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When England's Rajinder Rai, better known as Panjabi MC, made his international breakthrough complete with "Mundian to Bach Ke" ("Beware of the Boys") during 2002 and 2003, the song was several years old. His professional career was even older, reaching back to 1993, when Ninder Johal of the Nachural label heard his desi/hip-hop hybrid remix of Kuldip Manak's "Ghariah Milan De" and signed him for a handful of releases. And well before that, the MC was honing his skills as a freestyler; as he began to record more of his own tracks, he began utilizing desi samples and eventually incorporated live musicians.
A first single, "Rootz," was released officially on an independent, but it was banned -- allegedly due to politics within the bhangra music industry. A steady release schedule throughout the '90s -- including the albums Souled Out, Another Sellout, Grass Roots, and Legalised -- made Panjabi MC one of the most prominent names in bhangra. "Mundian to Bach Ke," recognized immediately for its use of the dynamic bassline from the Knight Rider theme song (used similarly in Timbaland & Magoo's "Clock Strikes" and Busta Rhymes' "Fire It Up," both of which were released earlier) in addition to its incorporation of the traditional dhol (drums) and tumbi (one-string guitar) instruments, became successful across the globe, placing the MC on the U.K.'s Top of the Pops program while leading to a Jay-Z remix. ~ Andy Kellman
- Coventry, England