In June 2018, Netflix released a show called Sacred Games. The Indian series, which is centered in Mumbai, tells the story of a police officer caught in a “dangerous cat-and-mouse game,” according to Netflix. While the series itself offers a realm of mystery and excitement, Sacred Games also helped boost the career of rapper DIVINE on a global level.
DIVINE (birth name Vivian Fernandes) created the track “Kaam 25” for the Netflix series to capture “the dark side of Mumbai where politics, crime and passion meet at crossroads,” according to the Hindustan Times. The song was especially significant to DIVINE since Mumbai holds a special place in heart. The rapper told IANS (via the Hindustan Times): “I’ve talked about the good and not-so-good experiences in the city. Despite everything, it’s my city, my home and everything that I know I’ve learnt from this city.”
The rapper songs are a must-listen, especially if you need some sick, new tunes in your life. He also has a rather fascinating story. Here’s what you need to know about DIVINE.
Why DIVINE never talks about misogyny in his lyrics
One of DIVINE’s first brushes with hip-hop happened when he “saw a guy wearing a tee with an image of 50 Cent’s first album, Get Rich Or Die Tryin‘,” according to the Hindustan Times. DIVINE said a friend influenced his calling, explaining: “I didn’t have a clue about the rap scene. A friend gave me an MP3 CD, which had around 50/60 rap songs of Eminem, Tupac, 50 Cent … it was a very random collection. But I liked the groove. And I fell in love with hip-hop.”
While DIVINE was influenced by American rap, the topics he raps about are pretty unique. According to Hindustan Times, DIVINE’S “lyrics are slang-free, his songs don’t talk about swanky cars, high heels and fast life, and he refuses to make alcohol abuse and misogyny cool.”
The reason he stays away from misogynistic lyrics ? DIVINE’S father left his family when he was young, leaving his mother to financially support him and his brother, per the Hindustan Times. When his mother was working, his grandmother looked after them. Since he was raised by strong women, when DIVINE raps about women, his attitude is nothing but respect.
Sony Music India was fairly quick to catch onto DIVINE’S appeal and in 2015, released his song “Mere Gully Mein” featuring Naezy. According to Vice, the drop marked “the first time a major record label released a track featuring Mumbai rappers.” That being said, DIVINE isn’t just famous for his amazing tunes, he’s also been influential in shaping a specific style of rap called “gully rap.”
DIVINE: A pioneer in 'gully rap'
Mumbai rap star DIVINE is a musical pioneer who is actively shaping a genre of music in India called “gully rap.” This particular style of rap focuses on “street life” with an “emphasis on socio-political issues,” according to Red Bull. Additionally, the rappers infuse their songs with pride for their cities of origin.
In 2019, Indian rapper MC Mawali spoke to Red Bull about gully rap and how he and other rappers see the musical genre as provocative, political, and powerful. “We were sick of being part of the machinery,” he said. “We’re all on the same page, we see how things are. I grew up as a street kid. We learnt the street lifestyle, the ghetto life.”
He continued: “People don’t have money or jobs; people are getting manipulated. So how do we get justice? What is poetry? What is freedom of expression?” Per Red Bull, “Gully rap first caught the attention of a wider audience in India in 2015 with the release of the Stormzy-approved “Mere Gully Mein” by DIVINE …” The rapper has been so influential on gully rap that in 2019, a documentary was released called Gully Life: The Story of DIVINE.
It’s clear that in addition to being a masterful rapper, DIVINE is also using his influence to showcase just what his country has to offer.
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