I Had Been Manifesting A Collaboration With Nick Jonas For Years: King

The Delhi-based rapper is all set to climb new heights after the success of his first international collaboration.

Published On Jun 21, 2023 | Updated On Mar 05, 2024


At the pandemic’s peak, when India was weary and tired of the lockdown, a friend insisted we listen to this one song at a common gathering. “What’s so great about yet another Indian rap song,” we asked. “Just listen,” he said, as he queued the song on YouTube. And as the intro beat started, his feet began tapping, putting him in a blissful groove. A groove that was infectious and quickly led all of us to pick up the words, bellowing them out in the long lockdown eve. King’s Tu Aake Dekh Le is a song that has the essence of a ballad but with a contemporary hip-hop influence.

Born Arpan Kumar Chandel, the Delhi boy hit the spotlight in 2019 for being one of the talents in MTV Hustle, a reality music show in search of the best rap/hip hop artiste in India. Before formalising his moniker as King, he was known as King Rocco. He started his YouTube channel in 2015 with the song Boombass. But it was the reality music show that gave him the boost. In 2020, he released his first album The Carnival, followed by The Gorilla Bounce, the next year.

 This one single catapulted King into the mainstream. Riding high on the success of Tu Aake Dekh Le, he released his second album, Champagne Talk. This album contained a new song that further proved King’s mettle as a musician. Maan Meri Jaan blew up all over the internet. It became the go-to song for trending reels, so much so that it became an earworm for international content creators as well. But that was not enough, it was when Nick Jonas wanted to make an international version of the song—Maan Meri Jaan (Afterlife)—that things really made astounding headway for the young King.

Today, King also dons the entrepreneur hat. He has launched his own brand of fragrance named Blanko, titled after one of his singles, in partnership with House of X. On the sidelines of the launch of the fragrance, we spoke to him about the success of his work and future.

Edited excerpts:

Blanko is an underrated song and it’s always been very close to my heart. Blanko means number one, and when we’re talking about confidence and being at the top of the world, then why not number one, hence Blanko. I'm also a fan of learning and I’ve come up from scratch. Every morning I wake up with the intention to break the mould and rules and start something new. The building of Blanko with Raj Shamani is exactly that for me. Blanko for me is ‘business x art’ and ‘dream x art’.

There were two ideas behind the song. First was the fact that I listen to old Hindi classics which are always evergreen. They are evergreen because they are not about materialistic things but about feelings. Feelings never change even if a person evolves, they are part of our innate basic nature. This is something I strongly believe in. I want to achieve pro-level accolades but keep it all rooted in the basic. So this was the first thought, that the song should be connected to feelings. The second aspect of the song was that at the peak of the pandemic, people were under a lockdown and they were also losing people closest to them. I intended the song to be a healing balm for people, that’s why I came up with the song. It is a simple track with no complexity. I am a rapper, but it wasn’t about forcing a rap into the song. It was always about emotions and love, ones that will never change.

As a creator, whenever I create music, I am calculative to know which song has cult potential and which song has mass appeal. We also need to realise that we’ve taken social media as a sidekick, but it is the main character. Keep in mind that people tend to be on the internet way more than living in the moment. If social media has the ability to reach out to people, then it needs to be taken seriously. I don’t want to come across as pompous, but I will say that with Maan Meri Jaan people found the right voice of love. When you think of showing or expressing love visually, no one is better at it than Shah Rukh Khan, even I am a fan of his work. So when it comes to talking about love, then the first thought should be of King.

4. Can you share the story behind the Nick Jonas collaboration for Maan Meri Jaan (Afterlife)?

I have always been a Nick Jonas fan, even before my time in the music industry, because at the end of the day, I am a listener first and then an artiste. I always thought, Nick would be one of my go-to artistes to collaborate with. There are other artistes on my wish list as well. But last year, while I was on my India tour, I got a call from Jay Mehta, managing director of Warner Music Group in India, that Nick wants to do a global version of Maan Meri Jaan. I had been manifesting such a collaboration for more than five-six years by now, so obviously there was no doubt or question but to ‘just do this’.
So when the first draft of the new track came to me, I was very impressed. It was simply perfect in its blend and the transition between English and Hindi verses was seamless. Very often, when you have these dual language collabs, the song feels as if you’ve just included a different voice for the sake of it. Nick knew that the song was a feeling and an emotion and that it was an unofficial anthem in the country and it needed to be treated like that. We also know his relation to India, we call him Jiju (laughs), so he understands the ethos and essence of India. So I never had a second thought about the fact that Nick was the perfect fit for this track.

Both Nick and I are constantly on tours, so whenever we got the time, we would record a bit and send it across. It then goes to the producers and the technical team. They are the people who bring a piece of music to life. More than Nick and I being on the track, it is the team who has pushed to make Maan Meri Jaan (Afterlife) the success that it is.

We were supposed to shoot the video when Nick was in India, but I was unwell at the time, so we had to shoot it in different patches. Another reason why this music video is different from my other videos is that my goal was to ensure the voice of a brown-skinned person is heard by the world. It also must have a sense of artistry that is appreciated globally.

Currently, Blanko is the number one priority and then there is an album launch lined up. There are also several international collaborations, but they are all confidential. I really wish I could tell you more.

Photo: Instagram/King