COVER STORY

It simply ain’t easy being Naezy

It simply ain’t easy being Naezy

“Kyunki who toh hota hi hai, zindagi main unch-neech, upar-neeche, girte padte phirse utke chalte, that’s what we’re used to now.”

The clamouring lanes of Bombay Sattar only adds to the thunderous voice inside Naezy the Baa's head, making him stronger than before. Seated at a quaint little cafe in Andheri, the original Gully Boy sat down with in.com's Almas Khateeb for a tête-à-tête that revealed the dark side of the moon.

“Life has been crazy. It’s not a plain road or a straight path.”

“Life has been crazy. It’s not a plain road or a straight path.”

“It’s been hard. It’s been very tough, but, at the same time, people have started to recognise me, so that’s good. Kyunki who toh hota hi hai, zindagi main unch-neech, upar-neeche, girte padte phirse utke chalte, that’s what we’re used to now."

I see most millennials complain hilariously when the barista misspells their name on their coffee cups. They'll upload it on Instagram with the hashtag #LifeAintEasy, drink it and go about their day. However, when I'm sat with Naezy, the stereotype of today's millennial is negated.

Naezy's first foray into stardom was akin to Dhinchak Pooja's: a sloppily shot and edited video uploaded on YouTube. However, the difference here was the content. Naezy’s rhymes highlighted social issues like sanitation in the slums, overcrowding (to name a few) and government’s negligence of such serious social causes. His first-hand experiences of these situations were showcased through his words. His vast vocabulary consisting of ‘Bombaiya Hindi’ and Urdu were put to a rhythm and this catapulted his sloppily edited videos to the front of gully – rapping. Naezy's brazen rhymes were assertive but lacked the cocksure most boys from Bombay Sattar display. His life is a boat in stormy seas that is currently anchored on the shores of Bollywood.

“I was very stressed out. Chaotic things were happening.”

When Gully Boy was announced, the initial buzz in the industry was that the film was based on Naezy. However, the filmmakers claimed that the film is based on rappers like Naezy and Divine. An added silence from Naezy and his social media profiles fuelled headlines that Naezy was on drugs and in rehab for the same. The rapper refuses to talk about the trouble with substance abuse but lets us into what may have led to it, nonetheless.

“Things at home, in my community, in my gully, in my career, all left me in a troubled zone. I had to take a break. I had to get away. I basically went underground. I stopped posting (on social media) and just cut away from the world. During that period, I discovered and learnt a lot about myself. I thought about myself, cause I'd forgotten who I was. The world had become too hectic for me. I had to take this break. It was a much-needed break that taught me how to love myself. Then, I worked on a new album, wrote some new material because I got a chance to know myself better. The one thing I figured out on this break was what is my value and what is everyone else’s value in this rap scene."

“I was very stressed out. Chaotic things were happening.”
“Our situation in the Gully has hardened us… we are rugged enough to face any challenges.”

“Our situation in the Gully has hardened us… we are rugged enough to face any challenges.”

While talking about values I wonder what compelled Naezy, and rappers like himself, to rap. After all, it takes a village to raise a child, so it must take a gully to raise a rapper. "Our lives are heavily influenced by the daily situations that take place. My own identity, my personality, and my music are prime examples of it. But our situations also hardened us (referring to rappers like himself). Itne rugged ho gaye hum ki har challenge ko face karne ke liye taiyaar hain. (We're rugged enough to face any challenge.)"

“For them, one of their own making a mark in music is unacceptable.”

Being the self-appointed voice of the gully was not easy for the Baa. The reaction that came from the gully were mixed in comparison. And intense, oh boy, they were intense.

"How did the gully react to me?! HA! No one was happy. They always tried to stop me. This is what happens in these gullies. There’s no one in the gully who is rapping and doing something of the sort. For them, one of their own making a mark in music is unacceptable. Woh baat hazam nahi hoti unse. (People can't digest the fact). I’ve faced challenges from my own gully, my own community, from the locality that I belong in. At the same time, some people, wahaan ke jo bhai-log hain, unhe lagta hai ki yeh area ka naam kar raha hai (the local dons there feel I'm making the streets proud). I'm making them proud. See, Kurla has been bestowed with a bad name. Everyone thinks people are thieves, the boys here are loafers and vagabonds. I’m trying to make it stand out, trying to make an honest name for the locality, some people see it and are proud of it."

“For them, one of their own making a mark in music is unacceptable.”
“Rap is made of rhythm and poetry, not bling or vagabonding in fancy clothes.”

“Rap is made of rhythm and poetry, not bling or vagabonding in fancy clothes.”

We live in a society where if you aren’t an engineer or a doctor, you're not worth it. Obviously, Naezy's folks didn't react positively to his rapping and all that it entails.

"My parents are, not a little, but very overprotective of me. They’re always scared and insecure about me and my actions. They’re worried about everything – when I wake up, when I step out, where I’m going, when I’m coming back. My relatives spew allegations out and across. Mere parents ke kaan bharte hain. I try to make them understand that I’m not the guy that our relatives speak about. I’m not doing anything wrong. Hip-hop and rap have a certain image. They think I might be doing something wrong. I might be on drugs or may have turned alcoholic. Maybe I'm getting messed up in the wrong crowd. That’s the image of hip-hop, that’s what the usual videos show. I try to negate these thoughts of theirs. I tell them I’m a poet. Rap is made of rhythm and poetry, not bling or vagabonding in fancy clothes.

“This has been a childhood issue with me. And since rap came onto the scene, my house was further catapulted into the chaos.”

“I still tell my parents that. To this day, we have fights about it. Sometimes my mother yells, sometimes my father yells. There’s no stability there. My house is still on the rocks about me. I crave stability. It is very important to me. It is important for my work. Everyone wants to go home and find a calm environment. Somewhere peaceful where I can sit down and quietly collect my thoughts and focus on the next step. But amidst all this chaos, how am I supposed to think about a career? This has been a childhood issue with me. And since rap came onto the scene, my house was further catapulted into the chaos. I don’t know what to do now. Should I leave home altogether? Shift somewhere else? Explain myself to my parents? What would give me stability? Main tadap raha hoon. I’m putting all my efforts to bring some positivity to my home."

“This has been a childhood issue with me. And since rap came onto the scene, my house was further catapulted into the chaos.”
“Rap is a way to fight about social issues and causes, not personal vendettas.”

“Rap is a way to fight about social issues and causes, not personal vendettas.”

The rap scene isn't without its own troubles. Internal fights amongst rappers are a tale as old as time. Naezy has, however, kept out of these controversies that have been reacted to by the on-screen Gully Boy, Ranveer Singh.

"I don’t spend time on looking at what other people are doing. However, at the same time, it is important for me to check out what’s going on in the game. You know, these fights aren’t good for the rap scene. This gives the audience a wrong message. Rap is a way to fight about social issues and causes, not personal vendettas. See, dissing and beefs and battles have always been a part of hip-hop. But that is only good when it is done in a smart manner with a sportsmanlike spirit. Just like poetry slams, this is a place to showcase your pengame and come up with ingenious punchlines. These are battles worth fighting. But, if you take up rap to fight each other, that’s only going to amplify the beef and morph it into a tragedy. Look what happened in the US, when it was the East Coast VS the West Coast. What happened to Tupac, to Biggie? They met tragic ends."

“I’ve seen Gully Boy. It’s okay. It’s good for us to have a film like that. It’s going to change the whole scene.”

With Gully Boy's release on the horizon, Naezy has already watched the film and has a few things to say. He loves the fact that the realities of the underground hip-hop world have been portrayed with the same amount of grit. As far as the fictionalised love story is concerned, that's just added masala that he doesn't care for.

"I’ve seen it. It’s okay. It’s good for us to have a film like that. It’s going to change the whole scene. We’ve been working hard for years now. That mehnat (hard work) needs to be put to good use. People are now going to see what was happening underground. A film like that is of extreme importance. It portrays the real, the gritty side of hip-hop. It shows reality. But there are always two sides of a coin. Quite a bit has been fictionalised. It has that masala that a Bollywood film needs to be sold as a mass entertainer. I’m somewhere in between when it comes to the film. It’s good, but with quite a few creative liberties. On the whole, it’ll definitely help and change the whole scene."

“I’ve seen Gully Boy. It’s okay. It’s good for us to have a film like that. It’s going to change the whole scene.”
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