Rap, or rap culture, also known as hip-hop music was a revolutionary pop culture started in the 70s in the Bronx, New York City. While this phenomenon has only hit the high notes post the release of Ranveer Singh starrer Gully Boy (based on real life Mumbai rappers Divine and Naezy), it is essential to note that the culture had been prevailing in the maximum city for a very long time. For those, who may not be familiar with terms like beat boxing, underground rappers, freestyle rapping or rap battles; here’s our quick guide to this not so infamous culture, courtesy the rap gods of Mumbai.
KNOW YOUR GODS
The Elsewhere Crew is the legit group of authentic rappers hailing in the city, hosting rap fanatics and those who wish to spit out their lyrical paste. The founding members- Achint Marwah aka Noxious D, Lester Cardoz – Kav-E, Anmol Gawand – EMF, Hiten Sangani – HE10, and Deepraj Raorane – Dorian X (some of them have also collaborated with Gully Boy) are responsible for Battle Bars Bombay aka B3- a one stop destination for executing this culture on a larger podium.
Gaurav Gambhir aka Dcypher, who is a beat boxer for the crew Bombay Lokal also came in the spotlight for his mouthing in ‘Asli Hip Hop’ and ‘Jingostan’. However, he didn’t get the gig first hand as he was originally taken in as an extra in Gully Boy. He says, “Originally we weren’t supposed to be a part of this movie. I had received a call from the makers as they were looking out of rappers. For the rap battle scene in the movie, we were taken in as extras. On the second day of shoot, during lunch break we got an opportunity in front of them and they loved it and that’s how we got the part.”
Another crew you can follow is the Swadesi Movement which has performed across the country. Dharmesh Parmar aka Todfod has done several gigs and has rapped the Gujarati verse in the song ‘India 91’.
For 23 year old Yash M Mahida aka Maharya, who has also written and sung a verse in ‘India 91’, states that rap was a commercial scenario in India because of artists like Badshah, Raftaar. However, with the movie, it has elevated the underground rappers and have brought them on a magnum opus.
Mumbai’s Finest- The original Gully Boys
Abhishek Dhusia aka Ace formed the crew Mumbai’s Finest in the year 2006 with other likeminded individuals. It has been over 13 years and he hasn’t backed down. Ace has also been featured in the film with his song ‘Har Gham Mein Khushi Hai’. This original Gully Boy speaks his mind out on the recent boost the genre has received. He says, “We were the first ones to do a song, video or rap battle in the city. We laid the foundation for others to follow. Even Vivian was a part of our crew from 2006 to 2013, after which he decided to go solo.”
Deepa Unnikrishnan aka Dee MC- The only female rapper in the city
Deepa Unnikrishnan has been on the rapping front as the only female lead in Mumbai. With powerful elements since childhood such as the skill for poetry and conditioned to rhythm with Bharatanatyam, Deepa reveals that rap culture has given her the space to be what she always wanted to be. She says, “Rap was there in each and every nook and corner of India, but now because of the movie, everything has been put on a pedestal as Bollywood reaches to a mass audience. Being a female and being in Mumbai I feel privileged, but in terms of going ahead with my interests was a problem. If you wish to pursue your passion or stay out late you need your parents to agree first as everyone doesn’t have that kind of freedom at home. But later I made my own decisions and being in this city, it has given me my own space so I could be what I wanted to be.”
Mumbai Meri Jaan- Spitfire aka Nitin Mishra- The 20-year-old behind ‘Asli Hip Hop’ from ‘Gully Boy’
It wasn’t by fluke but sheer hard work and determination to be better than the best that paved way from 20-year-old Nitin Mishra from Madhya Pradesh. His visit to Mumbai has been fruitful for his career at a very young age. This self-made artist was a raw talent that simply needed a push which led to his song ‘Asli Hip Hop’, originally a secondary track that was later chosen to introduce ‘Gully Boy’. He says, “Music has no limits, I would love to do something for my state (MP) and wish to create a hip hop community here. I will provide a push to new artists who also wish to explore this culture.”
RAPPING BACK IN THE DAY
Gawand asserts that rap culture existed in the online community called Insignia on Orkut in early 2000s, which further evolved into meeting people, deciphering and performing. He says, “It comprised of rappers from the subcontinents India-Pak-Nepal-Bangladesh etc. They had a ranking system where rappers were constantly battling on scraps and they’d get the rank according to the win. The lowest tier was called Insignia factory tobacco and it went up to beedis, cigarettes and cigars.”
Vineet Nair aka Trap Poju also a part of Elsewhere was titled as ‘cigar’ back in the day. Earlier known as ‘Poetic Justis’ he witnessed the growth of this online platform first hand. He says, “Insignia was a base ground for cultivating not just great poets and lyricists but also future rap artists who are proficient in every aspect of the art form. I was there when Insignia was formed and it was one of the few rap forums where people would be ranked based on their lyrical ability and their number of wins or losses in battle. I saw a lot of artists grow their skill sets and evolve into music artists.”
WHAT IS BATTLE BARS BOMBAY AKA B3 INDIA?
It is a hip hop festival that is held twice a year which promotes this underdog talent. The first ever battle hosted under the mantle of B3 was called “Battle Fort” which was hosted at Sion fort back in 2013, however it was interrupted by the Mumbai Police and the artists were made to leave. The crew took it further with an event called ‘Civil War’ which was held at an under construction site.
With a view to expand it further, the christening of their name took place at The Hive in Bandra wherein the event was called ‘B3- Home Invasion’. Their recent edition was held a couple of months back known as ‘B3 – Art Of War 2’ in ‘Above The Habitat’ in Khar.
Marwah who is one of the founders says, “It takes a lot of skill to deliver good quality rap, otherwise everyone will simply say whatever comes to their head and it is mostly trash.”
Writing a rap isn’t an easy job, just like mouthing many syllables in a second. When it comes to freestyle impromptu rapping, the scene in Mumbai wasn’t at its best. So how does B3 help in uplifting this talent? “We make sure that the rap battles are of optimum quality. The contenders are informed in advance who they’re going down against so they can prep with good research and then present live, he adds.”
How to witness a rap battle in Mumbai?
The next event which will supposedly happen in April has an entry fee and registration which can be known in detail through their Facebook and Instagram account. However, if you wish to participate, there will be auditions with a judging panel before you go ahead to drop the mic.
ATTEND A CLASS OF RAP
If you wish to brush up your rapping skills, Hemant Dhyani aka MC Heam has been in the showbiz for around 12 years. His prominent collaboration was with AR Rahman in Beyond the Clouds song Motor Chala.
Dhyani conducts classes at Dharavi under The Dharavi Project where you can enrol for free.
When: Wednesday to Sunday
Venue: Ganesh Vidya Mandir
Age: 10-23 years