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Label Focus

Label Focus: Gully Gang Records brings the gully to the world

The movement that started with Gully Rap is now commanding mainstream cross-genre success

LiFTED | Sabiq Rafid | 22 Jan 2024

In this day and age, how often can one say that an individual or group created a Hip Hop subgenre that has taken both its country and the world by storm? There aren’t many, but DIVINE is that MC and the genre is Gully Rap.

The term ‘Gully’ refers to the narrow lanes and alleys in densely populated areas in India, and Mumbai in particular, where lower-income communities reside. In other words, the ghetto. DIVINE, alongside fellow MC Naezy, released their collaborative track ‘Mere Gully Mein’ back in 2015, introducing Gully Rap to India. Its characteristics consist of fiery, in-your-face lyricism, tackling the issues and struggles that come with growing up in the gully, and how it made them who they are. But then the song went viral and was shared by many in Bollywood, becoming such a sensation that the great divide between Mumbai’s shiny skyscrapers and lowly slums was miraculously bridged through music. And the gully became fashionable - to the extent that a blockbuster Bollywood film, Gully Boy was made in 2019.

While others may shy away from speaking about growing up in the hood, DIVINE owns and sheds light on it all. His music has taken him from the slums of Mumbai to the billboards of Times Square in New York City, and none of that could have happened if it weren’t for the gully.

In 2019, DIVINE, Joel D'Souza [his long-time collaborator and visual director], and Chaitanya Kataria, his trusted business partner, co-founded Gully Gang Records, as an independent Hip Hop label. It focuses on discovering the freshest and brightest talents and providing them with a platform to elevate their artistry. DIVINE also received a co-sign from Nas, incorporating the American hip-hop icon's support into the label's inception, establishing global links and allowing for a greater reach for its artists.

Despite being only four years old, Gully Gang Records has risen up to be one of the biggest independent labels in all of Asian Hip Hop. It’s also been instrumental in promoting a raw and unfiltered expression of the socio-economic realities and cultural diversity of India – which very much encapsulates what Gully Rap is all about.

While the label started in Mumbai with the Gully Rap philosophy, it has now expanded into exploring more genres and languages. Gully Gang Records has signed Tsumyoki, a genre-bending Pop singer/rapper who creates music in English from the state of Goa. Additionally, the label has successfully launched Riar Saab, recognized as an Urban Punjabi singer and rapper. Riar Saab achieved chart-topping success with Gully Gang as his single ‘Obsessed’ consistently held a place among India’s top five songs for a significant part of 2023. The track reached the number one spot on the Global Viral Spotify charts, making it one of the biggest songs of 2023. Notably, 'Obsessed' also peaked at number one on Apple Music and number two on Spotify in India.

Today, the label houses a roster of both established and upcoming artists from India, along with some of the illest producers. There’s the head honcho DIVINE, of course. There’s the seasoned MC in D’Evil. The men behind the 1s-and-2s with DJ Proof and JD. Beat chefs in Karan Kanchan, who has seen a remarkable rise in the industry and has produced iconic events in Indian Hip Hop like Red Bull 64 Bars [one of the biggest freestyle rap-based series,] MTV Hustle Season 3 [the biggest Indian Hip Hop reality TV show,] and the viral hit ‘Baazigar’ with DIVINE.

Furthermore, there's Stunnah Beatz, acclaimed for crafting viral hits like ‘3:59 am’ in collaboration with DIVINE, a track that ranks among the biggest in the history of Indian Hip Hop. Then, there’s Gully Rap flag bearers MC Altaf & Sammohit, Afkap the mysterious enigmatic artist from Delhi, the 16-year-old rap prodigy Deeking – known for his profound lyrics, Punjabi sensation Riar Saab, and Tsumyoki – who has coined the term I-pop and is on his way to making a global mark, having already worked with Canadian superstar Connor Price. All these artists are making a significant impact in the Indian music circuit.

The label’s name holds weight, and they represent their gully roots to the fullest. Gully Gang Records is taking their stories from the gully to the world.

Check out Gully Life - The Story of DIVINE below.