Music

Tête-à-Tête: Grammy-Nominated Rapper Raja Kumari

The Indian-American musician educates us on taking a spiritual approach to life and music.
Reading time 6 minutes
All photos courtesy of Sasha Samsonova

In Tête-à-Tête, L'Officiel USA gets into the celebrity psyche by asking stars to tell us what's on their minds right now.

“Bitch don’t kill my vibe,” might be a Kendrick Lamar lyric, but Grammy-nominated rapper Raja Kumari takes the motto to heart. The Indian-American, who holds a BA in religious studies from the University of California Riverside, channels her vibes through routine meditative practices. Influenced by her Hindu upbringing, Kumari dug into her roots to teach herself about the energy the universe gives off and how that energy affects our internal balance. The idea is one that dictates her daily life and, most importantly, her music.

Kumari got her start as a songwriter, writing for the likes of Fall Out Boy, Gwen Stefani, and Iggy Azalea (for which she received her Grammy nomination), and has since worked with producers like Dr. Dre and Timbaland. Her sound is built off of a strong American, Hip-Hop foundation, with elements of her Indian heritage bleeding through. Kumari’s music aims to bridge the gap between the East and the West by educating her fans about these cultures to the beat of her very own drum.

In 2016, Kumari gave us her heavily-praised debut EP, The Come Up, and just last week, she followed through by releasing her sophomore EP, Bloodline, which features her hit single “Shook.” Ahead, Raja Kumari shares with me her how her spirituality is connected to the Hindu concept of the chakra system, and what role it plays in her music.

Something that's super interesting to me is the chakra system and how there's an energetic field that is projected. You can actually see it—any kind of device is emitting a field. Our human body also has an electrical system: the nervous system. We set off waves, and that's our aura. We have different chakra centers that people have now accepted as truth. There are seven in total.

The first chakra is your thousand-petaled lotus. It's from the top of your head. It's open to receiving energy from the universe.

I wear the Bindi to mark the third eye [chakra]. A lot of incredible things can happen through having clarity in the third eye. Our two eyes see this world that's an illusion. But when you close your eyes and you see the world through your spiritual third eye, you're able to use your intuition. Those kinds of things have to do with seeing truth.

The next one is the throat chakra. That has to do with communication. Sometimes if you feel that people aren't understanding you in different things, this can be out of balance. Then there’s your heart chakra. Obviously, that’s going to control a lot of things that have to do with your emotional center.

There's one in your stomach, the sacral, which has to do with reproductivity, lust, sexual things and all other passion—these really intense energies. Then you have one at your feet and one below you.

The crazy thing that I learned about the chakra system is that scientifically, there's a frequency. Physicality in this space, if you actually go down to the cellular level, is just cells vibrating next to each other. There’s a certain frequency in order to present this physical form. Once I really digested that thought, I realized that sound is vibration.

With music, the reason you're able to make people feel a certain energy is because you're projecting a certain frequency and vibration that scientifically will be felt in a certain way. I started really researching it and found out that each chakra has a different note attached to it. The heart chakra is F and if you look at it, most love songs are written in F.

My role as a musician is very powerful and I, as an instrument, am able to influence people's energies. I believe some people are born with purpose—we call it Dharma in Sanskrit. Basically, you have to follow your Dharma. My [dharm] in this life is to be that instrument. I thought it was important to learn a little bit about why people feel a certain way so I can try to influence them through my music. I'm a sound bender—that's my vibe.

There have been innumerable stories about people who wanted to commit suicide that heard a song and stopped. As musicians, we have to take that very seriously. If music is going to save them, then the vibration shifted their energy. It's really important to pay attention to those things.

When I get into a room, I believe that the song is already written. It's in the universe, and the different people who are in the room can hear different parts of the song, so you have to work together to make sure the song is right.

I definitely write the melody first—melody is king. The words are secondary because languages are humanly constructed. I could write a song in English and it could be translated into Korean and it would be the same song. I usually get out of my own way and try to channel whatever melodies try to come through me, and not be the creator of the melody, but more the antenna. I try to use my voice as a drum and I do a lot of interesting tones because I know that they vibrate differently. I sing in a certain way because I want to be an instrument of sonic healing.

As a musician, I'm lucky. I get to get on stage and blast 10,000 people at a time with energy. I always keep that in my head. I think it's important in this current political situation when we can get lost in the negativity. If we can just be our own harmonic healing chambers and our own broadcasters of good frequency, then we can make the world better, one person at a time.

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