Scottish artist Bigg Taj released EP ‘Superstar Sardar’ on 2 April 2016, perhaps his way of saying that he is no fool. With a number of EP’s behind him, this release is his first to go on public sale – so will your fiver make you feel super, or foolhardy?
Bigg Taj is well known for being one of the UK’s most competent beatboxers, but in the last five years he has released some of the most under-rated conscious rap of any artist of South-Asian origin. As a sometime-producer he has developed a signature sound that compliments his UK-desi roots and speaking personally, he has previously released a track that I continue to listen to at least once a week on my go-to playlist in ‘Most Anticipated‘. In this light, it is surprising for me that it has taken this long for Bigg Taj to put out a commercial release, but I say that ignorant of the fickle buying habits of the desi hip-hop audience worldwide.
There are five different producers on ‘Superstar Sardar’ in addition to the two tracks produced by the artist himself. Such a variety could risk muddying the style of the EP and although not all of the tracks hit the mark for me, it certainly doesn’t suffer as a whole. There are a blend of beats ranging from the dark, to the guitar-strummingly positive conclusion, offering a listener the chance to head-nod, bounce, chill-out and think, all in the space of 25 minutes. Underpinning every track, unsurprisingly, is the heavily Scottish-accented vocals of Bigg Taj which are refreshingly easy on the ear – the benefit of being a vocalist who has an intimate understanding of vocal tones and capacities. Wannabe desi rappers note: you don’t need to sound American or aggressive; hip hop demands authenticity which comes from being true to yourself and that is most definitely what Bigg Taj is.
The running order, for those of us who still listen chronologically from track 1 to x, is a lyrical journey that sets a stall out early in ‘I grab the mic’ with a message that is repeated throughout the EP, but built upon in a way that should speak to the discerning hip-hop head as the voice of the UK-Punjabi-Sikh experience. In what is the break-out track of this EP for me, ‘Singh of the Beat’, Taj encourages that it is “time to wake up from our slumber” and asks “if I had whiter skin would you like me still?” In one of the two tracks that feature a collaborative voice on this EP, he is joined here by Singh Mahoon (no stranger to our work at naujawani) who emotes that “the way that you treat us is alarming“. Essentially a major lyrical theme of this EP is for rebellion in a society that incresingly impinges on freedoms and rights in a way that isn’t as visible as it was a few decades ago. Contrary to what mainstream media tells us, the World is still unfair, particularly if you are a 6ft-plus, turban-wearing, bearded, brown man, born and raised in Glasgow.
But this isn’t just an EP about identity, race and the woes of migrant offspring; Taj takes shot at a music industry where promoters owe him money, at global political happenings that hold back Millennials, and a media that crushes independent thought. In the toe-tapping ‘Rebel Song’, his lyrics make mention of Khalistan, Rajoana, Tupac and Gandhi, all while inviting you to move like a wannabe break-dancer.
Whilst the EP lacks a track that will “smash em in the face with the music that I make” – the chorus line from the other collaborative record on this EP which features Angel S, Spee Six Nine and DJ Bud – this is a most worthy purchase and excellent first foray into commercial releases by Bigg Taj. That the EP has not garnered more social media chatter is explained by the artist himself in ‘Fist of Freedom’ when he says “you can’t fool all the people all of the time, but if you fool the right ones then the rest will fall behind“. One would hope that some of the social media influencers from the Sikh/Punjabi/Desi hiphop community take the artist’s advice and wake up from their slumber of promoting the most-polished instagramming rappers or flavours of the month. They could do a lot better by listening to this EP.
‘Superstar Sardar’ is available now from iTunes.