Hear Naezy Rap on Love, Nation and Community on Debut Album ‘Maghreb’
The six-track record features production from Karan Kanchan, U.K.’s Compa and Canadian producer Byg Byrd
Mumbai rapper Naezy turns to a friendlier, almost commercial sound on “Mere Bhantai,” produced by Canadian beatsmith Byg Byrd for his debut album Maghreb, but at the end of it comes a very important message: “Bhantai log ko sympathy nahi chahiye, kya? Pyaar chahiye hum log ko” (Our friends and brothers don’t need your sympathy, we need your love).
As much as he’s sticking to his knockout, straight shooter delivery on the rest of the six-track record (which released via Big Bang Records today), “Mere Bhantai” perfectly segues into “Pyaar Hai.” Naezy says it’s the first time he wrote a love song. “My music is usually about the things that are happening or have happened to me in real life. It’s a reflection of that. There are true incidents that inspire these songs. ‘Pyaar Hai’ too was one of those songs that I made when I was on my first tour of the U.K. [in 2017] I fell in love with a girl there and I wanted to express that,” he says.
It started with asking his go-to producer Karan Kanchan for a beat to freestyle on, but Naezy turned “Pyaar Hai” into something more universal. He says, “Slowly, the song went from becoming about a girl to my love for parents and friends. Mujhe ladki se pyaar hai, mujho ladko se pyaar hai, mujhe sab se pyaar hai (I love girls, I love guys, I love everyone).”
It’s a side that Naezy says he’d kept hidden away at first, waiting for an opportunity like an album to pack in the diversity. Maghreb features trap bangers like the title track, old-school hip-hop turns (“Khamakha”), current day cuts (“Kon Hard”) and wavy tunes like the questioning “Jeeta Haara.” The rapper says, “I’ve also brought forward issues that we face in our neighborhoods and the struggles of our community. I’ve also spoken about love, uniting people and the country.”
While “Maghreb” is produced by Compa, four tracks feature Karan Kanchan, who has been DJing for Naezy at his live shows – from stadiums to festivals to clubs. Kanchan says, “He [Naezy] was very inspired by the old-school sound but also wanted to blend the Naezy style to go with it.” As someone who’s been working with Naezy since his 2017 track “Aane De,” Kanchan and Naezy sat down together and worked on tracks, some that would even push the rapper out of his comfort zone. The producer says, “Usually for us the tracks start over a call. Naezy has a very unique way of explaining things, a very Bombay way of explaining sounds and moods for a track. It’s become a language that we both understand now.”
It’s been about a year since Naezy’s comeback after spending all of 2018 away from the hip-hop circuit, walking away at a time when peers such as Divine were just about blowing up. In 2019, of course, he made the most of his time after his involvement in Bollywood hip-hop movie Gully Boy, which went on to become India’s official entry for the Oscars in the foreign film category. A year on, Naezy says he and his team are always careful in their consideration of offers to collaborate or work on Bollywood music. “The collaborations which feel relevant and match our style and values and brand, we do those as soon as we can. The ones that don’t match, we don’t do. Currently, all the opportunities that come my way are being filtered – a lot of people want to work with me but I’m taking them slow and steady, only after being fully assured of what I’m working on is a right fit,” he says.
By releasing Maghreb as audio-only first, Naezy said he wanted to test the waters for how much of a listening audience he truly has, with music videos also in the works. There’s a launch gig also in the pipeline too. “There’s a bigger public show that’s being planned and it’s going to be very special,” Naezy says.