And they said Hip Hop is too niche in India.
Since its release on the 5th of November, Suede Gully – Puma’s coming out anthem for the Indian street – has amassed 4.3 million views and counting. It's easy to understand why. To date, it is the largest collaboration amongst the desi Hip Hop scene; dance, rap, graffiti, come together in the form of a slick music video featuring some serious rhythm, rhyme and swag - representing gullies from four different corners of the country.
30 dancers from 4 b-boy crews, moving to beats produced by Sneha Khanwalkar over which 8 rappers spit rhymes along with the inimitable Divine, to the backdrop of artwork produced by 7 artists from the emerging street art scene — Suede Gully, phew!
Divine, the Mumbai rapper who is one of the leading names in the desi Hip Hop scene took us on a journey into the multi-lingual and multi-cultural wellspring of Hip Hop in India, along with other rappers like Prabh Deep, Khasi Bloodz and Madurai Souljour. This was not accidental. According to him the idea of the song was to show a kind of unity in Hip Hop in India. He says, “Indian Hip Hop is in the streets now. Very different from ten years ago. The first step in Hip Hop is to say where you are from. To let the people know.” This expression of identity, of owning the street to which you belong, was central to the video. Which is why it travelled from a local train in Mumbai to Delhi - 6 neighbourhoods around Jama Masjid, to a bunch of steep narrow steps in Shillong. In each location it was a local rapper or a rap crew representing.
Divine, one of India's lead rappers
Mukti Mohan who grooved to the music along with 30 odd dancers in the video says, “Each crew brought its own style and street culture. The Shillong crew for instance, had crumping, which is an aggressive pop and lock style. The crew styles come from their own street context and gully. Do you know one of the best Hip hop talents was a 15-year-old from Shillong who just showed up when we were filming. You see her for a couple of seconds in the video. She crumped. She is tiny. She killed it.”
Making the gullies come alive
Each location was made to pop visually with the help of street artists who added colour and imagination to the gullies. Suede Gully’s Director, Sasha Rainbow says, “I wanted to portray the connection between the traditional aspects of our cities and their heritage, with the modern aspects of the future, and counterculture of street art. I wanted to show how the past and future can sit together harmoniously to great effect. And that's why working with the street artists was so exciting. Their art made me look at the space in a new way, opening ideas and imagination for the possibilities of the future.”
Uniting the country one rap at a time
So what are the possibilities for the future of Hip Hop in India?
Divine says, “Hip Hop is at a stage in India where it’s spreading everywhere. It had to come out and it is coming out. Smaller places like Madurai are also picking it up. We don’t need Bollywood to make us big. It’s very open now. People are buying tickets to see us. We cannot be stopped.”
Says Mukti, “Thanks to the internet, Hip Hop has spread everywhere. It has now evolved to a different level, beyond a particular style. We sourced dance from the street, expressing the style of the individual place. The street is where the energy is coming from. It was a great great collaboration. I don’t know if for any single video, as many roads were blocked as for this one. People were watching, clapping.”
Divine adds, “It was the right time for this to happen. Delhi, Shillong, Mumbai, Madurai. The locations are different, people are different. It was very exciting. I didn’t know Shillong dancers were so dope. Or that Khasi has such a sick flow in rap.”
India is a land of diveristy. Many cuisines. Many languages. Many cultures. And now, many Hip Hop streets.
When will you represent your gully?
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.
By Ishan Roy
Photographs credit: ‘Suede Gully’