Tuesday turned out to be a historic day for hip-hop music in India as American rap titan Nas and Indian music company JioSaavn dropped the track NY Se Mumbai (New York to Mumbai), with Indian rappers Divine and Naezy joining Nas on the vocals, along with Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh.
All four are behind Gully Boy, a film that releases this Thursday in the UAE and has caught the imagination of Indians everywhere.
The Zoya Akhtar-directed film is inspired by Vivian Fernandes and Naved Shaikh, who go by their alter egos Divine and Naezy The Baa, respectively.
The film has brought much-needed focus to the Indian hip-hop scene. It's a bit like when Divine and Naezy became the first Mumbai rappers to come together, throwing down some Hindi slang, and boosting the then-nascent genre in 2015 with the track Mere Gully Mein.
As far as promotions and collaborations go, NY Se Mumbai is significant for many reasons. The track heralds the comeback of Naezy after a year's hiatus, during which he's spent most of his time in Dubai and London. Naezy was reportedly torn between carrying on or bowing out as per the wishes of his father, who works in Dubai and disapproves of his son's career, the rapper told Vice.
While Divine and other artists such as Emiway Bantai and Kaam Bhari were front and centre of the build-up to Gully Boy's release, in December Naezy hinted that a new track would come soon after the movie landed.
NY Se Mumbai's surprise drop makes more sense. Many are unaware that the credits in Gully Boy's trailer lists Nas as the film's executive co-producer, so this song will play as the film's end credits roll.
Divine spoke of the global collaboration, which also features Grammy Award-winning producer Ill Wayno, saying: "Nas is my idol, I've looked up to him all my life. When I first heard his album Illmatic it gave me the chills, I was inspired to tell my story.
"I saw him perform in Dubai recently […] I was shook and inspired all over again. I cannot digest that I’m on the same beat as him. Big shout-out to everyone that made this happen. And Naezy is back! Hip-hop zindabad!"
Echoing the sentiment, Wayno said: "Working on NY Se Mumbai, for me, was an affirmation of my understanding that hip-hop has a global reach and cultures around the world are more similar than they are different. We all share similar experiences and this song was a collaborative effort to showcase that."
Naezy also did his bit to promote the film by posting on Instagram a picture of him appearing to play "Gully Cricket" or street cricket, the favourite pastime of millions in India on a Sunday. He also re-released Bombay 70 with a more refined version of his first video, which was shot on an iPad gifted by his father.
Bombay 70 is like a nickname for Naezy. He uses it to signify the postal pin code of his residence in the suburb of Kurla.
Meanwhile, producers Excel Entertainment and Tiger Baby have released a series of clips titled Voices of the Street to introduce the other fringe artists who dominate the hip-hop scene.