The gully rap scene in India has been an underground craft for the longest time. Mumbai has been a hub for the street rappers, producing the largest number of mainstream rappers who rap in local languages.
In 2015, Sony Music India released “Mere Gully Mein” performed by DIVINE featuring Naezy, which marked the first time a major record label released a track featuring Mumbai rappers.
And ever since then, the rap scene has flourished in India and more specifically in Mumbai. The concept of gully rap itself is the rhyming style that first emerged from the gullies of Dharavi and Mahim.
The story of hip-hop in the city begins with crews like Dopeadelicz who imbibed their surroundings and native languages to produce content, while at the same time appropriating Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent.
In February 2019, Zoya Akhtar released Gully Boy which was heavily influenced by DIVINE and Naezy. This was the turning point for the low key gully rap culture.
One of the most important factors that identify with gully rap is the lingo, the street talk and regional languages and culture blended together to make the perfect rap. Most gully rappers use their music to bring attention to social issues in the country.
The movie Gully Boy did justice to these two important forefronts of street rap. Featuring Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt, the film was the talk of the hour. Even before the movie released, the buzz it created was unbelievable.
From street graffiti for promotions to live shows with gully rappers showcasing their talents, they took the culture and made it theirs. But what really stood out was that people were finally familiarized with the age-old craft of gully rapping minus the stereotypes.
The movie was pivotal in making the rap scene in India extremely popular, it had a music album filled with brilliant lyrics and regional music. It also featured many rap artists like MC Altaf, Spitfire, and Kaam Bhari.
After Gully Boy brands increasingly enlisted rappers to create content that provides their products a sense of cool. Even political parties have attempted to garner votes from the youth by employing the services of MCs for their campaigns.
Brands like Budweiser, Bira 91, Myntra, and even Big Bazar have started reaching out to these rap artists to create events, gigs, and ads.
Budweiser has a running campaign called Be a King with DIVINE, which again brings light to the rap scene in India.
To really see how things have changed, the multi-lingual crew Swadesi and its members played a gig almost every day of the last week of March, in Mumbai. They performed as a crew at popular dance music night Mixtaped at Bandra pub The Den, at Azadi Records’ show at The Habitat and at the Most Wanted Hip-Hop launch, while the group’s MC TodFod did a guest slot at a boat party organized by artist management company Kranti Art Theory.
This increased popularity has inevitably drawn accusations of sellouts. Naezy, for one, has already stated that his upcoming tunes will be “more commercial and light”. The star has recently appeared in video clips with electronic music producer Marshmello and Hindi film actress Sanya Malhotra and in promos for Hindi entertainment television channel Colors’ talent show Rising Star.
But we can thank Gully Boy for giving the people an introduction to the world of gully rap and popularizing it to a mainstream and commercial background.