Interview: Naezy hits back at haters in his latest EP 2014
AFTER THE RELEASE of his debut album Maghreb earlier this year, Naezy is back with another EP, titled 2014. The four-track album celebrates his journey in hip-hop, which started six years ago in 2014 with Aafat, a video track that he had made himself to prove his rapping skills to a group of 50-100 boys from his own community. But, the song gained momentum and followed another breakout hit, Meri Gully Mein (in collaboration with DIVINE), a documentary titled Bombay 70 by independent filmmaker Disha Rindani and eventually a mainstream Bollywood film by Zoya Akhtar.
A lot has changed in his life since then, including his postal address — he now lives in Bandra. But, does he continue to be the same rapper at heart who started from the streets of Bombay 70 or not, as claimed often by many of his peers? It is to respond to this ever popping question that led Naezy to work on this EP.
The first song 302, a reference to Section 302 of IPC which deals with punishment for murder, is a tribute to his alter ego. The second track, Mehfooz, talks about dignity and keeping your culture alive and sees him asserting that he is the guy from those gullies (streets). Awli witnesses him solidifying his position as the pioneer of ‘Asli Hip Hop’ and the title track 2014 presents his journey and transition of the underground hip hop movement in India.
“302 was a name given to me by some people in my area who saw me as someone who is ‘killing’ the beat. So, I wanted to take on that bold persona of someone who is not afraid of anything. In modern hip hop culture, people continue to diss one another so this is my alter ego. I am bindaas (carefree) when I am in the 302 mood. I don’t care about what other people say but, at the same time, I don’t want people to take advantage of me so this mode is a warning that I too can take on a dangerous persona, if needed,” explains 26-year-old rapper Naezy aka Naved Sheikh, and adds, “I always wanted to show my journey since 2014, when the underground hip-hop took a different turn and my title track reflects that. In this EP, I am talking openly about things that are happening in my life and society.”
The lyrics are quite strong in this album, sometimes even highlighting his frustration and disappointment with his own community of gully boys. For instance, in Awli, there is a line ‘Badaya Kon Tujhko, Mic Mujhko Wapas Dede’ and in 2014, there is another line that reads, ‘Pehle Bhaichara Tum Khud Chaahte, Waqt Aata Bhool Jaate’.
When asked about it, Naezy agrees. “While everyone respects me and accepts that I have created something new, they don’t give me the respect I deserve. And, this made me write some of these lines. Some have asked me if these lines are for Divine, they aren’t! They are for everyone who puts themselves first. I have personally felt that I don’t have a bond as strong with that community as I had thought. After Gully Boy released, I got a lot of hate from the underground community and that pushed me to work harder on my songs but I did realise that some of that frustration is visible in the songs.”
The album, made entirely during the lockdown, is his response to the criticism coming his way suggesting he is no longer the guy from the streets of Bombay 70 and has changed with stardom. “I was repeatedly told that I have become very mainstream and that my focus has shifted to sales and marketing. People couldn’t see the old Naezy, the ‘2014 Naezy’. So, I realised that I needed to buckle up and show them that the old me is still here,” adds Naezy, who also intends to release videos once the situation becomes better. As for his plans in the upcoming months, apart from another EP, Naezy is looking forward to collaborating with international rappers and some of the big names in the Indian music industry.
— Heena Khandelwal