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Breakout Artist King Makes His Mark in Southeast Asia

by Venesa Daswani

His crowning glory!

By: Ayush Madan 

In the world of contemporary Indian music, King, AKA Arpan Kumar Chandel, has broken out as a prominent and transformative artist. From his humble beginnings in New Delhi to music royalty, King has crafted a unique musical ascent marked by resilience and an unwavering dedication to his craft. Being inspired by the likes of the Backstreet Boys, King is known for his versatility and charismatic stage presence, continually evolving his sound, and resonating deeply with fans around the world. In my conversation with him, King opened up about his early inspirations, the balancing act between a job and his musical aspirations, and the quintessential experiences that have shaped his career. He also shares insights into his creative process, the significance of his stage name, and what fans can expect from his upcoming album, MM. Join us as we delve into the story behind the artist and his message to his devoted ‘KingsClan.’Tell us more about your early days and how you first got into music. What inspired you to start rapping and singing?

I fell in love with pop music at the age of four, listening to the Backstreet Boys, Westlife, and Blue on a neighbour’s radio. Even though I didn’t understand English, I sang along with made-up lyrics. The sound captivated me, and I’ve been studying it ever since. My musical tastes expanded to include retro Bollywood, rap, and R&B. By 10th grade, I started writing my own songs – early experiments in Punjabi rap, R&B, and bubblegum pop. I sometimes performed these for my classmates. However, I never thought music could be a career. I didn’t feel like I could ask my parents to pay for music lessons because they were already struggling financially.

Before your breakthrough, you had a government job in New Delhi. How did you balance your work with your passion for music during that period?

I worked as a games attendant at an NDMC gym in New Delhi, helping athletes with the equipment and guiding them through workouts. The job paid INR 9,500 a month, which felt substantial at the time. More importantly, it gave me a lot of free time to focus on music, which I considered my ‘Plan B.’ I wanted a career where no one else could call the shots, where my talent would speak for itself. My modest salary only allowed me to afford cheap studio time. In 2015, I started recording tracks and uploading them to YouTube under the name ‘King Rocco.’ I gradually built a small circle of supportive friends, including X Miikey, an engineering student who helped me create a smoke bomb for my first-ever music video for a now-deleted track, aptly titled “KING.”

How did your experience on MTV Hustle shape your career?

While halfway through a planned album titled Mashhoor, I got a life-changing call to audition for MTV Hustle. Someone from MTV must have heard my songs. I went to the audition without telling anyone, not even my parents, and somehow made it into the top 15. This audition and my time on the show were turning points in my career and artistry. I dropped “Rocco” from my name, stepping into the pop persona I always imagined. As my performances gained fans, I learned to transform myself into a dynamic on-stage performer. I swapped black T-shirts for colourful shirts and bold stylistic choices, pushing out any remaining self-doubt to make way for my ambitious vision. Watching the first episode in a hotel room with the other contestants, I felt a deep sense of pride. I knew who I was, where I came from, and what it took to get me there. I had gone from a shy kid who avoided eye contact, to performing on television. Although I didn’t win the top spot (I came fourth), I left MTV Hustle with the skills and confidence needed to succeed. One of my first releases after the show, “Tum Saath Rehna,” marked a shift into romantic pop ballads, showcasing my versatility.

Your real name is Arpan Kumar Chandel, but you go by King. Can you share the story behind your stage name?

I started a YouTube channel under the name King Rocco, but due to a miscommunication, my name was listed simply as KING. I realized that my surname, Chandel, is similar to that of a clan monarch, and I wanted to embody the behaviour of a king through my art and demeanour. I chose the name “KING” because it is simple to understand and pronounce in various languages. However, before the regal persona, the hit songs, the sneaker endorsements, and the photoshoots, I was just Arpan – a painfully shy young boy with rock star dreams and a keen awareness of the injustices in the world. My transformation into King is the kind of story pop-star myths are made of.

How do you approach creating a new track?

I’m quite free-flowing when it comes to creating my music. Sometimes, a lyrical idea comes to me first, and I shape it into a song. Other times, I hear a beat that inspires me, and I write a melody to go with it. I’m definitely a melody-driven person, even when I’m just listening to music.

We also wanted to congratulate you on your upcoming album, MM! What new genres and flavours should fans expect on this project? Are there any artists featured that you can reveal at this time?

MM is going to be a nostalgic revelation for my fans, as I’m almost going back to the kind of writing I started with. I can’t reveal the collaborative artists just yet, but they will all be pleasant surprises for my fans and listeners. I’ve even made MM like I did in the good old times – on my home laptop, writing in my room.

Your fans, known as the KingsClan, have been incredibly supportive throughout your meteoric rise. Are there any departing words for your many fans here?

I am super excited to visit Southeast Asia soon. It’ll also be my first time in Thailand, so I’m excited about seeing my Thailand KingsClan than they are about seeing me! [Laughs]  My band and I are thrilled to be performing in Bangkok, hopefully sooner than later. I can’t wait to honestly rage and party with everyone in Thailand.



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