15 Mar 2018
Mumbai's Dharavi hiphop finally gets its big Bollywood break
Dharavi's burgeoning hip-hop culture has finally got its big Bollywood break.
Jasleen Royal, the music composer of Rani Mukerji's upcoming film Hichki, has collaborated with four Dharavi rappers for the song 'Madamji Go Easy'.
Not just this, Zoya Akhtar's next Gully Boy, which stars Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh, is based on Dharavi rappers Divine and Naezy.
Here, we trace the growth of Mumbai's slum rap scene.
Slumdog Millionaire introduced Dharavi to the world
Danny Boyle introduced Dharavi - the Mumbai slum which is one of Asia's largest - to the world in his 2009 film Slumdog Millionaire.
However, the hip-hop movement has been brewing in the slum's shanties since 2000, with teen rappers meeting on Orkut communities for text rap battles.
From within these sprung groups like Mumbai's Finest, introducing rappers like Divine and Abhishek aka Ace.
For Dharavi's youth, hiphop is a way of life
Dharavi's hip-hop culture is often likened to the American political movement of the 1990s when woke rappers highlighted the frustrations of inner-city life though their music.
It's gaining popularity among slum teens because there is very little investment. Sample beats are easily available. All they need is the talent and material to make music.
Hence, a new generation of b-boys/girls, beatboxers, DJs and graffiti-artists.
From copying international artists to bringing in regional color
Since Dharavi rappers were influenced by artists like Tupac and Eminem, they began by writing songs in English, mostly unsuccessful attempts at gangsta rap.
They felt totally fake as they didn't reflect their own lives or struggles.
Divine and Tony Sebastian were among the first ones to go regional, freely talking about local issues.
Now there is rap in Hindi, English, Tamil and Marathi.
The only way for Dharavi underdogs is forward
The Dharavi rappers have come long way since.
Sebastian has a deal with Qyuki, Shekhar Kapur and AR Rahman's social media platform. He has also performed on Coke Studio with Ram Sampath.
Akash Dhangar's SlumGods has collaborated with several international hip-hop artists including Tokyo-based DJ Sarasa, AKA Silverboombox and California-based MC Mandeep Sethi.
With Gully Boy and Hichki, things are going to get bigger.
Other parallel hiphop movements
India has become a melting pot of multiple regional hip-hop movements. Other than Honey Singh, Badshah rapping in Punjabi, there is Borkung Hrangkhawl from Tripura, Brodha V from Bengaluru, MC Kash from Kashmir, Marathi rapper MC Mawali, right-wing rapper MC Tod Fod, and Mumbai's Dee MC.