In the name of hip hop

Anjali Jhangiani
Friday, 15 February 2019

The inspiration behind Gully Boy, Mumbai rapper Divine, talks about the entertainment company he just started and how he plans to take desi hip-hop places

After introducing Indian audiences to the indigenous underground hip-hop scene, Vivian Fernandes aka Divine is now testing new waters. While some call him the face of Indian hip-hop, others believe he is the voice of the ordinary middle-class citizen, but spitting rhymes in his Mumbaiya accent has made the man a force to reckon with. 

Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy, based on him and a fellow rapper Naezy, has certainly brought a lot of fame and prospects Divine’s way. Some of the songs in the film are actually Divine’s previous releases that have been ‘Bollywood-ised’ a little. For the end credit song NY Se Mumbai, Divine collaborated with his childhood idol Nas along with Naezy and Ranveer Singh, who has also lent his voice to some of the rapper’s tracks in the movie. 

More than making big bucks, Divine is excited about reaching out to a much wider audience than before. How? The rapper recently launched his own company called Gully Gang Entertainment and has big plans to execute. The first act of their business will be releasing his much-awaited, full-length debut album sometime next month. Here’s talking to the rapper:

- What will be the aim of Gully Gang Entertainment? Tell us about the initiatives of the company.
My new company is called Gully Gang Entertainment, and it has been set to serve different purposes. One arm is Gully Gang Records that will release music. Gully Gang Entertainment will manage emerging and exciting talent in desi hip-hop, including rappers, producers and DJs. Gully Gang Entertainment will also create and run live events like Gully Fest, it will create and sell Gully Gang merchandise, and finally, produce content for artists and brands through strategic and relevant partnerships. I want Gully Gang Entertainment to be at the forefront of the hip-hop wave in India. 

- Which artists will the company sign on and what will be the criteria for selecting and signing artists?
We don’t want to just focus on rappers but also on producers and DJs. It’s a whole community that we want to support and promote. These are people that we have kept an eye out for, and/or have worked with in the past. 

- What will be Gully Gang Entertainment’s contribution towards the hip-hop scene in India?
First and foremost, to help grow and nurture talent. As an artist, I can understand the struggle and problems that a fellow artist can face, and also what it takes to be successful in hip-hop. I want hip-hop to become a force to reckon with in India. Indian hip-hop can go places, there’s no doubt about it.

- What role will you and your mother be playing in this company?
I am one of the artists who will release music on Gully Gang Records. Apart from that, I will also perform A&R (artists and repertoire), which means that I will be responsible for talent scouting and overseeing the artistic development of recording artists and spot talent. My mother is on the board of directors. She’s working along with me, and that is a special feeling!

- Tell us about your debut album.
I have been putting out tracks over the past year, so there might be a couple of those plus brand new ones. I write about what I see around me, how I feel about things. I have been spending a lot of time in the studio to get this album ready… I want this body of work to stand for something. No pressure!

- What kind of a platform has Gully Boy given you?
I have worked on Bollywood projects before Gully Boy. In fact, I have worked for my favourite director Anurag Kashyap in Mukkabaaz on the track, Paintra with Nucleya. I didn’t collaborate with Gully Boy so that I could get more work in Bollywood, but because it wanted to tell the story of Indian hip-hop. Thanks to the movie, a lot more people will know and hopefully understand Indian hip-hop. It definitely gave me a chance to tell our story. 

- What is your take on your songs being sung by Ranveer Singh for the film? Why didn’t they just use your original tracks in your voice?
Bollywood has to tweak and adapt everything for its own audience. Ranveer has worked hard for this role, he really got into character. And I have sung three songs in the movie. At the end of the day, it’s their call on how to create the movie. 

- Can you tell us more about your plans for Gully Fest?
We launched Gully Fest in September last year, and taking it to other cities is definitely high up on the list for Gully Gang Entertainment. We hope to do three more Gully Fests this year. 

- According to you, what will be the biggest trends in the hip-hop scene in India this year?
We are only just starting to scratch the surface when it comes to hip-hop in India. I hope the conversation that Gully Boy has started continues to maintain momentum, and people support hip-hop and new artists. I hope to hear more desi hip-hop in different languages this year.

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