Looking back at the rap legacy in India, the genre sure has come a long way. From Baba Sehgal with his hilarious lyrics and videos or Bohemia in Bollywood, modern-day Desi Hip-Hop is very different from the Hip-Hop of yesteryears. However, the underground rap scene in India has caught the audience’s fancy and has catapulted “Gully Rap” to a whole new level. Mumbai has become the centre of underground Hip-Hop in India.
From the city slums of Mumbai, when Kurla was a dog-eat-dog society, Naezy, born, Naved Shaikh, had a tough time explaining it to his family how rap was not “haraam.” His decision to pursue music was a difficult one. From being literally a “gully boy” to having an Oscar-nominated movie inspired by him, he has definitely come a long way.
“I am excited. I always thought the film will win awards. Now that it has entered Oscars, I hope we grab it too”
Back in 2014, Naezy released a song called Aafat on YouTube. It was an honest confession of the life he was living. It was so naively straight-forward. Fast-forward 5 years, Naezy came back with Aafat Wapas, where his sound, music, attitude and outlook towards life had changed.
The transition in his appearance is conspicuous. However, where an artist gains fame he is liable to scrutiny. Wealth shaming and competitiveness are evident in Hip-Hop, and we see many artists today imitating that. On asking Naezy’s point of view towards that, he said,
“Today I have everything I wanted in life but I am not rapping about those things. I am still being the organic Naezy. Sticking to my roots is important to me.”
The fact that the “chawl” Naezy grew up in was harbouring plenty of anomalies, what he was venturing into was still an unknown space. Naezy explained that the success he has achieved now opened another baggage. He is now open to a set of struggles that he didn’t know before. Today the focus has shifted to making time for his family, juggling work and personal space, along with continuing the fame he has achieved.
The grass always looks greener on the other side, he is now more liable to scrutiny and judgement.
“The journey has been not what it seems like. It looks like I am having the time of my life, but it is very hard and I am facing a lot of issues”, said Naezy.
A juvenile delinquent developed a knack for rapping mainly because he wanted himself out of the grit. The rhetoric he uses is very street, his verses flow with confidence, displaying the typical Hip-Hop “swag.”
While the competition has intensified, during these 5 years, Naezy’s work with Divine was most pronounced. Naezy and Divine still share a healthy relation, while both of them have flourished equally without.
In 2019, Naezy came out with an array of songs. His latest original, Fatke should not be mistaken as anything not Naezy-like. Hip-Hop and rap bring aggressiveness to the forefront. But this song has a rather comical approach to those who undermine him.
“People make allegations and accuse me. Fatke is a fun treatment to tell them that I am still here. It is my way of saying that they can get lost or they will get smashed,” laughed Naezy
Naezy’s approach to music is very personal and what he goes through in daily life. Unabashed, but sometimes assumed snooty, his personality is exactly like his songs. His latest release puts Naezy in a completely different light.
While some artists begin with the agenda of joining Bollywood, some have Bollywood come to them. Naezy’s hiatus had people asking several questions. The repercussion of fame and success took another turn for him where he wanted to stay away from the limelight.
However, it might raise eyebrows but Naezy thinks his success should be able to inspire the next generation. So much so that, it empowers families too. His background could be an inspiration for many. But now that he is here, it may or may not be the same for many aspirants. To which Naezy said,
“I think the recognition I have received is a responsibility. I don’t want this culture to be over-exposed. We have done so much already but I still feel, we haven’t begun well”
While we see Mumbai and Delhi artists flourishing. It is still a matter of introspection if the other parts of India are still under similar light. The need then arises of spreading or garnering talent in the Hip-Hop ecosystem from all across the country. The uniformity in finding and creating talents is one drawback that exists in every form of art. While the musical sphere is exceeding for Hip-Hop, culturally it is damaging if it were to exist within certain perimeters.
The Naezy we are acquainted with is relatable to many out there. Naezy’s international tours have also opened a shift in perspective amongst a larger audience.
“The international audience is used to Hip-Hop, the genre. But they are not used to an Indian guy rapping in their genre. And that amazes them. Despite the language barrier, there is a musical connect and I enjoy that.”
The large Indian diaspora enables touring artists to have a substantial audience. However, the dynamics have changed. Today, international labels are coming to India to sign Indian artists. This looks like a fair chance for new and established artists altogether by creating opportunities.
Naezy, to which, adheres,
“It gives a positive vibe by creating a nice and good future for Hip-Hop as a whole. Its a good opportunity even for promoters and organisers”
Naezy has been doing his bit in promoting new artists in his own way. He mentioned that he has been trying to promote new artists, sign them to a label, or asks them to perform at his shows and open for him.
Although he says he is not trying too hard to prove where he comes from, he thinks it shows. His work is where he believes, he reflects best.
“I am still the same. I want to evolve but in a natural way,” assured Naezy
From writing his own lyrics to now forming a team where he has sessions of writing and listening, Naezy is excited to be entering this new space of art. He thinks this culture that is breeding amongst Hip-Hop artists is also very unchartered for them. However, with the camaraderie and goodwill they all share, he thinks “a small guy” has a chance of getting famous just by releasing diss tracks.
There are many peers dancing to a different tune, Naezy is seen making his own. He might be questioned or compared but he, on the other hand, believes,
” The brands that want to get involved with us, do not reflect our authenticity well. I want to gain control there. Getting too carried away with becoming commercial that we lose our originality is scary. I don’t want to lose touch with the reality that made me become who I am today.”
With the interesting curvature that our conversation took, my opinion and understanding of Naezy shifted too. There are various artists out there proving their mettle and likewise, Naezy is too. That said, the formula of staying true to himself harked louder than his success. Along with, reaping the benefits of his music, he is still cautious of not over-exposing the genre. Hip-Hop needs to remain a culture.
While he promised that he has many antics to display this year, we can only wait and see how he will formulate his music and his life.
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