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Rap- a popular music genre, has gained prominence in India with artists like Naezy, Emiway, and Divine. The genre has struck a chord with the youth because they are using it as a way to express themselves and their opinions. As a result, we are seeing the youth using it to raise their voice against the government policies, class divide, caste system and any other issues that directly affect them. 

A lot of its popularity can also be attributed to the success of the Bollywood film, ‘Gullyboy’ - featuring actors Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, and others, which showcased the hardships of a young man trying to navigate the challenges life throws at him with the help of his rapping skills. 

Since then, there has been a commercialisation of the genre in Bollywood, with countless songs using it to attract top views on YouTube. However, are we seeing an over-commercialisation of the genre in the ad industry too? 

Is the ‘rap’ that is being inserted in the ads adding anything in terms of value to the film or the brand? Or are brands just trying to jump on the bandwagon for FOMO? 

Quite recently, stand-up comic Rohan Joshi was also seen mocking the trend on social media.

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A few recent examples of ads that have used the Rap genre- 

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Why is this happening? 

Soumitra Karnik

According to Soumitra Karnik, an Independent Creative Consultant, to get a rap that actually catches the attention of the audience, the makers of the communication need to understand the genre first. 

“Nowadays with the growth of short videos, doing a rap of 30 seconds is not advisable. Maybe the poor copywriter is writing a song for a shorter duration but there is too much information. So, they end up calling it a rap. The client probably is a middle-aged person who thinks rap will surely connect with the youth. It will also cram all the product/brand information in 20 seconds,” explained Karnik. 

Citing similar thoughts, Ravindra Sarowar, Director and Creative Producer, Shorts Break, said people just think they can fit in a large number of brand attributions if they make it in rap form.

“Rap is in trend, and people tend to follow them (trends) blindly. Every new trope/genre tends to be overused in advertising. The thing about rap is that the quality and the lyrics have to be good. You have brand managers telling you the kind of song they want so you have to follow. Many times, it also depends on the creative freedom a brand gives to the creators,” he said. 

Emmanuel Upputuru

On the other hand, when asked if the trend reflects a lack of creativity, Emmanuel Upputuru, Ex Chief Creative Officer Cheil India. said he is not worried. “Anything that becomes popular it is natural that brands use it in their communication. There will be efforts towards appropriating the success of the genre for the brand with storytelling. This is exactly why we see a lot of campaigns associated with cricket because we are a cricket-loving nation. I don’t think it is an indicator of anything about the creativity in the industry,” he added. 

Amish Sabharwal

The genre is much deeper than what people perceive it to be

Speaking about the issue, Amish Sabharwal, Senior Executive Creative Director and Head of Digital Experience, Havas, said that people must understand that the genre actually has very deep roots and every brand/campaign should not use it. 

“In advertising, we latch on to culture and try bringing it to the brand language so it captures people's imagination. Rap as a genre has hardcore loyalists. They have their own culture with sneakers, hip hop etc. The culture actually is beautiful and very deep because it has given people who didn’t have the privilege a platform to tell their stories to the masses.”

“Probably people have heard or think about rap very differently. However, the delivery and the message of the written piece are an essential part of the art. Rap is not always relevant to the brand and at the end of the day, it is your message that matters. One size can’t fit all, so thinking a rap song about the brand’s message is not always the right choice. So, while the culture is present and popular, brands should also note whether it is relevant to them. One can see how much of a forced presence it has today,” he added. 

Adding to this, Karnik said, “Rap is supposed to be an underground movement and it is supposed to be very impactful in its meaning and reflection. This is exactly what the movie Gullyboy also reflected. You can’t take a rap song and write it for a product like a tyre, even if you do rap it is supposed to engage you for a longer period of time.”