Impact of Gully Boy on desi hip-hop and Bollywood
Abhinav Singh · April 18, 2019 · 3 Minute Read
There’s no denying the impact Bollywood has on India’s popular culture. Any form or style of art that hasn’t penetrated the Indian mainstream yet can become popular once Bollywood brings it into its fold. The same, to a certain extent, can be said about the 2019 blockbuster Gully Boy. Directed by Zoya Akhtar and starring superstars Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt, Gully Boy attempted to do something that has never been done before: bringing hip-hop into Indian households.
Creating an aware audience
It’s not like Indians aren’t familiar with hip-hop. The word ‘rap’ has been a part of the lexicon of millions of Indians, and we have seen desi rappers rise to fame long before Gully Boy was conceptualised. The difference, however, is the much needed seriousness that the genre now enjoys. The Indian audience no longer views rap as a game or a gimmick, but an art form that is truly difficult to master and has an abundance of things to say.
Gully Boy has worked as an adrenaline shot for the underground rap scene in Mumbai, and all over India. Young boys and girls – who have idolized the likes of 2Pac, Biggie and Eminem for years – today have desi rap stars of their own. Not only Divine and Naezy, but Gully Boy introduced a variety of talents to the Indian mainstream that would’ve otherwise gotten lost in the usual theatrics of Bollywood.
But, perhaps, the greatest achievement of Gully Boy is making people aware of what hip-hop is. No longer will any of us have to explain how rapping works and what it’s meant to achieve.
Widespread acceptance and popularity
Gully Boy has not only popularised its own soundtrack but has started a trend that is benefiting hip-hop in more ways than one. There has been a marked interest in the genre ever since the release of Gully Boy. This can be seen in the number of gigs and tracks being released lately.
In Mumbai, where hip-hop has literally been bred in the gullies, the number of gigs have increased. Gully Boy has instilled a feeling of endless possibilities in young, budding rappers. Not all gigs are big events with famous names; most are makeshift events where the inexperienced and the first-timers get together to spit bars. These events aren’t contained nor are they exclusive but function as open-mic gatherings where people rap.
Zoya Akhtar’s movie has also spiked people’s interest in the genre by manifolds. International hip-hop artists, like Foreign Beggars, and a number of homegrown talent (like Seedhe Maut) have opportunities to perform in India much more often than before. Slowly, but steadily, the reinvigorated underground hip-hop scene will innovate, experiment and collaborate to evolve into something new and much bigger.
Breaking the trendy
Bollywood music has always been a mash-up of several talents. There’s a lyricist, a music director, composer, playback singers. Hip-hop, on the other hand, is usually written and performed by the same artist. An extremely important component of a hip-hop track is the music producers. The beat has to be groovy, infectious, hypnotic and downright sick.
Till now, music producers were barely visible in Bollywood, but Gully Boy has changed that. Names like Rishi Rich, Sez on the Beat and Dub Sharma are now in the mainstream. This will only enhance the process of music production and usher in a new era in Bollywood. Singers and rappers that have thrived in the underground for years – like Spitfire, Karsh Kale, Jasleen Royal and MC Altaf – finally found their breakthrough moment. All of this will, with time and patience, culminate into a musical landscape where undiscovered talent will have a real shot at making it.
Gully Boy has kicked-off another new chapter: formation of independent record labels. These include DIVINE‘s Gully Gang Entertainment, the brand new Big Bang Records, and, the most exciting of the pack, Ranveer Singh’s IncInk. Formation of new independent record labels will accelerate the growth of artists and bring them before an audience wider than ever before.
A prime example of this is the collaboration between legendary American rapper Nas and India’s Divine, Naezy and Ranveer Singh. The rappers came together for JioSaavn’s Artist Originals and created the track ‘“NY Se Mumbai.” The song sees contributions by Toronto’s production house XD Pro and Los Angeles’ Dwayne Shippy aka ILL Wayno.
Heart & Grit
And, finally, the most heartfelt and necessary impact of Gully Boy has been on the people. A movie about art, defiance and chasing dreams, Gully Boy imbibes the very idea of hip-hop. The movie, just like the songs, is outspoken, rebellious and untameable. Hip-hop, a genre that came about as protest music, is kept true to its spirit.
It shows us why we should be relentless when it comes to fulfilling our dreams. There’s a lesson for everyone here. That art should be confrontational, honest and bold. That the bleakest of topics can be tackled in ways never thought of before. And that, over time, everything new should be given a shot.