Ciphers, ‘hoods and digital DIY studios in India: Negotiating aspirational individuality and hip hop collectivity

Dattatreyan, E. Gabriel and Singh, Jaspal Naveel. 2020. Ciphers, ‘hoods and digital DIY studios in India: Negotiating aspirational individuality and hip hop collectivity. Global Hip Hop Studies, 1(1), pp. 25-45. ISSN 2632-6825 [Article]

DattatreyanandSinghGHHS.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

Download (271kB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

This article argues for an attention to the DIY digital studio as a key site where aspiring hip hop MCs in the contemporary moment negotiate between their desire for individual success and their commitments to various forms of local belonging, not least which includes staying true to a hip hop ethos of collectivity. We follow Sonal, a b-boy and MC we worked with in a studio that we set up in Delhi, India in 2013 to work with aspiring MCs in the city’s scene. We trace his subsequent rise to fame in India to argue for an attention to the DIY studio as the material and metaphoric realization of the digital infrastructures of global capitalism. The studio manifests economic and social opportunities for young men like Sonal in Delhi, and, we suspect, for young people across the world who now have access to social media and inexpensive production hardware and software. Yet, in creating opportunities for individual economic and social uplift, the studio poses a threat to the ideal of a hip hop community that undergirds its possibility even as it opens up opportunities to enunciate commitments to other forms of belonging.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):

Additional Information:

© [Ethiraj Gabriel Dattatreyan, Jaspal Naveel Singh, 2020]. The definitive, peer reviewed and edited version of this article is published in [Global Hip Hop Studies, 1, 1, 25-45, 2020,].

Singh would like to thank the Economic and Social Science Research Council and Dattatreyan would like to thank the Wenner-Gren Foundation for supporting our respective research projects in Delhi


DIY, India, MC, cipher, mediatization, studio, subjectivity

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



25 November 2019Accepted
1 June 2020Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

20 Mar 2020 12:21

Last Modified:

09 Jun 2021 16:30

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)