Exclusive: Naezy, inspiration behind ‘Gully Boy’ talks about rapping, being Indian Muslim and more

“Gully Boy” actor Ranveer Singh says it was the original “Mere Gully Mein” track that had him hooked. He said the original number by Divine and Naezy, blew him away when he saw it for the first time

Abbad Kamal

Naezy talks with Abbad Kamal about the upcoming release of “Gully Boy” and the perceptions that our society has about rap music and Hip Hop. He states that he wants to change this perception and aims to use his music to do this. He also talks about the experiences he faced when he first started out.

What has been the source of your inspiration?

A lot of things like the situation around me, pressure from my family and the pressure of my surroundings and the stories of other rappers which I have read, were the elements i used as my inspiration.

What were the challenges you faced during your journey?

I have faced numerous challenges from the beginning. During my early days, my family members used to constantly tell me what I was doing wrong. During college, I did not do too well. At that point in time, I had to pick a between rapping and studying and this for me was the biggest challenge that I faced.

During my initial days of rapping, I was faced by a lot of criticism from the people in my locality, society, and my surroundings. The people around me never accepted me as a rapper. They wanted me to do something else. They didn’t believe that the children from our locality and social class would ever be able to finds success in music or dance. They had a very different mentality. So I had to deal with such problems that came from the people of my own locality.

Apart from this, I didn’t have enough money to record my songs in the studio and make good quality videos for my songs. With time, I have developed a habit of collaborating with other people and I have become used to these challenges and continue to forge ahead.

Currently what kind of challenges are you facing?

Currently, I am facing a lot of criticism from society as many have started to look at me with the stereotype popularly linked with rap culture and rappers. People believe that rap has a lot to do with cars, objectifying women and consuming alcohol. This image of rap bothers me a lot as my family thinks that as I move forward in my career in rap, I will start having alcohol and objectify women. And people around me are consumed by these thought.

My family is worried by the thought that I will fall into bad company and this will change me. I find it hard to fight these notion that my family has and it has become a daily challenge for me. To overcome all these stereotypes and challenges, I rap and i also find my motivation from it.

How were you introduced to rap? What motivates you as a rapper?

I think, since my childhood, I have always maintained a diary. In that, I used to write about everything that happened during the day.

Even if you see my family background, my great grandparents were poets/shayar so we have always had a connection with art.

When I got introduced to hip hop, I found it a very exciting art form. It is a perfect art form through which I can tell different stories to people. According to me, it is the best medium to connect with family members, friends and listeners. I pen down my feelings, emotions and everything that goes in my head at any point of time and then I convert it into a rap. It has always been my passion to rap and it gives me immense satisfaction when people connect with it and eventually it has also become a habit.

It is about the vibe which drives me. When people recognize me and my work, it feels like I have done some good work. The privilege of showcasing my talent in front of people, showing them my skills, is something which drives me.

What is behind your rapping, a social message?

If one looks back to West, there was a group of African American people who invented hip hop. Their raps was mostly about the discrimination they faced at the hands of white people. But in India the issues are different. However, hip hop remains the same artform which brought activism in society in a very creative way. It makes people aware and opens their eyes.

Similarly, in my case, I have been through a lot of pain because of our pathetic social system. Being an Indian Muslim, it was difficult for me to digest the things happening in our society and in our country. As I an Indian I picked up all these issues in my rap. Our system is so corrupt and hollow, so I thought that there should be a voice speaking out against all these things. So, rap has also been a medium to raise my voice against wrong doings and injustice in the society. Haq hai and Azad Hun Main are the songs which are based on socio-political issues.

The listeners know these issues and also know that they can raise their voice against all these things. When the listeners support me or support my song, it feels as though there is a big community voice through which we can bring about a revolution/ inquilab. This is similar to what happened in the west and i hope that we can bring about such changes through music in India as well.

How much truth is there to the controversy that you were not being paid by producers?

There is a mutual agreement between us and the producers. As per the agreement, I will help them out in writing the script and the dialogues. So what is happening is that they are keeping my name in front because of which I am getting good popularity and getting recognition in the industry.

It is like “Kuch deke kuch le rahe hai”. The name and popularity I gain through this will help me in building my career. It is a fair deal between us. There is no money involved.

I didn’t charge them for life rights or movie rights. It is not a biopic, but it is inspired by me. It is just a misconception. It is a partnership and is based on mutual understanding.

What is your contribution in the movie apart from your previous work?

I have given my inputs in the script. I tried to make it more authentic and real. To some extent we are successful in making the film realistic.

What is the future of rap in Hindi when glamour and glitz dominate the pop music industry?

As I have mentioned before, the image of rap has become niche (specific audience). It has become unacceptable to Indian parents, but young people have accepted this because it is about partying and it helps them to relax and takes away from the work pressure. But the actuality is that we have brought about a change in the industry we (me, divine and all the young rappers coming from Bombay).

Just like Bohemia who introduced hip hop in a real way where he tells stories which is inspiring and motivating rather than what is commonly thought of which is objectifying women and talking about things which are not important in life. What we talk about is this is our life, we are coming from here and this is how we have progressed in our life. This is the reality that we talk about. This is the difference between hip hop coming from the mainstream and hip hop coming from underground.

So, what we are trying to do is portray the real hip hop which came out in a way which Zoya Ma’am made possible. If the desi hip hop comes out in the way it happened in the US during the 1970s, 80s and 90s when hip hop was bursting and growing. “Mujhe toh yehi ummed hai ki yaha pe bhi waise hi blow hona chaey “ This movie is really going to help us, until now we were just underground rappers. Is movie se jo exposure milega har ghar, har tv, har shaher aur pure desh mein aur international exposure bhi milega.

With this movie, all the underground hip hop movements of India will explode onto the scene. So, I think the chances and the opportunities will increase in the coming years and we can have a positive attitude towards desi Hip Hop, especially in India.

Where were you for the last two years?

I thought that in the past few years, the responsibility on me has increased a lot. I had to give a new song every month because people believed that I am the pioneer of Indian hip hop. I was not able to handle the pressure. So I finally took break for a year. Precisely 14 months. But honestly it was a much-needed break to release the pressure. It was also at a point of self discovery phase in my life. I spent more time with my parents, wrote couple of songs. After coming back, I have a good feeling because now people have realized that “mere jaane sei kya fark para”. They are treating me better now.

What is your plan ahead?

I am coming back. After the release of ‘Gully Boy’, I will start releasing my singles. I have planned to release a single “Aafat Wapas” which is the sequel of my first track “Aafat”. Phenam is producing “Aafat Wapas” he is the same producer who produced the recent Honey Singh track “Makna”.

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Published: 31 Jan 2019, 6:30 PM