Punjabi rapper NseeB is on the cusp of greatness

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      Over the course of the past four years, Punjabi music has risen to become a global force across the world. Punjabi artists pull in billions of streams, play major arenas, and draw the attention of other globe-trotting music genres. And though it’s not always well known, Canada in particular has been at the heart of much of this expansion. 

      Most prominently, Toronto-area Punjabi artist Sidhu Moose Wala was the shining star that coalesced the new Punjabi sound. He kept the rural roots of Punjabi music strong, featuring Sikh farmers and tractors in his videos, and adapted the traditional singing of the Sikh gurdwaras, melding in autotune and updating the sound with the hip-hop and R&B that he and many other Punjabi artists grew up with. He was among the first to wield guns openly in videos, something that prompted YouTube warnings at the time, and he glorified an outlaw image that meshed particularly well with his hip-hop influences but felt a little Johnny Cash, too. Following his murder in India in 2022—a tragedy that shook the Punjabi music industry to its core—his influence has only grown stronger worldwide.

      Vancouver rapper NseeB has been putting out music since the very beginning of this new era. He exists today both inside and at the margins of this movement. Speaking over the phone, he draws a careful distinction between Punjabi singers, who he feels make up the majority of the movement, and rappers, who are much rarer.

      “Punjabi singers are pretending like they are rappers and they are moving themselves like they are rappers, but…the flow is hard,” he says. “When you make the flow without any singing, that’s the real game.”

      NseeB (given name Bikramdeep Singh Dhaliwal) is one of the few to rap in Punjabi, unlike rappers like Nav and AR Paisley in Toronto, who record in English. He’s also one of the few to stick around and focus on the Vancouver area as his home base. He’s been repping Vancouver from day one, referring to himself as “NseeB 604” in his music videos and on Instagram. Today, he talks about the greenery and diversity of the Lower Mainland (and Surrey, more specifically) as a key part of what he loves about this place.


      “Every nationality, you can find it in Surrey,” he says, “and they are living peacefully.” 

      Born Bikramdeep Singh Dhaliwal, NseeB came to Vancouver as an 18-year-old student, and like other Punjabi immigrants, had a difficult time on first arrival. 

      “Those first three days, I was homeless in the snow,” he says. His phone wasn’t working, his socks were wet, he was lost, and he couldn’t find where he was supposed to be staying. On the third day he found a “Punjabi auntie” working in a gas station on 96th Avenue, and she called his friend to help him get situated and find a basement apartment. Studying business at Columbia College, he got into poetry, though he was “a shy type of kid” by his own admission. Friends encouraged him to start singing, but he was more interested in rapping, idolizing Tupac in particular. Putting out his first album in 2020, he was launched into the international scene that same year from his fiery verses on the single “Old Skool”—one of the tracks with the late Sidhu Moose Wala that heralded the new Punjabi scene. 

      Looking to the future now, NseeB’s got new music coming out soon: a single that’s pushing towards an eventual EP. 

      “I’ve got 80 or 90 tracks, to be honest,” he says with a laugh. “I’m a workaholic. Every day. Every day.” 

      What’s more impressive is that he’s done all this work himself, proudly independent without a record label or a big team. Like other Punjabi artists from BC, he’s looking at the global stage now, too, taking inspiration and looking for collaborations. But he’s also just questing to make his own music better and to develop his own talents.

      “Every time when I make music, I try to write something different,” he explains. “Try to deliver those bars differently. Do something different. Don’t stop.”