WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India
Mar 16, 2019, 02.03 PM
Hip-hop music is not new to India but it has surely become mainstream after the release of the widely successful film ‘Gully Boy’ starring Ranveer Singh as a street rapper from Mumbai who makes it big because of his passion for music or as Sky, Kalki Koechlin’s character in the film tells him to follow his “junoon and money will follow”.
While Zoya Akhtar’s film explored Mumbai’s rap culture inspired by the life story of two popular street rappers, Divine and Naezy, through their struggles of poverty, crime, family drama and love -- Delhi’s rapper Raftaar wants to shed light on a different narrative. Massively popular for Hindi songs like ‘Baby Marvake Maanegi’ and ‘Gall Goriye’, Raftaar is happy about rap finally getting recognised in India by way of its cinema.
On ‘Gully Boy’ he said, “These guys (Zoya) definitely got inspired from that fact that rappers made a mark for themselves. We are not counted as singers like everybody, we are in a different league, and we are known for different stuff. This movie is for the Bombay hip-hop scene. I come from the Delhi hip-hop scene. The stories, their slangs, they are all different. If a normal guy from Bombay comes to Delhi and starts singing ‘Bantai Bachi Bamai’, it’s a Bombay slang, they won't get it. They won't understand what he’s trying to say. So it’s that..the connectivity.”
He continued, “If the entire population would have spoken Hindi then this would have been huge. Problem is, we don't understand the Tamil people up north and they don't understand the Punjabis there. Probably, rappers and singers from both the regions are trying to say something that is necessary for everyone to hear but it’s not happening because of the difference in language and culture in such a small area.”
As the music genre grows popular amongst the youth of the country, Raftaar explains that the one in India is distinctive from the one we have heard from international stars like Eminem and Tupac. He commented, “It's definitely going to be different. Their roots were different like their struggles and ours was different. We initially started off looking at the Western guys and trying to copy them. Most of us kids back then, I am an 88’ born guy, so from my generation everybody either wanted to be a Tupac, Biggie or Eminem.”
He added, “Now the situation has changed. With all these years, all of us doing Hindi, Punjabi and regional, a movie on rap etc-- the idols have changed. Now people have started doing stories that are based out of India. Hip-hop has now become Indian in a way.”
Raftaar does not identify himself with lyrics that only has ‘girls, parties and drugs’, something Bollywood party hip-hop songs are infamous for. Even though he has collaborated previously with artists that made music on similar themes, the rapper of late believes he has diversified.
With songs of ‘Manto’ and ‘Andhadhun’ in his kitty, Raftaar said, “I am a 100 per cent, a socially-conscious singer. I am a very balanced person. I believe in the property of yin and yang. You have to receive the balance in the centre when you are a musician and an entrepreneur, somebody who is in the business of it. I am not doing this just for the art of it.”
Listen to 'Mantoiyat' here:
He explained, “Then I would have opted for stage and theatre. I am doing because a part of it has to sell, just to deal with my responsibilities and my family. You must have seen that I don't release a lot of songs because I say no to a lot of stuff that comes my way.”
Meanwhile, with ‘Gully Boy’ continuing to mint money at the box office as the film plot gets lauds from the critics and audiences alike, was any rapper’s story also influenced by his in the film? Raftaar gave an affirmative “no”.
He did, however, confirm on being approached and said, “We spoke about it, there was something supposed to happen but then I got busy with stuff and our dates couldn’t match.”
Raftaar is currently busy with TV show MTV Roadies. Featuring in the show as a judge along with Neha Dhupia, Rannvijay, Prince Narula, Nikhil Chinappa and real-life hero Sandeep Singh; the rapper has his hands full at the moment. When asked why he opted for an action-oriented show instead of one related to his area of work, he said, “I have never put myself in a box. I started off as an athlete then I went into music. I did ‘Dance India Dance’, ‘Jhalak Dikhlaja’, and now this. I have never wanted to put myself in a frame. These days I am directing small videos for my team. So I would like to try everything that comes my way and is creative.”
He continued, “Apart from Roadies, I am dropping an album which is completely hip-hop.”
Raftaar also has an NGO of his own. Called '4Dogsakeindia', it is a Delhi based charity for stray animals. He is also associated with STOP Global movement that works to stop human trafficking of children. Commenting on his scope of work at the not-for-profit, he said, “I try to do some stuff. They call me the goodwill ambassador but I don't know how that works. At STOP, we save the kids and teach them a lot of skills.”
In a candid conversation with WION, Raftaar opened up on moving beyond songs that are all about 'girls, parties and drugs', what he thinks of 'Gully Boy', dropping a new album soon and his latest stint on TV with MTV Roadies.