Mumbai’s Finest: Hip Hopping in Mumbai
How an emerging rapper founded the city’s first hip hop crew, Mumbai’s Finest
Like a fair majority of independent rappers, AbhishekÂ Dhusia has his reservations about his chaar-botal-vodka peers. “They’re labeling pop as rap. To the common man, [Bollywood rappers] Honey Singh,Â Badshah, Raftaar are hip hop; but they are actually some kind of pop artists,” says the 28-year-old rapper better known as Ace, leader of rap crew Mumbai’s Finest. “No one really supported hip hop then, but now people are into it because the mainstream guys have made a joke out of rap,” he continues.
And Ace would know ”” especially what it was like when hip hop took off in the mid-200s, with his own [currently] six-member crew helming the movement in Mumbai. In web portal 101India’s hip hopÂ documentary series Hip Hop Homeland, the rapper claims that he and his collective organized the first rap battle and battle league in Mumbai, thus making Mumbai’s Finest the first rap crew in India.
But Dhusia admits that when they started out in 2006, neither he nor his two accomplices ”” Sumeet “Nasty Ninja” Suvarna and Kinga Rhymes ”” were entirely sure what they were aiming for. He took to embodying the biggies like the late Tupac Shakur that he saw on TV at the time.It was only a matter of time till the hip hop trio decided to groove to their own jam, composing originals that they would later independently release and promote on platforms like SoundCloud and Facebook. But at the time, the streets were their stage to spit verse and test material like “The Mumbai Takeover” and “I Can’tÂ Change It”. “Back then, I didn’t even know of YouTube; we used to be on Orkut and have rap battles. From there we progressedÂ to audio battles. Our networking was the streets,” recalls Ace. Thereon, Mumbai’s Finest has grown to include other factions of the fledgling hip hop community like beatboxers, b-boys and producers to form Beastmode, an all-style, urban hip hop crew.
Ten years, 500 shows and over 350,000 YouTube hits later, Ace’s collective lay claim as the city’s first rap crew, a position sealed with the release of their debut album Mumbai Till I Die. The eight-track party-starter is, as Ace describes it, the crew’s first time “trying to see as independent artists what kind of reach they have.” But unlike most hip hop releases that are marked by multiple collaborations, Mumbai Till I Die is a purely homegrown effort””with the exception of “The Mumbai Cypher” that featured contributions from rappers Tony Sebastian, Aby “A.B.Y” Thampi, Aklesh “Mawali” Sutar and Dharmesh “Tod Fod” Parmar. Says Ace, “We wanted to have ourÂ [own] sound with this release.” The song went on to sweep as many as five awards at two indie music awards recently.
Mumbai Till I Die traverses the essence of desi rap and the hustle of Mumbai in Hindi and English, with spurts of Tamil, Malayalam, Gujarati or Marathi. The jumpy opener and title track explores Mumbai as a sentiment. There’s also the synthy belligerence on “Wo Ruke Hum Rukey Na”, the infectious throwback to the Eighties on “Beastmode” and the bilingual rhymes on “Do This Till My Death”. Says Ace, “Mumbai is like the NY of hip hop.”
Listen to ‘Mumbai Till I Die’ here.