Dee MC performs on stage during Gully Fest in Mumbai in 2018.
© Ali Bharmal

Five top Indian female rappers explain their songwriting process

Women in the Indian hip-hop scene have their own stories to tell, through their music.
Written by Divya Naik
7 min readPublished on
Indian female rappers have been steadily taking the reins of their artistry over the years.
They've been writing about varied topics, from preconceived societal notions to personal emotions to protest music aimed at larger social issues. We speak to some of the country’s top female rappers about their lyrics and songs.

Raja Kumari

Rajakumari poses for a profile photo.


© Rajakumari

The songwriting of Indian-American Svetha Yallapragada Rao, popularly known as Raja Kumari, usually derives from real-life experiences. “Whether it’s writing for other artists or for myself, it’s important to create art from the events going on around you,” she says.
One of her most popular songs, ‘Mute’ came out of the angst of dealing with the stigmas and stereotypes in the music industry. In her gut, Raja Kumari knew that what she was doing was right. She believes that the song resonated so much with people because it’s applicable to so many situations. “Put your haters on mute!” she exclaims.
Her new single ‘N.R.I.’ is close to her heart lyrically. Elaborating on the idea behind the lyrics she states, “It’s about the duality of being from two cultures, and having people tell you that you don’t belong to either. I was told I’m too American for India and too Indian for America. I was fed up with people who were trolling online to try and bring me down, so decided to make a track in response to the haters instead of replying online.”

Meba Ofilia

Meba Ofilia poses for a profile photo.

Meba Ofilia

© Meba Ofilia

For Meghalaya-based Meba Ofilia, age and time have been key factors that have impacted her songwriting. “I’m at an age where I’m experiencing a lot of things, learning too many things in such a short span of time, giving up on things which no longer serve my purpose. And writing is a way to vent out.” The genre has been a means to an end – she says if she wasn’t a rapper, she still would have written out her thoughts.
Asked about how her hit track ‘Done Talking’ was written, she says, “Basically, Big Ri and I sat down to write this song together. Big Ri was the one with the idea and later conveyed it to me.” Meba says the song is about loyalty to art, love and one’s existence, and was the need of the hour for her as an artist.
On a personal note though, Meba cites the song ‘Jaded’ as being close to her heart since it is about her personal experiences. The song is based on the idea of being held captive in a relationship where you have to one walk on eggshells, but then finally finding a way to set yourself free. Meba recalls a few lines which still strike a chord with her, “This is not what we agreed on; for you to step over me, no; the only quitting I would do is to feed your ego.”

Dee MC

Dee MC poses for a profile photo.

Dee MC

© Ali Bharmal

Mumbai-based Deepa Unnikrishnan aka Dee MC says songwriting comes in a large spectrum for her and isn't confined to a single approach. While her songwriting did revolve around her personal experiences and teenage angst earlier, she slowly wheeled towards a serious and upfront approach overtime.
Talking about one of her most popular independent tracks, 'Taking My Time', she recalls, “I wrote it in 2017, after a year of not composing any music. It was the year I was most depressed due to some career choices I made that got me stuck in situations I took time to get out of. However I came out a much stronger person, and learnt a lot from the whole experience.” The thought of penning a song about taking her time to shine came naturally to Dee MC. The lyrics are about enjoying the journey and making the most of the present, without worrying about the constant pressure of 'making it' in the industry. “That's another thing I've learnt from my own journey – ‘logo ka kya aaj karte yaad kal bhool jayenge’ meaning ‘people will remember you today and forget you tomorrow’. If you're making music to chase their attention then it will just be a rat race,” she adds.
Dee MC says the song ‘Bars From The Heart’ from her debut album Dee=MC² is one of her personal favourites. She wrote it as an open letter to her parents and her listeners. “I was born in February 1994 and my dad got a job in Saudi Arabia in March 1994. I grew up away from him for 25 years – he only retired last year. The track is an ode to the rocky relationship I've had with my parents, with this guilt of sacrifice always being a huge factor. I move on to talk about how things do change with time and so did my rapport with my parents.”

Sofia Ashraf

Sofia Ashraf poses for a profile photo.

Sofia Ashraf

© Aman Makar

Chennai-based Sofia Ashraf mostly borrows from her own conflicts for her songwriting – in particular her identity as a hijabi, someone who is ambitious, and also someone struggling with patriarchy.
Throwing light on how her most popular song 'DOW vs Bhopal' came about, she says, “Back in 2007, when I was still in college, I was introduced to an edutainment rock show called Justice Rocks – my first public stage. That year, the theme of Justice Rocks was The Bhopal Gas Tragedy – one of India’s worst tragedies,” she recalls. The idea of Justice Rocks 2007 was to convince graduating engineering students to boycott DOW placements despite their Rs 11 lakh placement packages. Sofia decided to write the song as a rap battle with one guy playing DOW Chemicals and her playing Bhopal. The song became instrumental in the protest – a bunch of students in the audience boycotted the placements and protestors from Bhopal who were in the audience approached Sofia after the performance saying her song made them feel supported.
While Sofia doesn’t relate to most of her older songs, her song ‘Lucky’ gets her through some tough days. About the lyrics of the song, she says, “I am constantly aware of my privilege and check it whenever I can. But, I’ve realised that checking your privilege and acknowledging your own struggles aren’t mutually exclusive. Checking your privilege does not mean discounting your own struggles. It simply means understanding that there are others who have it way tougher than you and being open to extending more support to them. So, you can check your privilege and at the same time acknowledge your own struggle.”


Siri poses for a profile photo.


© Siri

Siri Narayan from Bengaluru kicked off her career in music four years ago after listening to ‘Out Of My Mind’ by B.o.B featuring Nicki Minaj. Today, Siri is best known for rapping in multiple languages, including English, Kannada, Telugu and Hindi.
When asked if it is challenging to write lyrics in multiple languages, she says it is quite the opposite. “Sometimes there are similar sounding words in two different languages with different meanings, which makes the process fun. I have my own likes as to how I want my rhymes to sound and I design it accordingly,” she cites, while talking about her style of songwriting.
Speaking about one of her most popular songs, ‘Live It’, and how it came about, she says, “I was on my bike listening to a beat sent by the music producer Har Man. I started humming a tune and came up with lyrics on the spot.” The lyrics were a message to herself, which translate to: “You don’t need approval to do what you want to do in life.” Siri built the whole song around this theme.