Panchamahabhutas of Hip Hop – The 5 Great Elements

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Desi Hip-Hop music is gradually emerging and there’s no second thought about it. While the majority of rappers are pushing the culture to its new heights, many are affecting its essence. Conscious rap, storytelling and others are still in its growing phase while club and gangsta raps are already popular. We’ll also discuss how gangsta rap has found its way in desi hip-hop music and how it’s not relevant. But first, we should understand what hip-hop music actually is.

Key elements of hip-hop are Djing, Graffiti, MCing, Breaking and the fifth one which binds them all is Knowledge – together they make the Panchamahabhutas (Sanskrit for ‘5 great elements’) 

Panchamahabhutas of Hip Hop

1. What Is Hip-Hop Music?

Hip-Hop Music was started by African-Americans in the 1970s. It was basically a set of rhyming words placed differently in sentences to talk about a particular topic. Gradually, sticking to a particular topic didn’t remain the only style. However, the key of writing these verses was to deliver the most important element of hip-hop – Knowledge. The knowledge about a particular situation that the rapper, society, race or the world etc. is going through. Unfortunately, this purpose of rap is fading away. Not in terms of existence but it terms of popularity and sales.

Several sub-categories or sub-genres of hip-hop have emerged since its birth. Gangsta Rap, which majorly talks about street violence and guns is a sub-genre of hip-hop and not completely hip-hop itself. Gangsta rap or Gangster rap can be blamed for the verses that talk about street violence & guns, in general. In fact, if an artist talks about how gangster he is, he should actually portray such lifestyle. If he is faking it, he is a wannabe who is a trouble to both the society and the genre of hip-hop.

2. Gangsta Rap | Meaning & Origin

First and foremost, gangsta rap was originally introduced by hip-hop giant Ice-T. However, it became a prominent and celebrated style of hip-hop music when N.W.A. popularised it worldwide. Throughout these years, gangsta rap has been the centre of attraction for the critics. Intellects accuse the genre of promoting sex, drugs, violence (including killings, street fights), rapes, breaching of law, narcissism and much more. While it’s a sub-genre of hip-hop itself, gangsta rap is also the parent genre of other sub-categories including G-Funk, Narco-corrido among others.


We have a separate piece on “Are We Following Gangsta Rap In Desi Hip-Hop” which talks about diss-culture, objectification of women and others. Make sure that you check out that piece as well.

So, if we know that Gangster Rap is all about being a gangster, what is hip-hop really about then?

As mentioned above, its primarily about knowledge. In fact, hip-hop is sometimes referred to as rap music but rap is not the only element of hip-hop. KRS One discussed the elements of hip-hop. He suggested that Graffiti, DJing, B-boying or breaking, MCing or rapping, Beatboxers, Street Fashion, Street Language, Street Knowledge, Street Wise and Street Entrepreneurship are the elements that hip-hop survives on. Key elements of hip-hop are DJing, Graffiti, MCing, Breaking and the fifth one which binds them all is Knowledge – together they make the Panchamahabhutas (Sanskrit for ‘5 great elements’).

Let’s take a look at each of the Panchamahabhuta –


Djing is the art handled by a Disc Jockey or a Grand-master. Hip-hop DJs not only play vinyls, cassettes or CDs, they perform their art while doing this. Cutting, mixing, scratching and others are different techniques handled by a hip-hop DJ while performing live. In fact, mixing of two songs live is the primary technique that DJs are known for but hip-hop DJs are a lot more than that.


DJ Kan-I was voted the most popular hip-hop DJ of India. DJ Karma and DJs Bob & Ishani, on the other hand, have been doing this for a very long time now. If you want to experience the aura of hip-hop DJing, you should definitely attend some live gigs in your city.


Grafitti is the art of creating meaningful drawings on the walls that are often drawn to attract public view. Its a modern version of ancient graffito or pictography. In street language, its known as tagging. India’s first famous female graffiti artist who is doing it legally is Dizy. Dizy or Kajal Singh takes permission from the wall owners before performing art because this art is still illegal in several parts of the world.

Dizy-graffiti-Hip Hop Elements

The above image is of a graffiti piece done by Dizy in Berlin, Germany. She suggests that she doesn’t usually care about what others think of her art because its a way for her to just be herself. Her brother (Komet) is also a very popular name in the desi-graffiti culture.


Mcing or Rapping is the most popular element of hip-hop. The word MC comes from Master of Ceremony which refers to the person who hosts an event. Gradually, rapping stepped in and rhythmic vocal sentences took over the culture. Rapping circles around content, flow and delivery. Content is all about what is being said in an attractive flow with proper vocal delivery.

bohemia - live at the mirchi music awards in amritsar - pesa nasha pyar

Bohemia is the finest example of an emcee from desi hip-hop. His stage presence and control over the microphone is impeccable. Like they say, every emcee is a rapper but not every rapper is an emcee. The way people worship Bohemia is next level of obsession and devotion. Bohemia usually writes songs that are focused on a particular topic with an impressive flow, delivered perfectly.


KRS One suggests that breaking includes up-rocking, pop-locking, jailhouse-boxing, electric boogie and others. B-boys, B-Girls and break dancers are the ones who practice it. Its an acrobatic style of street-dancing. Dance is often considered as an escape-route of emotions and symbolises freedom.


Sushanto Gharai is a Khatarnaak Hip-Hop Collective & Culture Fanatikz Crew member. In addition, Sushanto has dedicated his life to this beautiful art form of popping. Furthermore, Beastmode Crew from Mumbai recently represented India at the Korean Bboying tournament.

Knowledge is the element which is going to change your mind towards hip-hop and its relation with violence.

Knowledge is important from two ends. Firstly from the perspective of the artist and secondly from the audience/viewer’s end. Let’s keep songs based on violence in our mind. Talking about violence and being violent are two different things. An artist has the right to talk about whatever their society is going through. Indian artists like Shaikhspeare, A-List, MC Kash and several others talk about social issues which to an extent includes violence. Are artists like these causing riots? No. They’re talking about it.

Rappers like Yungsta and several others are talking about rapes in their song to prevent them. Some artists like Sikander Kahlon are talking about drugs to prevent its use. Commercial market is filled with songs based on imaginations which are in fact, the portrayal of anger or temptations. Remember the times you wanted to beat the sh*t out of your boss but failed to do so? These artists express the same through songs. Since, people demand these kind of themes in the mainstream music, artists are providing it to them. Its a basic demand and supply phenomenon. Ask yourself, how many hip-hop songs have you heard that talk about patriotism or focuses on anti-rape, anti-drugs or anti-violence? The list is short. Artists are releasing these types of songs but the general masses, as listeners, are not supporting it.

For the last time, hip-hop doesn’t cause violence. It talks about it to prevent it by spreading awareness about it. If someone is doing it, don’t blame the artist. Blame the person who is demonstrating the same after listening to a song. Knowledge is important. Don’t blame the culture.