Exclusive: Dee MC - Because of Gully Boy, our hustle has now gone on a pedestal

Updated: Feb 17, 2019, 08:52 IST | Gayatri Nirmal

As Ranveer Singh's Gully Boy by Zoya Akhtar hits the screens on Thursday, mid-day.com gets exclusively in conversation with female rapper Deepa Unnikrishnan aka Dee MC

Ranveer Singh's Gully Boy helmed by Zoya Akhtar, based on underground rappers has hit the theatres on February 14, on the occasion of Valentine's Day. The film earned critical acclaim and won hearts at the Berlin Film Festival 2019, and from the industry insiders. To celebrate the film, mid-day.com got exclusively in touch with female rapper Deepa Unnikrishnan, who acquired the stage name Dee MC to maintain her exclusivity. Here's an interesting conversation with Dee MC where she speaks about hip hop as a culture, community and her love for this music, and how Gully Boy might bring a revolution for the underground rappers.

How did Deepa Unnikrishnan become Dee MC?
My dad is working in Saudi Arabia, so I was introduced to western music much before any of my friends. Ever since I was in 5th- 6th grade and with the help of the internet, I started listening to pop music. I found the rap in between these songs very fascinating and I started learning and reciting them. I am a trained dancer, so the first thing I was attracted to in college was the hip hop dance crew but the next thing I turned to was rap. I was good at it and I had a good grasp of the language, be it English or Hindi. So, I started writing my own pieces in English since January 2012 onwards. I was named something else (Aura) before but then I named myself Dee MC in 2015.

How does it feel to be a female rapper in India and how has the journey been?
I am a female rapper who has a lot to say about her seven years of the journey because I have never given up on rap. When we started out nobody really thought that this would turn into a profession. All of us were doing it for sheer passion. Our team decided that we will work, earn money and create music out of it because in India to survive through independent music is very difficult because there is no infrastructure. We kind of knew that it would go mainstream one day and Bollywood will be interested and other regional entities will also be interested in it at some point in time. When we started it was all about how we can improve from the previous music video that you've done. I come from a small town Kalyan and wasn't allowed for night gigs - that was quite a fight. Apart from that, I am privileged enough to be grown in and around Mumbai. My journey has been a mix of both - getting out of my house, and now I live on my own and sustain through whatever I have earned through hip hop since last two years. It has been a non-stop hustle. The hustle was different before and it's different now. Because of the movie, Gully Boy, our hustle has now gone on a pedestal and now there's a full-time hustle.

How does it feel to have a film, Gully Boy on rap and hip hop culture?
It feels amazing. Gully Boy is like a catalyst to our movement, which has been very slow on its own pace. I believe when the song, Mere Gully Mein dropped was when the mainstream cinema was kind of attracted towards the underground rappers. Everybody kind of knew that we existed and we were doing our own thing but again because of lack of infrastructure...It's like people expect independent artists to automatically get an international quality music video or song, which isn't fair. So, after Mere Gully Mein, they realized that underground artists can get to a level where they can get proper production. This movie coming out on February 14 will be insane.

How was it working with Ranveer Singh and what is his understanding about hip hop?
It was an awesome experience working with Ranveer Singh because I don't think any other actor could have given justice to this role. He has definitely captured the essence by understanding our vibe. He didn't really need to fit in. Hip hop is something that even he has been listening to since he was a kid. Hip hop is not a one thing learner, it is a community and a culture in its own. It's a way of life. You have other elements as well in it. So, unless and until you know the other elements like the dancers and the graffiti writers, DJ's and the fifth element of hip hop is knowledge. So, in the end, this movie is going to provide knowledge about underground rappers, which we were trying to do for a decade. So, people will get to know that rap scene exists in our country and there are rappers in and around since the past ten years. 

So you think the rapping space will be given more prominence post this film and will benefit the rappers?
The answer is definitely yes! Because of this movie coming around, there's a lot of buzz. I truly believe that hip hop like many other things has fallen into everybody's attention span as a trend and I really hope that it doesn't just become something that is a trend right now and is forgotten after a year. It's the responsibility of the musicians to make sure that even after the movie releases, they create good quality music videos and not just put it out for people in India but also internationally for people to see that desi hip hop on a whole is growing a lot. Definitely, the movie will do a lot of good but there's also a risk of oversaturating things because then everybody will start writing two rhymes and calling them as rappers. If you want to fall in love with hip hop, you have to know it as a whole and have an interest in knowing its history - international as well as local history.

Amongst rappers, who do you like from the mainstream area?
I am actually working with Raftaar. I have heard Badshah and Honey Singh also because Bollywood is something that you cannot escape from. I don't actively listen to music that comes from Bollywood but I also don't have any strong oppositions. In a way what Badshah and Raftaar do has given a general view of what hip hop can do infused with Indian elements in music. They have definitely introduced the common audience about the basic idea of what rap is and underground rappers are getting their own flavour now through Gully Boy. This is the truth that in commercial music the lyrics are not that important than underground music. So, after this, the entire hip hop scene will see a better change because lyrics will be different in different languages. There are different rappers in Tamil, Kannada industry. There's an altogether different scene in Northeast. Now, everything is going to be one-on-one with people.

Also Read: Exclusive: Naezy on Gully Boy: People are looking at us like we're pioneers of Indian hip hop

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