Ever since he broke through with the 2018 single “Diamond”, Canadian producer and composer Ikwinder Singh aka Ikky has been lighting up the charts with his distinct brand of hip–hop, pop and Punjabi music, both at home and through the rest of the world.
The 23-year-old Rexdale, Ontario-based artist has garnered over a billion streams across the globe with such career-defining hits as “Diamond” with Gurnam Bhullar, which has more than 600 million YouTube views until date, and “Baller” with Shubh, which has more than 100 million streams on Spotify alone.
A master of collaboration, Ikky has helmed smashes like “Bambiha Bole” with Amrit Maan and Sidhu Moosewala, and “Chauffeur” with Diljit Dosanjh and Tory Lanez, while his long list of production credits includes releases by most of the major names in the contemporary Punjabi music industry, from Garry Sandhu and Himmat Sandhu to Ammy Virk and Mankirt Aulakh.
In February, Ikky scored his biggest crossover success yet when “52 Bars”, the lead single off his collaborative EP with Karan Aujla Four You debuted in the top 15 of Billboard’s Canadian Hot 100 chart. That same week, the EP landed straight in the top 20 of the publication’s Canadian Albums survey.
Ikky’s tracks have been featured on over 300 playlists to date including Today’s Hits, Punjabi Hits, Future Hits and Breaking Punjabi on Apple Music, and Punjabi 101, Hot Hits Punjabi, Hip Te Hop and Punjabi Swag on Spotify, on which he currently boasts over six million monthly listeners.
“My biggest power right now is bringing people together,” says Ikky who stands out for his ability to combine his international influences of hip-hop, R&B, reggae and pop with rustic Punjabi rhythms to fashion tunes that are a seamless mix of authenticity and experimentation. “When I’m making music, I’m not thinking about it as a Punjabi song,” he says. “I just think of it as a song.”
If there were a way to describe his syncretic sound, it would be “groovy, forward-thinking Punjabi music”. “That's really the best way I can put it,” says Ikky. “To be forward thinking, you’ve got to be from the past, right? With the melodies and the lyrics, I just keep it so desi that the music could be completely different from your standard bhangra rhythms and it’ll sound good.”
Among Ikky’s strengths is his knack of getting artists to move out of their comfort zone, as exemplified on his newest release “On God (Freestyle)” with Bhalwaan. “It was a lot of fun getting to work with Bhalwaan on this track,” says Ikky. “Bhalwaan was really open and honest, in a way I don't think we usually get to see from him. Being able to build a sonic world around what he was going through was an honour.”
While he’s only in his early twenties, Ikky already has over a decade of experience both as a performer and a producer. He thanks his parents for empowering him to forge a career in music, which remains an unconventional choice for most south Asian families.
As children, his brother and he were encouraged by their musician father to hone their innate talent by putting up performances of Punjabi folk songs at community parties. It was for these shows that Ikky decided to try his hand at beat making when he was a mere 12 years old. “I started producing because we didn’t have a band,” he says. “We would play the tracks off a USB and sing over them.”
When he got into high school, his musical interests turned towards hip-hop and reggae. “For some reason, I always had an ear for the beat side of music,” says Ikky, who counts producers Sukshinder Shinda (Jazzy B, Amrinder Gill) and Tru Skool (Karan Aujla), along with Dr. Dre and 40 (Drake), as his core formative influences.
Today, Ikky, who began producing professionally in his teens, is taking that legacy forward through his label 4N (pronounced ‘foreign’) Records and 4N Nights concert event series.
Launched in 2021 in partnership with Warner Music and Coalition Music, 4N Records is a manifestation of Ikky’s mission to “create songs and collaborations that will bridge the gap between India’s exploding music scene and the rest of the world”.
Thus far, 4N Records’s slate of releases have included “80 90” with Ikky’s mentors Amrit Maan and Garry Sandhu; the EP Say My Name with rising singer/rapper NseeB; a remake of the Bill Withers classic “Ain’t No Sunshine” with Himmat Sandhu and Preston Pablo that was put out as a Spotify single; “She's The One” with late legend Soni Pabla; and the Latin-flavoured “Hello Hello Hola” with Garry Sandhu, MC Devo and Las Villa. They’re each a gleaming example of the forward-thinking Punjabi music that Ikky has pioneered.
The 4N Nights bhangra and hip-hop concerts/parties, organised in partnership with Live Nation, kicked off at The Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver in January. The series is an extension of his constant endeavour to showcase South Asian talent, which has historically been under-represented both on the charts and on the live stage.
“I really just want to make sure that once the door opens for Punjabi music worldwide, it will flood the gates,” says Ikky. By all estimates, 2023 is the year for taking India to the world. And Ikky, who is currently working on an EP as a lead artist, will be at the forefront of that imminent moment.