DUBAI // Hard Kaur, Britain's first award-winning Asian female rapper, is on a quest to write that elusive song with universal appeal to catapult her into the mainstream.
The song is the one she hopes will help her outgrow all the pigeonholes into which she has been put.
Known as Taran Kaur to her family, she earned her stage name when she was 15 and friends egged her on to pit her skills against local boys who ridiculed her.
"I was much better and everybody told the boys, 'Oh, she destroyed you.' They called me 'hard core'. Then everybody started calling me that and I ended up keeping the name."
The winner of Asian hip-hop awards in Britain, she is also now a name in Bollywood. But she knows that breaking into hip-hop on the world stage will require a punchy blend of Asian rhythms and contemporary lyrics.
"That's my dream," said Kaur, 31, who will perform on Thursday night at Dubai's Chi Garden. "I want one record that is great all over the world, which is my style and has not been compromised, and I'll be happy."
Born in India and raised in Birmingham since she was 12, Kaur won fame in 2004 with the hit single Glassy. She went on to win the Best Female Act at the 2008 UK Asian Music Awards. India's booming movie industry embraced her when she introduced Bollywood to rap music with the 2007 hit song Move Your Body in the Hindi-language thriller Johnny Gaddaar. She also sang on the single Desi Dance with Eminem's D12 label after her debut US tour two years ago.
Critics see a lot of potential in this lyricist who mixes northern Punjabi bhangra folk music beats with Hindi and English lyrics. "There is a lot more to her voice and music than regular singers," said the film trade analyst Tarun Adarsh. "Her songs are very contemporary and she has delivered hit after hit. She is one singer with the potential to make a splash overseas."