Vivian Fernandes, popularly known by his stage name Divine, has been garnering attention ever since the release of ‘Gully Boy’. The movie, inspired by his and rapper Naezy’s life, released on February 14 and has received positive reviews. Divine also sang and wrote some songs for the movie.
Introduced to the world of rap at the age of 11, his route to success started with the single ‘Yeh Mera Bombay’ in 2011.
What sets him apart from his contemporaries are his honest, hard-hitting and authentic lyrics. The rapper also recently launched his company ‘Gully Gang Entertainment’; also operating as a record label, the company will produce content, hire and manage fresh hip-hop talent.
Among the many exciting projects he has lined up in the coming months is his collaboration with BUDX, Budweiser. He performed at BUDX Mumbai on the weekend. In an interview with Metrolife, the rapper talks about music, future projects and more.
What are your thoughts on the rapping scene in India? There is a claim that some people are just using this as a means to look cool and also the lyrics aren’t paid much attention to.
I think the hip hop scene is exciting and full of fresh talent. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and in my opinion, there is a lot to look forward to in this. I also don’t agree that people don’t pay attention to lyrics; at least that’s not true for the hip hop scene.
Did ‘Gully Boy’ have any effect on you?
A lot more people know about us, but more importantly, I understood what hip hop can be.
Do you think the film has changed mass perception of the rap scene in India?
It used hip hop as a storytelling tool, and it has helped millions of people understand, in simple terms, what hip hop and rap are about, what flow is about. However, one movie can’t do the work of a movement.
Did you have to train Ranveer Singh in rapping?
Ranveer would come and spend time with us in the studio and also outside. He would observe our mannerisms — the way we spoke, the way we walked — he would soak it all up like a sponge. He is a hardworking actor who took this role very seriously; he is incredible.
You address serious social issues in your raps...
Hip hop for me is about telling society’s stories, which includes the ugly bits too. I write about what I see around me and how that makes me feel.
What’s your inspiration?
Life in Mumbai is my inspiration.
Why did you decide to call yourself Divine?
Everything changed for me when I heard a song by Lecrae. It was gospel rap; it blew me away that he was rapping, but he was talking about God. I was writing a lot of devotional rhymes as well because I used to live with my grandmother, and she would take me to church every single day. I was also an altar boy for mass. That’s how the name Divine came to me.
Who are some of the artistes that you look up to growing up?
I have always looked up to artists like Big Pun, Big L, Rakim and KRS-One. They weren’t necessarily the most successful, but I related to their rhymes.
How would you describe the independent music scene in India?
It’s young, and its growing. It’s an amazing platform for talent that wants a world beyond Bollywood.
Out of all your songs, which one is your favourite?
There will never be a favourite song.
What’s in the pipeline?
My debut album, Kohinoor is what is taking up all my time and energy.