So you’ve heard Honey Singh and Badshah rap about booze, money and women, and now you think that’s what the Indian rap scene is like. But there is an entire underground rap and hip hop movement which has nothing to do with the kind of music put out by the mainstream hip hop artists.
Hip hop was born in the United States in the 1970s; and when the pioneers of the movement started out, they probably never have thought that the music they made would spur a musical revolution across the world. Hip hop rose from the streets and stayed rooted in the values of the places that gave birth to the movement. Early artists rapped about the issues that mattered to them at a grassroots level, but the form evolved over time and spawned other sub-genres.
Unfortunately, by the time hip hop become popular in India in the late 2000s, only the flashiest aspects of the form were adapted – leaving us with countless songs about booze, sex, drugs and obscene wealth. Little was said about life on the streets – something the early proponents of rap made their bread and butter from – because hip hop had been altered to reflect the ever-increasing ambitions of the Indian middle class.
Interestingly, all that is slowly changing, with rap artists such as Divine and Naezy popularizing lyrics that speak about what it’s like to hustle on an everyday basis. The emerging new sound is filled with gritty lyrics. This new generation of rappers comes from the chawls and gulleys that make up so much of our cities, yet very little is known about life there. Films romanticise poverty, but rap calls it out for what it is. There is an authenticity to their lyrics that is uncommon in popular music – raps about poverty, rejection, corruption, distrust of public officials, and even illegal acts committed to ensure their survival.
Rap is being reclaimed by the streets, back to its rawest and truest form, and here are the musicians leading the movement, rapping in the language of the city that they call home.
The king of Mumbai rap, Naezy aka Naved Shaikh, is one of the biggest proponents of this new hip hop movement.
Prabhdeep Sagar, aka Prabh Deep, has one of the most unique voices in the Indian hip-hop scene. The Delhi MC sounds like a cross between a rapper and a Punjabi folk singer.
Dhaval Parab, aka D'evil, has gone off on his own now, but he used to be one member of Munky Rhymz, a Mumbai-based rap group.
Shahrukh Shaikh, aka Emiway, is a Mumbai-based rapper who recently emerged on the hip hop scene but has already commanded a loyal following with his humorous lyrics and impressive rapping speed.
Divine is killing it right now. The Mumbai-based rapper collaborated with Nucleya on two tracks for Nucleya's latest album and has taken his place in the spotlight for now.
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