Unknown to most of us, there is a thriving hip-hop culture in the streets of Mumbai. These boys, most of them in their late teens have been churning out songs and releasing them on YouTube. Some of them stay in Dharavi and come from backgrounds that are not very financially stable, and are plagued with a bunch of problems.
The rap is their means to express themselves. We met five such rappers who spoke about their tryst with rap; what inspires them, how they write and what they want to become. This includes the duo Dopeadelicz, comprising of Tony Sebastian aka Stoney Psycho and Rajesh Radhakrishnan aka DopeDaddy, Altaf Shaikh aka MC Altaf and the young boys of the 7-member rapper group 7 Bantai.
These guys caught onto rapping by watching other rappers in their area at a young age. “There used to be this crew called ‘Outlaws’, a rapper group and it was the first hip-hop crew in Dharavi. So they used to come here and rap, and also had a certain style of dressing. I liked their style so much that even I wanted to dress like that, wear those caps and be seen with them,” says Altaf.
Tony and Rajesh of Dopeadelicz are one of the oldest members of the rap scene, and have inspired many of these rappers including the boys of 7 Bantai. Siddhesh a member of 7 Bantai said, “We saw Dopeadelicz who had a song called “D-rise”, post that they released ‘Aye Shapath’. Because of these two songs, we could be addicted to rap and could relate to what they were saying in the songs.”
A lot of their content stems from their struggles, and their life experiences. Tony narrated the discrimination he faced and said, “If you’re out somewhere and suddenly you want to come to Dharavi, you catch a cab then the cab driver would say that he doesn’t want to go to Dharavi.” Even Altaf uses rap as a medium to express his angst.
“All the politicians would come to our houses and would come in a rally and say that ‘we will fix your taps, clean the gutters, clean the place’ and would say that about our hood, that they would redevelop it and when the public would vote for them, nothing really changed. Which is why when I sit to write my songs, I first remember that all this has happened to me, and I don’t want the coming generations to go through this”.MC Altaf, rapper
They’ve braved parental pressure, financial stress and lack of infrastructure to create music that is meaningful. Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy seems to be a tipping point for the rap scene in Mumbai and the rappers are optimistic. “Now I can see that people are accepting this culture and turning up to the shows and hip-hop is growing big and previously it was like just for the sake of promotion you had to do a lot of free shows but now artists are getting paid, they are being looked after,” said Tony.
The future does look bright for these rappers, and like Ranveer Singh says in Gully Boy, "Apna Time Aayega” - inka time aa chuka (their time has come)!
Camera: Sanjoy Deb
Assistant Camera: Gautam Sharma
Video Editor: Ashish MacCune
Producer: Nandakumar Rammohan