The king of party anthems, the magician behind many an earworm, Badshah is ubiquitous. From radio stations and pubs to social media, there’s no escaping his music, and there are few complaints. Arguably one of the most successful singer- songwriters of his time, the ‘Bad Boy’ completes 10 years in the industry in 2022, with a record number of chart-topping hits, unparalleled consistency and a sneaker collection of over 500 pairs! Showing us a relatively well-concealed side to himself, Badshah opens up to HELLO! about misconceptions around his music, his supposed alter ego, the luxury of spending time with family and so much more.
HELLO!: Your handle is @badboyshah. You had a song titled ‘Bad Boy x Bad Girl’. Your clothing line is named Badfit. Why did you choose this ‘bad’ alter ego?
B: I did not choose this bad alter ego (laughs)! I chose @badboyshah on Instagram because the ‘Badshah’ handle wasn’t available. Badfit is a derivative of the name ‘Bad-shah’. But this has helped lower my audience’s expectations of me. As someone in the limelight, they expect you to behave a certain way and uphold a certain image. I can get away with a lot of things because I’m ‘bad’ at it.
HELLO!: Who is Aditya Prateek Singh Sisodia, the man behind your Badshah persona?
B: Aditya is your typical middle-class man, who likes to eat good food, enjoy winters under the blanket, hang out with his friends and lead a normal life — basically do everything that a star isn’t expected to do. I miss a lot of the things I used to do before my Badshah days — travel by the metro, in buses and rickshaws, meander around the mall and window shop, head to a cinema for a movie, eat roadside food, and just be! But there are certain similarities between Aditya and Badshah. Neither care about what the world thinks about them. They are both extremely passionate, humble and good people.
HELLO!: When we think ‘Badshah’, we think swag and bling. Did this image come about organically?
B: I don’t think I’m really that over the top. I’m subtle, considering the genre of music I represent, which is hip hop. Hip hop is all about extreme bling — chains, rings and in-your-face accessories. I just happen to pair statement pieces with a lot of basics, which make me appear flashy. I’ve been this way since before my Badshah days.
HELLO!: We live in a world where numbers and records carry so much weight. Do you think artistes can keep their passion alive in this number game?
B: Brilliant question. We’ve been fed this system since childhood, when we were supposed to rank first in class and score well. It’s always been about the numbers. But as artistes, we have to focus on our creativity, too, or else we’ll be lost in the figures. And there’s no end to this because someone will always come along to break a record you’ve set. To be honest, around 2018-19, I was a little lost in this number game. I won’t say I came out with bad work, but I wasn’t 100 percent honest with my efforts. And I believe it’s a sin to disrespect a god-given talent. I learnt to change my ways over a period of time and have stayed away from the rut of numbers ever since. They do serve as great motivators — whether it’s the weighing scale, salary or a music record — but eventually, it becomes about doing what you really like. Today, my mantra for making music boils down to this question: why did I write my first song? I didn’t have numbers to match or records to break back then. It was purely for the love of music. That’s what I returned to, and I’m really happy with what I do now.
HELLO!: Any favourites among all your superhits?
B: There are too many! Every time I write a new song, it becomes my favourite. Though I think ‘Mercy’ was groundbreaking, and then ‘Jugnu’. And my next album and next set of songs! The whole next bunch is sweet!
HELLO!: Jugnu was such a sensation worldwide. How ecstatic do you feel when your work goes viral?
B: It feels amazing, but it’s a two-pronged sword. There’s a downside to it: the essence of the song gets ruined when it goes viral. ‘Jugnu’ was a four-minute track, but only a 15-20-second snippet went viral. That became the sound of the song, even though ‘Jugnu’ was meant to be heard as a whole and the video, watched as a whole. It’s great when people hop onto something you created. It gives you confidence to know you can set trends. I’m glad it went viral, though it’d be even more amazing if people listened to complete songs.
HELLO!: Have you always had such an avid interest in fashion? Which are your favourite brands today?
B: I’ve always been into fashion. I used to design shoes when I was eight or nine. It’s amazing how they create beautiful things out of a plain piece of cloth, with colours, silhouettes, fits and cuts. You get to experiment with yourself and the way you look and project yourself. I wear a lot of Amiri these days. Balenciaga is an all-time favourite. All of Virgil Abloh’s work for Louis Vuitton was groundbreaking. I’m really excited about Nigo taking over Kenzo. Then Gucci is Gucci... I’m so into brands, it’s a problem!
HELLO!: How big is your sneaker collection? Which brands are your favourite?
B: I have more than 500 pairs in my sneaker collection. I stopped counting after 500. Do I think it’s the coolest collection in the country? Hell yes! Hands down. No doubt about it. I love Jordans, the threes and fours. I love the new Louis Vuitton Runner Tactics. I love the Balenciaga Tracks. They’re super comfortable, too.
HELLO!: How did you develop this sense of style? It’s so uniquely you.
B: I’ve always dressed this way. A lot of it comes from my love for basketball and watching 90s’ hip-hop videos. I’ve always been a windrunner- bomber jacket kind of guy. I love wearing shorts simply because they’re so comfortable. You’ll often find me dressed in a pair of shorts with a jacket and cap and a pair of sunglasses and sneakers. That’s become my identity now, even though that’s how I’ve always been. It’s all about comfort.
HELLO!: What’s the most misunderstood aspect of the world’s perception of you?
B: Everything! People think I’m extremely arrogant. People think I was born rich. People think I didn’t work hard to reach where I am, that it was all served to me on a platter. There are a lot of misconceptions, but I don’t pay heed to them anymore. It’s all about keeping my focus now.
HELLO!: Your lyrics have subtle comments on embracing imperfections. Is that a conscious effort on your part?
B: As an artiste and as a human being, you evolve. You aren’t the same person you were a year ago. It’s up to you how you inculcate things you learn in the way you express yourself and in your thoughts. That’s what I did. I grew up to learn how important it is to embrace your imperfections. I won’t call them imperfections either — it’s your very existence. It’s important to embrace the way you were made. It’s awful how social media filters have messed with people’s minds and created insecurities. You’re one of a kind, so take pride in that!
HELLO!: Do the lyrics come first or the melody? What’s your songwriting process like?
B: It works both ways. Sometimes it’s the melody, sometimes it’s the lyrics. There are occasions where it’s the beat first because I also produce music. When it’s the beat, I have to lay the lyrics over a melody. I choose whatever makes the song sound more impactful.
HELLO!: There’s a section of the audience that thinks it’s cool to dislike your music, no matter how popular it is. Why do you think that is?
B: This is bang on. I’ve tried to read up on this to fathom why. But after a point, I realised that it’s human nature to simply move on. I had the audience’s love and support when I was starting out, the underdog trying to make his way to the top. Once I got there with consistent hit after hit, things changed. People just don’t want to see you on top forever. It’s a cycle an artiste has to live through. You really can’t control it. All you can do is give it your 100 percent and be happy with what you do.
HELLO!: Was your family supportive when you decided to go into music?
B: I come from a middle-class family. They wanted me to be an engineer and get a job. So they weren’t supportive at all when I first tried to explain to them what I wanted to do. For a while, I kept my head down and did things their way. I just worked twice as hard, balancing work with music. It wasn’t until my music started supporting me financially that I let go of my job.
HELLO!: How do you make time for family today?
B: If you ask what luxury is to me, I’d say it’s being able to spend time with my family. The lockdown gave me ample time to do just that, and I’ve no complaints. It brought me closer to my ageing parents. It was beautiful to be able to sit with them, quarrelling, gossipping, talking about our relatives and being honest with each other. I make sure to see them whenever I’m free.
HELLO!: What does 2022 have in store for you?
B: 2022 is going to be the greatest year of my life, I promise you that. It’s going to be the most exciting year — we’re going global, baby!
Photography: Madhu Akula (Maddy) ; Creative Direction: Avantikka Kilachand; Senior Fashion Stylist: Yukti Sodha; Makeup: Swapnil Haldankar; Hair: Javed Sheikh
This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in HELLO! India’s March 2022 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!