July 20, 2021
Increase the volume please...
Ludakrishna and the Vikram MC,
Sweetest things to hit the States since mango chutney.
When rappers Ludakrishna and MC Vikram released “Welcome to India” in 2002, they took over the Indian diaspora internet, creating an unexpected viral sensation at a time when there were few markers of diaspora culture. This was the era when South Asians embraced films American Desi (2001) and ABCD (1999) with few reservations, quoted Russell Peters’s stand-up specials ad nauseam, and voted for Sanjaya Malakar, propelling him to a seventh-place finish on the sixth season of American Idol.
If you’ve never heard this song, imagine if “Weird Al” Yankovic, Peters, and the freestyle rapper from your freshman dorm combined their talents to parody Ludacris and Jermaine Dupris’s hit 2002 single, “Welcome to Atlanta.” The duo rap the song with a thick Indian accent that’s not quite authentic, but not quite as cartoonish as Apu from The Simpsons. The song is littered with silly jokes about lungis, farts, and cows. It’s shoddy, plagued by poor sound quality, and a lack of adherence to rhythmic structure. But it was also undeniably funny, packed with specific references to Indian culture, like carrom boards and Frooti mango juice, that resonated deeply with a generation of diasporic and non-diasporic South Asian listeners alike.
Though much of the song’s lyrics couldn’t hold muster today, in the early 2000s, amid the awkward growing pains of first-generation South Asians who had to reconcile multiple cultural identities, “Welcome to India” — as silly as it was — spoke to many of these anxieties and created a mutual shorthand for millions.
“This was during the time when everyone was illegally downloading music,” said Nikhil Seetharam, a Toronto-based music producer and film composer who’s worked with artists such as Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Nicki Minaj. “My older brother played the song for me, and I remember thinking it was the funniest thing I’d ever heard in my life. Granted, I was 12 at the time.”
There is very little known about Ludakrishna and MC Vikram today — neither responded to requests for comment. In 2002, they were a pair of college-aged students from New York. MC Vikram, who has never revealed his real name publicly, was a Malayali American business student with an interest in sketch comedy and hip-hop. He was heavily involved with his church. Ludakrishna, an even more secretive figure, was MC Vikram’s friend. According to a 2019 interview on the podcast Chasing Dreams with Aimee J, the inspiration for the song came from a radio interlude MC Vikram heard on New York’s Hot 97, where a performer with an Indian accent was promoting a new segment with a “funny rhyme.”