1. ‘Mere Gully Mein’ was a kind of protest song
While growing up in the slums of JB Nagar in Andheri East, Mumbai, DIVINE witnessed a lot of inequality. He saw that the areas around his slum were developing and the international airport came up nearby. But he felt like the rich were getting richer, and the poor people in his neighbourhood were getting poorer. He decided to create a voice for the people of his streets, and so he wrote ‘Mere Gully Mein’ with Naezy to tell everyone about what was happening.
2. A friend introduced him to hip-hop with a CD
DIVINE once saw a schoolmate wearing a 50 Cent t-shirt. He had never heard of the rapper, so he asked his friend who was on the t-shirt and what it was about. His friend told him it is hip-hop and offered to write him a CD with rap music on it. The CD had songs by 50 Cent, Eminem, Tupac Shakur, Big L, and many others. At first, DIVINE could not understand the lyrics because of the slang and the speed. But he looked it up online and started to understand more about hip-hop as he listened to the CD day and night.
3. He picked the name DIVINE after he wrote gospel songs
He started writing music after his mother gifted him a mic and he got a computer at home. At first, he would only write in English and put down his thoughts about experiences from his daily life. He thought his writing and his rapping weren’t good at first. But as he continued to write every day, he got better at it. He also wrote three gospel rap songs and was then inspired to take up the name DIVINE.
4. Gully was the first word he wrote as the rapper DIVINE
While he was part of the rap crew Mumbai’s Finest, DIVINE would only write and rap in English because he thought it was the only language in which hip-hop could work. But once he left the crew and started exploring as an individual rapper, he realised that the majority of the people around him spoke in Hindi and they couldn’t understand his English rap. He developed his identity as the rapper DIVINE and started writing in Hindi about the place that he is from. His first single was ‘Yeh Mera Bombay’, and the first word he wrote was ‘gully’.
5. His collaboration with Nucleya inspired him to start Gully Gang
After DIVINE released the single ‘Jungli Sher’ in 2016, electronic music producer Nucleya contacted him to work on a song together. The song was ‘Jungle Raja’ from Nucleya’s album Bass Rani. DIVINE wrote the lyrics to the song in less than a day and started going on tour with Nucleya to perform the song. It was the first time DIVINE performed in front of crowds of 10,000 to 15,000 people. He realised how significant stage presence is and that he would be able to build his fan base through live performances. But he knew that a single performer on stage wouldn’t work, so he put together his band, Gully Gang.
6. His definition of success was to be reunited with his mother
DIVINE’s mother used to work abroad when he was younger. He grew up with his grandmother, who had introduced him to music as a child. He would only see his mother for a couple of months every year. When he became a rapper, DIVINE defined his idea of success as being able to bring his mother back home to live in India rather than having to work hard in a foreign land. In 2017, he was able to fulfil that dream and bring her back to live in India after 13 years. After returning permanently, she also watched him perform live for the first time when he was on stage with Nucleya.
7. His house is the headquarters for Gully Gang
DIVINE’s home in JB Nagar has been the epicentre of his rap career. He wrote most of his songs in the same house, including his biggest hits, ‘Jungli Sher’ and ‘Mere Gully Mein’. When he collaborated with Naezy on ‘Mere Gully Mein’, the two met and wrote the lyrics of the song in the living room of DIVINE’s home. Once Gully Gang was formed, the house became the headquarters for one of India’s biggest hip-hop bands. DIVINE has always lived in the same house and continues to do so because he wants to be around the friends who helped him in the early stages of his career.
8. He was the first Indian rapper to feature on Fire In The Booth
In 2016, after the release of Mere Gully Mein, he was invited to appear on BBC Asia Network’s Fire In The Booth segment, which showcases upcoming rappers from the UK and other countries. DIVINE was the first person born and raised in India to appear on the segment which was hosted by Tommy Sandhu and had a guest appearance by reputed hip-hop DJ Charlie Sloth. DIVINE said he learned of UK’s hip-hop scene when he watched Charlie Sloth host the BBC One’s Xtra Rap Show. Charlie Sloth would invite upcoming rappers onto his show where they would freestyle to his beats. DIVINE got the chance to freestyle for Charlie Sloth in Fire In The Booth.
9. DIVINE was part of the creative process of Gully Boy
It’s well known that the film Gully Boy was loosely based on DIVINE and Naezy’s lives. The film was directed by Zoya Akhtar and starred Ranveer Singh, as a rapper from the slums who goes on to find success as a recording artist, much like DIVINE. While he discussed his life with Zoya Akhtar which became the inspiration for the film, he also worked on the story of the film with the writing team. DIVINE advised on the dialogues and wrote some of the songs, which he also recorded for the film. Aside from this, he helped Ranveer Singh develop his character, taught him rap flows and helped him create his own rap identity.