience is the early adapters—women in the age group of 18 to 30 years who realize that I am an artist that has fun but believes in gender equality and empowering women.
What about connecting with the audience in India?
People from Bollywood contacted me and the record label about collaboration but right now it is really important for me to connect with the desi audience in Toronto and North America first. I haven’t been able to do that to the level that I am comfortable going over to Bollywood and India. With both parents being of Indian origin (my mum’s from Bhopal and my dad is from Tanda, UP), I’m looking forward to the day that we can enter India powerfully and do the same thing that we are doing here. But not yet.
Shah’s third music video in the series, “Ridin Shotty With God”, was released on July 21 and has garnered even more interest than the first one. While his fans are patiently waiting for the full album, there is little doubt that the day of Shah has already arrived! – CINEWS