We are stoked to bring to you our first international artist and give you a glimpse into the intense world of Canadian desi rapper, one of Atlanta’s newest rap stars 'Shah'. Being an independent artist it was particularly challenging competing against major label artists with bigger budgets and experienced teams. But being in a new city Shah was forced to flourish without the local support that is typically critical in the early part of a rapper’s career. However, the Toronto born artist has seemingly found a formula for success. Complex named him one of Trap’s Newest Stars. He will be starring in a new television series called Ghostwriter and he just completed his first international tour this past summer.

Last week Shah returned to Atlanta for the A3C festival, where he had one of the festivals most talked-about performances during Final Fantasy, a show put on by Atlanta rapper Yoshi and curated by Makin It Magazine. Shah also hosted a panel called 'How To Make It As An Independent Artist'. I was scheduled to speak with him in Atlanta, when he was then invited to speak on Global Hip Hop hosted by the international music organization Midem.

*Shah at the A3C festival

This week ( October 15. 2019 ) Shah appeared at Mondo NYC where his showcase performance garnered rave reviews and lit up social media. Mondo NYC is a technology and music conference which featured a panel on Blockchain and Hip Hop. Shah’s popularity in cryptocurrency and blockchain communities spread after the revelation that he, inadvertently, became one of bitcoin’s early adopters. In 2013, Shah wrote a number of songs for an artist he had connected with online, for which Shah was paid 1000 bitcoin. As I went down the rabbit hole digging for more information on Shah’s involvement with bitcoin, I discovered forums that included Shah as one of the few people that had met with bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto. On social media Shah has also made mention of his involvement with blockchain startup Breaker.

Shah’s team had previously told me that he wasn’t doing interviews at the time, but that he always makes time for his fans, so I went to Shah’s show at Mondo NYC in hopes of discussing his desi background and the Indian independent music scene. When Shah was on tour in France, I had seen him hanging out with Divine, the Indian rapper who inspired the movie 'Gully Boy', India's official entry to the Oscars. I wanted to ask if there was a collaboration in the works and if there were any other Indian artist with whom he wanted to work. After Shah’s show, he stayed for about two hours to individually greet every fan that wanted to snap pictures with him. It was difficult to get my questions through to him, but he confirmed that he had connected with Divine in Cannes while playing the Midem Festival there, and is aware of India’s emerging hip hop scene. Shah said it reminded him a lot of Toronto’s hip hop scene when he was a child, both in terms of the authenticity but also trying to establish its own identity. 

Here is Shah and Divine from an Instagram Story shared by Shah


During Shah’s panel during A3C, he was asked to give advice to independent rappers looking to achieve success similar to himself. My major takeaway was that independent success is a long game, and by understanding this, artists can strategize accordingly and realistically, allowing them to move powerfully over time. He also stressed the importance of understanding the industry and setting specific goals. I asked him if he had any different advice for Indian independent artists, and his response ‘It will be tougher for Indian artists coming from Indian families with the typical doctor, lawyer, engineer mindset, but you’ll need to find the strength and courage to overcome this obstacle because achieving success in this industry will continuously require a lot more strength and courage. So if you have one foot in and one foot out, you are really still at point zero, and the faster you commit yourself, the faster you will arrive.’ Shah also stated that independent Indian artists at the beginning of their careers should focus on their own communities, and rap about their own experiences as this will find an audience who can relate to you. ‘If you start rapping in a different language or different style when that’s not really you, it wont sound right. Rap in your local dialect, about your local experiences. That’s what it means to ‘be true to yourself.’ 


At A3C I also heard Shah speak about his Indian fans. Shah noted that he’s generally inactive on Facebook, especially relative to Instagram, but some of his posts that automatically cross-post to Facebook goes viral in India. As a journalist I have been a bit baffled at why Shah doesn’t have a bigger following in India, despite accolades such as being named one of the Worlds Top 10 Desi Rappers. I asked Shah about his fans in India and when he plans on coming home to India. ‘This is a great question. Obviously I love it each time something goes viral in India, but to be honest, I’m not sure what to do with it. I need help and the universe is bringing it. The good news is the longer I wait, the more excitement builds up, and the bigger my debut will be.’

Photo by Mike Cicchetti

Here is Shah’s breakout hit called 'Just Text'. It speaks about the story of the hardships Shah had to endure on his arrival to Atlanta.

Written and compiled by J. Singh from New York,

Thank you Mr Singh for coordinating with us for this profound and wonderful interview.

If you wish to listen to and discover more independent artists from India head over to our Jukebox and follow our playlists!