In December 2020, Indian artist Divine shared headlines stating he was the first Indian rapper to be featured on a Times Square billboard. For the following 24 hours, he was celebrated all over India until hundreds of news portals dug deeper into the story.
Hundreds of Indian music blogs and news outlets exposed Divine was not actually the first Indian rapper on a Times Square billboard, but rather used the headlines as a marketing scheme to promote his latest album “Punya Paap.”
The title for the first Indian artist to be featured in Times Square really belongs to rising international hip-hop and pop artist Akash Ahuja who graced a billboard in the heart of Manhattan in February 2020.
Many Divine fans say he was the first “rapper” to be on a Times Square billboard and Akash Ahuja was the first “artist” to do so. This is just arguing semantics since they are both rappers and artists.
In addition, many comments claim Akash doesn’t count as a “real” artist because he funds his own career. However, Akash is an independent artist meaning he has no label. In fact, Akash’s talent has allowed him offers with labels but he has turned down multimillion-dollar contracts in order to maintain artistic control over his music. It is reported that Akash spends about 6% of the budget that the average label in India spends on promotion for other similar artists.
This means that Akash is operating on a mere fraction of the type of budgets afforded to signed artists like Divine, which makes Akash’s sudden rise to fame that more unlikely and impressive.
Homegrown independent artists such as Ahuja have less than a 1% chance of succeeding in the mainstream music industry. India’s support would really help Akash in his rise to becoming a global name.
Unlike many other Indian artists who are too hard in their image, are much older, or speak limited English, Akash checks all the boxes to make him India’s next global superstar.