Rapper Shah Rule tells us about his diverse background, his musical journey and how Gully Boy happened
The rapper Shah Rule takes his name from Shah Rukh Khan and musician Ja Rule, and his personal style is exactly as diverse and multicultural as that. Having lived in several countries and taking inspiration from many hip-hop legends, Shah Rule’s music is a blend of pop, hip-hop and RnB. The rapper is known for his songs Default, Superstitious and No Apologies, but shot to fame after being in in Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy in a rap battle scene with Ranveer Singh. The rapper gets candid with us about the movie and his journey with rap.
1. Tell us a little about where you come from?
I am truly a nomad. Born in Hong Kong, raised in Moscow, studied in London and currently living in Mumbai. My parents currently live in Dubai so I’m there a few times a year. I’ve got a degree in audio engineering and I’ve been rapping since I was 13.
2. What kind of music did you listen to while growing up, and what was your first introduction to hip-hop?
My parents always had Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Dire Straits and Boney M blasting through the house, so I must thank them for giving me a great melodic foundation. I went through a rock and heavy metal phase but around the age of eight or nine, my first introduction to hip-hop was Eminem’s Without Me and shortly after In Da Club by 50 cent.
3. Tell us a little about your earlier music and you think you've evolved?
When I first started, just like most rappers, I ended up with nursery rhyme-esque verses and I had to really work at it for years. I got into jingles and adverts really early; for which that style suitable. Though during boarding school, I was introduced to artists like The Notorious BIG and A Tribe Called Quest by my seniors, and it set me off on a more intricate lyrical journey. Post that, my songs were a lot more wordy and filled with metaphors and similes. My sound during my London years was also heavily influenced by ‘90s hip-hop, sampled based and raw drums. My current sound is more modern and still sample heavy, though lyrically I’ve found a home for the simple and complicated rhymes and flows, as I do want to appeal to a mass audience but still impress my peers within the rap game.
4. What's the story behind your stage name?
My nickname in school in Moscow was Rule, due to the fact that no one pronounced my real name Rahul correctly. My dad had given me the idea for Shah Rule, as my last name is Shahani (it also sounds similar to Shahrukh). It took me a while to take to it, as it was also very similar to Ja Rule. But the more I thought about it, I realised both Shahrukh and Ja Rule have tendency to put out content around love, which I can heavily relate to with my content. So I went with it and made it my own.
5. What is one moment you can look back to and say, "I've made it"?
I don’t think I’ve had that moment yet I don't like looking back. I just wanna feel like I’m always heading towards another goal.
But I do have small wins which are memorable. Like being on a set directed by Zoya Akhtar where I’m shooting a solo scene with Ranveer Singh while Farhan Akhtar watches from the side. Or performing alongside Divine and Raftaar at the Red Bull Off The Roof festival in Mumbai for thousands of people. These are memorable moments which will fuel my grind for more special moments.
6. Tell us about Gully Boy, and your meeting with Zoya.
It was a long and tedious audition process, from a video audition to finally auditioning for Zoya at her home. I was worried about my accent that they picked me. I knew if I did not get the role, I would’ve left the film rather than do another smaller character. I went all in with practicing and got help from lyricists I work with. Siddhant Goswami, who was our music supervisor, deserves a lot of credit for getting all the rappers together and working with us each of us throughout the process. Zoya is a true visionary and I feel really blessed to have work on her set for my first film. She was super focused and a lot of fun to be around which definitely reflects on her cast and crew.
7. What was your equation with Ranveer Singh?
The first time I met him on the day of our shoot, he said hi in a very brief and cold manner which shook me in a bit because he was super friendly with all the other rappers. We didn’t come face to face until the first of our scene and Zoya had told me to really grill him throughout, so I went with it.
But as soon as they yelled cut, he gave me a huge hug and we sat together in between the nine more takes we did. He was super chilled and friendly. I got some advice about our industry and after five mins of sitting with him you completely forget that he’s this massive superstar actor. He is very humble and hardworking which is very inspiring.
8. How would you describe your individual style when it comes to hip-hop?
Royal, bespoke and global. My sound derives from everywhere I’ve lived. Drums wise, I grew up in the clubs of Russia’s capital, so you can always expect hard hitting kicks and snares. Lyrically, you can find traces of Biggie, Nas and Eminem in my flow and rhymes and punchlines I learnt from Kanye West, Jay Z and many more. I see this as two part question because my individual style is also Royal, bespoke and global. I went through a phase of designing custom army jackets with my logos and only wearing loafers and moccasins to now custom bomber jackets and kimonos with high fashion sneakers. You can always find me with some chains and cap on.
9. Tell us about this upcoming release and the colabs on it?
I have a big single with Raftaar coming very soon called Me and My Pen. It’s a personal song about being criticised for your words and not being apologetic about it. Apart from that, I have a few solo music videos coming before the summer and a lot of content with the Divine and the entire Gully Gang team.