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Indian Rapper Badshah on New Album ‘Ek Tha Raja,’ Working With Shah Rukh Khan, Arijit Singh: ‘I’m Like This Cousin Who Starts the Party’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Indian rapper, singer-songwriter and music producer Badshah has just released his new album “Ek Tha Raja” (literally, there was a king).

It is the third studio album for the musician who was born Aditya Prateek Singh Sisodia and is known as Badshah, after “ONE (Original Never Ends)” (2018) and “The Power of Dreams of a Kid” (2020). He also has numerous hit singles to his credit and has contributed to several Bollywood soundtracks including “Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania” (2014), “Khandaani Shafakhana” (2019), where he also made his acting debut playing a music superstar, and “Jawan” (2023), starring Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.

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It is Khan who narrates the album’s announcement video, a four-minute cinematic film replete with armed gangsters, choppers, private planes and palatial mansions. Badshah approached Khan’s management at the last minute with the narration request. “The next day I got a half-hour long file with those seven dialogues spoken in different emotions and that day I found out why Shah Rukh Khan is Shah Rukh Khan because once he’s in it, he gives his 200% and he’s just so kind. All those things that you’ve heard about him are true,” Badshah told Variety.

In “Ek Tha Raja,” Badshah, who’s with the Universal Music Group, performs with several guest musicians, including Morocco’s Draganov, Canada’s Nora Fatehi and a plethora of Indian acts including Karan Aujla, Hiten, Divine, Nikhita Gandhi, Raftaar, Aastha Gill, Seedhe Maut, Kr$na, Prajina, Shai, MC Stan, Mehar Vaani, Ikka, Dino James, Fotty Seven, Raga and Sharvi Yadav. He also duets with Arijit Singh, arguably the most popular Bollywood singer today, on the track “Soulmate.”

“I was really excited about working with Arijit Singh because he’s someone I’ve looked up to. And, more than that, I was just happy to be in his company and learn a lot of things from him. Because, he for me is like a higher power,” Badshah said. “I composed and wrote the lyrics for the song and sent it to him. When it came back, it was a different song. I was literally crying listening to my composition in his voice. That was an almost supernatural catharsis.”

Badshah says that he was excited about working with all the guest artists on the album. “I’ve worked with them in the past, but that was their space. So, this time I was like, I have a beat, I have something that I would like you to get on. It’s how I imagined see them all in my universe,” Badshah said.

The universe of “Ek Tha Raja” is a retrospective look by Badshah at the decade that he has been in the business and it celebrates a welter of emotions, including happiness, sadness, love, rage and frustration that he experienced as an artist. “I consider myself as a listener as well, and I could feel the generation change. I was trying to find my own self, my own personality, my new sound, the direction where I want to go the, the narrative that I want to build myself, the stories that I want to tell, and hence, it [“Ek Tha Raja”] was the result of all this contemplation,” Badshah said.

Badshah says that as part of the generational change that he experienced, he felt the sounds, stories and mindsets change as well, and initially he tried to change himself. “Then I just realized, people want to listen to who I am. And people love me the way I am. So, I don’t need to change. And that’s what I did with this album, I have collaborated with some of the new artists who are doing really good work. I have moved out of my zone, I made them move out of their zones, we’ve come in a middle place and tried to create a new sound. And that’s the fun of a collaboration. When two songs collide, it’s like two colors combining to make a new color,” Badshah said.

One of those artists who start work on their new album even as the current one is being released, Badshah is finding the sound for his next outing. And while that is percolating, he will embark upon the The Paagal Tour 2024 with concerts across Toronto (May 31), Vancouver (June 1), San Francisco (June 7), Houston (June 8), Dallas (June 9)  and New Jersey (June 15) with dates for Singapore, Washington DC, Los Angeles and Netherlands to be announced imminently. This follows a sold-out 10-city tour across India.

Besides the “Ek Tha Raja” tracks, the concert playlist includes his past hits “Jugnu,” “Paani Paani,” “Garmi,” “DJ Waale Babu,” “Lets Nacho,” “Kala Chashma,” “Kar Gayi Chull,” “Genda Phool,” “Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai” and “Paagal.”

“I provide them with a good time. And this is what I keep saying, there’s so much stress in people’s lives. And when they come to my concert, they forget everything and they immerse themselves into just fun and entertainment. Maybe they like me, maybe they adore me, when I interact with them I feel so much love. I’m like this cousin who starts the party,” Badshah said.

“Ek Tha Raja” is released by the Universal Music Group.

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