Universal Music Group is launching a new hip-hop-focused label in India in partnership with legendary rapper Nas and Mass Appeal.
Mass Appeal India is being touted by the major music company as “an innovative new label dedicated to amplifying India’s burgeoning hip-hop culture on a global scale”.
It will be based in Mumbai, within Universal Music India’s (UMI) headquarters and will function as a “multi-channel partnership” between Mass Appeal and UMG.
The news comes little over two years after UMG led a $6m investment into Mass Appeal, which was originally founded in 1996, and then revived via a Nas-fronted funding round in 2013.
Mass Appeal India will sign artists from India’s hip-hop scene, and, through Mass Appeal’s global network, work with brands and content creators to connect them to a worldwide audience.
Mass Appeal India will leverage UMI’s marketing and promotion teams within India, whilst Mass Appeal will lead release strategy within the U.S. and Canada.
All releases from Mass Appeal India will be distributed exclusively via UMG worldwide, with additional support across its network of more than 60 territories for select artists and projects.
The first marquee signing at Mass Appeal India is acclaimed Hindi rapper DIVINE, who boasts more than 1.2m subscribers to his personal YouTube channel. A central figure in the ‘gully rap’ movement, DIVINE’s biggest singles so far include Meri Gully Mein, Jungli Sher and Kaam 25.
DIVINE’s 2016 single Jungli Sher was the first Indian single that Apple Music released as a timed exclusive worldwide.
DIVINE was also the first Indian artist to be featured on BBC 1 Xtra’s ‘Fire In The Booth’ in 2016.
“Hip-hop is the world’s most influential culture – it’s only right to share what we do at Mass Appeal on a global level.”
In announcing the launch of Mass Appeal India, Nas said, “I was first introduced to DIVINE’s music through the brilliant film Gully Boy. I’m proud to announce the launch of Mass Appeal India with DIVINE as the first artist on our roster.
“Hip-hop is the world’s most influential culture – it’s only right to share what we do at Mass Appeal on a global level. We’re excited about joining forces with the team at UMG India to help further spark a movement that is constantly in the making.”
Adam Granite, EVP, Market Development, Universal Music Group, said, “For many years hip-hop, regardless of local language, has been growing rapidly around the world as the authentic sound of the streets. We are excited to work together with Nas, Peter, DIVINE, Devraj and the UMI team to launch Mass Appeal India, which we believe will become India’s premier dedicated hip-hop brand. The emergence of Mass Appeal India and the signing of Divine will only fuel the next wave of Indian hip-hop and rap talent and help accelerate the growth and reach of the genre in India, the subcontinent and beyond.”
DIVINE’s story and rise of the Indian hip-hop scene inspired Bollywood director Zoya Akhtar’s 2019 acclaimed feature film Gully Boy, starring Ranveer Singh, which has also become one of the year’s biggest Bollywood films at the box office. Gully Boy’s soundtrack featured DIVINE on five tracks.
“It’s an honour to be associated with a legend like Nas. I grew up listening to his music. For him to recognise not just me, but the whole Indian hip-hop scene is a big win for hip-hop, and for hip-hop in India,” DIVINE says of signing with Nas’ Mass Appeal.
“He is looking forward to working not just with me, but a lot of the young talent in India. I will be working with Mass Appeal India not just in a personal capacity, but also in my capacity as founder of Gully Gang Entertainment to help Mass Appeal India build a thriving ecosystem for urban music and culture in the sub-continent. So, let’s bring our A-Game because the world is watching,” he adds.
Devraj Sanyal, MD & CEO of UMG, India & South Asia said, “Over the past few years UMI has concentrated on creating a culture of artist-first, non-film music to satisfy India’s rapidly evolving music audience. Hip-hop has been a key area of this focus and we have found the natural partner in Mass Appeal, Nas & Peter to help realise our dream of breaking Indian hip-hop in the region, as well as to the rest of the world together.
“It was only right to lead this global announcement with the signing of India’s number one hip-hop star, DIVINE for his highly anticipated debut album. As he articulately puts it, “Apna time Aayega” which means, “our time will come” – now is certainly the time for Indian Hip-Hop to break into the mainstream.”
“Hip-hop has been a key area of this focus and we have found the natural partner in Mass Appeal, Nas & Peter to help realise our dream of breaking Indian hip-hop in the region, as well as to the rest of the world together.”
Devraj Sanyal, UMG
Peter Bittenbender, CEO of Mass Appeal, said, “Coming off what has been a landmark year for Mass Appeal, we are beyond thrilled to announce the global expansion of our brand in partnership with UMI and with DIVINE as our first superstar talent signing. This new venture is an incredibly exciting extension of Mass Appeal’s strategy to progress the conversation and landscape of hip hop by taking our brand to the most exciting global markets.”
DIVINE is currently working on his debut album, Kohinoor set to be released later this year.
[Pictured: DIVINE’s Mass Appeal India signing photo. L-R – bottom row: Adam Granite, DIVINE, Nas. top row – Peter Bittenbender, Devraj Sanyal, Chaitanya Kataria]Music Business Worldwide