5 Documentaries About the Indian Hip-Hop Scene You Can Watch Right Now

Last month, hip-hop marked fifty years of nurturing a community of rappers, DJs, MCs, breakdancers, beatboxers, and the like. This horde of storytellers has been stewing for numerous years in India as well and has led to the rise of notable artists such as Divine, Dee MC, Prabh Deep, QK, Pho, MC Altaf, KR$NA, Sez On The Beat, and Wild Wild Women, to name a few.

As per a recent news piece on CNBCTV18, hip-hop is the fourth most popular genre on Spotify in India, and Desi Hip Hop and Punjabi Hip Hop rank fourth and fifth, respectively, in sub-genre charts. The head of music for Spotify India, Rahul Balyan, remarked about the growth of hip-hop, saying, “As Hip Hop music continues to evolve across India, various regions are developing their own style of the genre, with local superstars, and building on a strong sense of community.”

To illustrate the journey of India’s current thriving hip-hop scene, we highlight five documentaries you can watch right now.

Bombay 70

Directed by contemporary Indian writer and director Disha Noyonika Rindani, this nearly ten-minute film captures the story of Indian rapper Naved Shaikh aka Naezy. The presentation is titled after Mumbai’s previous name, ‘Bombay,’ as well as the postal code where Naved Shaikh grew up: 400070, Kurla in Mumbai City. Sitting atop a terrace roof and decked in traditional wear, Naezy gives viewers glimpses into his childhood antics, heading to jail for the first time, deciding on rap as a career, and why a certain Sean Paul song inspired his music.

‘Bombay 70’ won the Best Short Film in the Mumbai Dimensions section at the Mumbai Film Festival 2014.

Vice: A New Wave Of Indian Hip-Hop

Vice Media put the spotlight on Azadi Records’ second-year anniversary. The company is a haven for hip-hop and rap, bolstering a roster of multilingual artists who aren’t spooked to spew bars that question the system. This insightful segment traces the spirit of Azadi as a label through the lens of a plethora of stalwarts of the Indian music scene, such as DJ Uri, Prabh Deep, Siri, Seedhe Maut, and Ahmer, to name a few.

Mumbai Hustle

‘Mumbai Hustle’ puffs out a chunk of stories from the rap scene in Mumbai from rappers Stony Psycho, MC Mawali, late MC Tod Fod, and MC Altaf, among others. The artist speaks about their music and inspirations, using more than one language in a rap bar, and fusing their culture and heritage with hip-hop. Watch out for a humorous story narrated by Tony Sebastian aka Stony Psycho involving the law.

Kya Bolta Bantai?

Vice’s 30-minute documentary traces the journey of rap into the mainstream live music scene in Mumbai, toppling the hard rock and metal genres that earned top billing for decades. In ‘Kya Bolta Bantai?,’ we also hear origin stories from staples of the underground hip-hop scene, including Poetik Justis, Stony Psycho, late MC Tod Fod, 7Bantai’Z, comedy rap crew Tadpatri Talkie, and more. Filmmaker Zoya Akhtar, who directed ‘Gully Boy,’ a film based on the gully rap scene in Dharavi, also makes an appearance.

Bantai‘ is the local term for brother, friend, or partner.

Gully Life – The Story Of Divine

When it comes to gully rap, hip-hop, and the voice of the streets, arguably you will not find a bigger name than rapper Vivian Fernandes, best known as Divine. ‘Gully Life – The Story Of Divine’ traces the journey of Divine since exploding onto the music scene. Divine takes viewers through different episodes in his life, from first living in the gully, growing up with an abusive father, discovering hip-hop through a 50-cent T-shirt, starting to rap, and eventually perfecting his skill in music.

For more documentaries, you can watch Red Bull India’s mini-docuseries, ‘This Is My Hood,’ which captures the hip-hop scene from cities like Delhi, Kolkatta, Chennai, and Mumbai.

Here’s to the next fifty years of hip-hop and more eye-opening documentaries diving into this music culture!

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