Written by Aman Awasthi
“Comedians are not rappers man. If you want to be a comedian be a comedian, why f**k with our culture?” - Ace, Mumbai’s Finest Divine Impersonator
They say each gully in Mumbai has its own essence, its own flavour so to speak. Then why the hell are all these Mumbai rappers rapping about the same few things. Let’s rewind this a bit - the Mumbai rap scene, more popularly known as the gully rap scene, found prominence when the video for “Mere Gully Mein” went viral in the year 2015. The scene grew extensively after that, Zoya Akhtar made a film, Divine went from having his own crew to his own label, and Gully Gang merch gave men incentive to go clothes shopping at Linking Road.
But what it also ended up doing is creating a mould for what the Mumbai rap scene should look like. Rappers, old and new, started emulating Divine’s themes. You could go to any cypher and it would be 10 rappers, finding 5 different ways of saying the same 2 things, all on 1 beat.
If you asked this guy to rap and put him on a beat you would have the average Mumbai rap song. Poverty and issues that arise from it formed the subject of almost every track and the gatekeeping approach Gully Boy held towards hip hop almost had a pradoxical effect on the scene, Bollywood in a sense converted the scene into a Bollyhood. Somebody was bound to break this mould and hence Gari-B was born.
Gari-B, Posing Kisi Key Gully mey
Mumbai rapper EMF and Tadpatri Talkies conceived the character as a satirical take on almost every Mumbai rapper. Sidharth Raveendran who plays the character says he went to his barber with a picture of Drake as reference for the hairstyle he wanted. Armed with an ironically cliched hairstyle, scathingly meta lines and a low budget music video to go with it, they dropped the track “Gari-B ki Kahani”. “Yeh galli mera hood, yaha sab ke papa off hai” and “Hood ka Mei Jesus, badloon paani ko mei duudh mei” are some of the many great lines that made this track an instant classic. The track went viral to the extent that Tadpatri decided to make an entire album around Gari-B. The album, titled “Bhookh” too was received well with “Scooty vali Ladki”, “Fukat Vala Swag” and “F**k the Gari-B” being some of the better cuts on it.
Rapper Gari-B rocking the shades on the left with Divine on the right
I’m not critical of Divine or other Mumbai rappers trying to rap about their roots, but for a long while “gully” became this marketable entity and every other rapper tried get onto this bandwagon. If I didn’t know any better, I’d assume there’s one street that ran through 5 different pin codes across Mumbai. This did sell, there’s no denying that. You could find a different set of students on campus trying to shoot a rap video every other week. “Gully” became a bracket everyone was happy living within. Being the orignal proponent of it Divine kept milking it, at the cost of other rappers making a lot of repetitive music. As Siddharth once joked, if Divine got a brand sponsorship, he’ll rap “Main mere Ma ke liye Bira hoon.”
Ace and some of the other purist proponents of Mumbai rap scene weren’t too impressed with Gari-B but eh, you’re bound to be dissed in the same free market you criticse in your songs while also monetising them side by side. Beautiful isn’t it? Tadpatri since has gone on to make a few comic videos and tracks and very recently worked with Netflix India for a Bobby Deol tribute song “Bad Boy Bobby”. The Mumbai rap scene too is evolving with fresh artists like Tienas and Swadesi exploring new avenues. Here’s to hoping for better Indian hip hop and more Tadpatri content in the coming few months and as always #TTKarNA.
Tadpatri Talkies, staying pretty