The only Gujarati rapper on his nick name and newfound underground fame.
What’s in a nickname? Apparently a lot. When he ditches the religious skull cap for his trademark black wayfarers and hip hop cap, Naved Shaikh becomes Naezy, likewise, for a lot of underground rap artists, survival depends on their alter egos getting things done.
They’re like the Clark Kents and Bruce Waynes of the hip hop world, if only Marvel or DC had a superhero who could rap the shit out of the bad guys.
Ask city rapper Dharmesh Parmar aka Todfod, who hails from the bustling chawls of Naigaon in Central Mumbai.
“The name Todfod gives me a bad-mofo-don’t-mess-with-me kind of vibe,” the Gujarati rapper feels.
Todfod, belonging to the Swadesi crew, is one of the newer inductees into the alternative cultural scene.
And it’s safe to say that he’s the only known Gujarati rapper in the city.
Since the whole hip hop scene is closely connected, if there was one, they would know.
Two years of networking and persistence is finally showing results for this 18-year-old boy whose arsenal is loaded with Gujarati verses and rhymes.
“I write on local issues and social stuff like the policing, corruption and netas. India is fucked up and I write for change and revolution,” Todfod says.
Sitting at their usual hangout near Mahakali caves, Todfod opened up about his smoking habits, flunking his 12th grade and his newfound image in his locality. The fact that he’s got a name but is still fine tuning his character and attitude comes across quite plainly, but fades away whenever he launches into a Gujarati rap barrage. The crew also lets him be to find his mojo, especially crew mate Mawali, who’s like a mentor to Todfod. Even the name was Mawali’s idea.
“I was in the market and I too needed a name. Aklesh suggested Todfod. I thought about it and I liked it,” the rapper-beat boxer says.
Todfod, who just finished his 12th grade exams, wants to focus on his academic future.
“For two years I was only meeting people and hanging out with different guys in the scene. I plan to do media management, so that I can meet the right people like editors, videographers, photographers and sound engineers,” he says.
Rapping in English didn’t appeal to him or to the listeners who heard him when he was starting off.
It was Mawali again, who advised him to rap in his mother tongue, especially since there were no other Gujarati rappers. Todfod is raking up his skills learning ‘taal’ as well, following Mawali’s footsteps.
From the looks of it, Mawali has taken his younger crew member under his wings, opening up similar collaborations with artists such as Viveick Rajgopalan and Bandish Projekt.
“Mawali was dope and I was very interested in knowing how he wrote such raw and rough stuff. He introduced me to the underground scene and all the rappers,” Todfod fondly recalls.
His playlist includes psy trance and classical music, as well as bhajans by the US based devotional outfit Krishna Das. His family is finally seeing some signs of progress with Todfod’s choices in life as well.
“My family now supports what I’m doing especially in view of these documentaries, when five-six people with camera had come to my house,” Todfod says.
According to him even the neighbours and locals in the area are beginning to understand, even though they don’t know much about this rap culture.
“They now feel that I’m doing something worthwhile,” he adds.
Todfod then proceeded on to rap out a Hindi jugalbandhi, incorporating the taal which he’s recording along with Mawali.
Todfod is featured in Hip Hop Homeland, a series about India's underground hip hop scene.
By Mohan KK