So many things happened in 2020 that are still having an effect today, 9 1/2 months into the new year. 2020 closed out with the biggest protest in human history: the Indian farmer protest that continues today. It’s a social issue that RawJaw, an Indian-born freestyle rap battle champ raised in the Bay Area, highlights in his single Grow Food (Indian Farmers Anthem).
RawJaw began freestyle rapping at thirdteen and became a freestyle champion eleven years later in 2019. His accolades include winning at Tourettes Without Regrets, Return of the Cypher, ZuluNation RTSB, and Battle of the Zae. Born in Rajasthan, India, his moniker is a play on both his birthplace and the Hindi word for king, “raja.” After releasing collab mixtapes with European producer Masta Dbl G and Seattle beat battle champion Bamboon, RawJaw will be releasing his first EP, Pomegranate Seeds, with production from his brother WLK. His live performances are marked by freestyles and crowd call-and-response chants that deliver the energy of underground cyphers.
Wanting to show solidarity with the ongoing struggles that Indian farmers are facing due to new agricultural laws, RawJaw collaborated with Jazba and A’niche on “Grow Food.” The beat, inspired by Punjabi Bhangra rhythms, was created by WLK. The video is directed by Jamie DeWolf, subtitled in Hindi & Punjabi, and features the song’s vocalists leading a march across the Golden Gate Bridge. RawJaw explains the inspiration and purpose behind the track,
When I noticed my family being dismissive of the Sikh farmers…I decided to lok more into the issue. I was emotionally moved by the fortitude of protesting farmers who camped on the roads for months. I felt ashamed that old protestors were being beaten by the police, while the Indian media was either silent or contradictory to the farmers’ complaints against the new bills. I created the song to help explain the complex issue to a Western audience, and also show that young Indian-Americans are capable of uniting behind the farmers, whether we are Hindu, Sikh, or any other religion.
The highly conscious track hones in on the importance of farmers when it comes to growing food, showcased by one of the lines in the hook: “It takes more than rain and sunshine to grow food.” The lyrics navigate the multi-faceted story that exists within marginalized farmer communities due to the Indian national government. In September 2020, new farmer billsw were passed that deregulated corporations’ ability to buy directly from farmers, even via mobile phone, and also allowed them to use cold-storage facilities at an extent that was previously not allowed. RawJaw dives into his research during the track,
Hypothetically, the goal was to modernize India’s agricultural sector. However, this gave corporations the ability to undercut government subsidized prices and lock farmers into multiple year contracts, sometimes through mobile phones that may be unfamiliar to rural farmers. The expanded control of cold storage means that corporations can stockpile crops to artificially raise prices, and sell the vegetables to lower prices, giving them full control over prices and potentially making government-subsidized prices irrelevant in the long-term. This modernization has the potential to destroy historical ownership of small Punjabi farmers and force them into low-wage service work in neighboring states.
Hard-hitting rap bars, beautifully-haunting vocalizations, and high-energy beats tie the explorative message into an easily-digested track that runs about 4 1/2 minutes. This modern approach takes on a modern problem that deserves the attention that RawJaw is attempting to drive towards it.