Hip Hop culture is something that polarises a lot of people, with everyone having varied perceptions about it. One thing that can be said for sure is that the genre and anything associated with it has never really welcomed with open arms in India, until quite recently. Maybe it was part and parcel of choosing that life; poetic in a way since the suffering and rejection imposed upon hip hop and rap has always served to make it shine even brighter, with the irrepressible spirit of its purveyors refusing to be overshadowed by dire times. While the emergence of the Internet and social media might have diluted the struggle that still exists to an extent today, there have been some key acts that have fought tooth and nail to bring the scene to where it is now. One of those is Mumbai’s Finest.
Started in 2006, the first rap crew from the city currently comprising of Ace aka Mumbai, Kinga Rhymes, Ninja aka Shinobi, D Hood and I’n’Stine have galvanised rappers from around the scene with their continued success over the years. Coming from a time when there was no real independent scene, even more so when it came to the genres in discussion, these guys have seen it all. Having won numerous awards for their music Mumbai’s Finest has gone from strength to strength performing with some big names in the rap music industry including Chamillionaire, Flo-Rida and Bohemia, amongst others, along the way. With a style of rap that is as socially aware as it is catchy, the crew is doing a great job of representing the immense talent that India undoubtedly has. With raps like these, you already know that these pioneers are destined for even greater things.
We got to speak with MF about their journey, the scene and future plans. Check it out!
Q) You guys are the pioneers of the hip-hop scene in India. Which were the things from this culture that influenced you the most in a time when there was no solid scene?
The hip hop culture as a whole. Hip hop is knowledge and it is limitless . We were fascinated by rap ever since the first time we heard it. Every rapper has a story to tell and you can never get enough. We used to want to be like our favourite rappers till we realized that we made something out of ourselves and now we are the favourite rappers people want to be like. We created a scene by doing what we do no matter what people said. We took the fall. Right now, it is too easy for the younger generation as you have the Internet and also rap is a phenomenon in India. We are blessed to survive and still do what we love.
Q) Why was it important to be associated with your home city, Mumbai? How do you think the hip hop culture has changed the city or vice versa?
Mumbai is the city that taught us everything. If you have seen what we have seen, the experiences of growing up and seeing people making everything out of nothing, the gallis, the chawls, the slang, the lifestyle, you would fall in love with it too. We are proud to be a part of Mumbai and we shall rep it till our death. Our music is about being a normal Mumbai boy and still being the best in the game. It is about making people proud of Mumbai. Mumbai is truly the city of dreams. Hip hop has changed drastically with the new wave of rappers like Naezy, Emiway etc. Back then you could count rappers on your fingers. Now almost every 3rd person that you meet is a rapper. It is good that rap is spreading but overall we lack quality. The message needs to be clear and people need to be themselves and not copy or get influenced.
Q) With the growing market in the hip-hop scene, do you expect international artists to perform in India? If so, which are the artists according to you the Indian artist would like to see?
Definitely. We expect a lot of people to recognize what we do and take us seriously. We are waiting to see a brother from the scene get signed to a major label outside. The competition is not within us , it is international. If people realize and stop with the Internet beefs and BS, quality music can be made. It is too much of nonsense and less of lyrics/bars now. A lot of international artists have performed in India previously as well. Ace has performed with Chamillionaire, Flo Rida, Gangis Khan, Unknown Mizery etc already. We would love to see Pusha T, J Cole, Jay Z, Nas performing in India.
Q) You guys have been independent artists since the beginning. How do you think the overall scene has changed and the place of hip-hop in it?
We used to make songs using the headphone mic using Acoustica Mix Craft 2 , then we progressed to a home studio, then to a proper studio and then to learning how to do everything by ourselves. We do everything from the recording, lyrics, mixing, mastering, composing, arranging, video, social media, PR, planning and execution by ourselves. We control our own content and can release our songs whenever we like. We sell music, merch and perform our own songs now. We know how the business aspect works now and no one can fool us in the game right now. So we really do not need a label. Ace manages everything and we have been indie in the truest form. We were offered deals but we did not find it feasible enough. Hip hop in the indie market is definitely more respected now. Other genres and big indie acts are recognizing us and they know now that we are for real. Indian hip hop is about to take over soon. More power to Indian Hip Hop.
Q) You guys collaborate with a lot of producers. What advice would you like to give to upcoming producers?
We love collaborations and would like give a shoutout to Su Real, RJV, Kru 172, Crazy Vibe, Ricci, Cash Kardz, Bluesanova, RPF and all the producers that we have worked with. We would definitely like to work with more producers and are open to collaborations. Advice for young producers would be to find a niche in their production style and to be themselves. Do not try and copy the latest trends, instead create something of your own. Buy samples, libraries legit and always keep on experimenting and sampling. Sampling is the soul of hip hop. Try and learn as many production softwares as you can.
Q) From numerous collaborations to numerous awards; what are some of the fondest memories in your journey so far?
Life has been a roller coaster and we have have seen many ups and downs. From a time where we were laughed at to now when we are laughing at the same people, it’s been a rags to riches story. I think no one is more Bombay/Mumbai than us because we define rap in the city. We made a platform for all the Mumbai rappers and feel honoured when the young ones show us love. We love it when people chant our lyrics, when our supporters message and interact with us. We love it when people send us photos of them wearing our merch. We are humble and happy to still be able to do this. We are connected to the people and the small things still matter to us. We look back and feel heroic . The award, the album and all the attention is no big deal, our time is yet to come. The best is yet to come. Mumbai’s Finest is gonna take over the world.
Q) If you could describe your album ‘Mumbai Till I Die’ in a Mumbai Finest lyric, what would it be?
aur chahe jo bhi ho, dekho picture abhi baaki ,
I be rap shahrukh khan, shuruvaat se hi fauji ,
aaj bhi chokra hoon gali ka, mumbai , malad, malwani ka ,
aur yeh hausla hai vahisa, na kab feeka, na kab beeka ,
tu toh bakra hai bali ka, jo tu banta mein vahi ba,
mera asal hai tareeka, jo tu nakal karke sikha!
-Ace’s lyrics from What you Talkin About – Mumbai Till Die
Q) What’s the future like for Mumbai’s Finest?
We are working on a lot of new music . Ninja and Kinga Rhymes have their solo albums dropping soon. We will be releasing the video for ‘What you Talking About’ and ‘Desi Rap’ soon and a new and different project called ‘Full of Life’ will be out soon too. We have also started a new venture which is a platform where we executive produce for artists that we feel have potential. We help with a vision, financial resources and career management. We have a lot of shows lined up so stay connected with us for updates.
Also do check out the Hip Hop Homeland series by 101 India. It’s beautifully made and gives great insight into the underground Hip Hop scene in the country:
You can check out MF’s album ‘Mumbai Till I Die’ via the following links:
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