Right around the arrival of the Gully Boy hype train earlier this year, Indian hip-hop’s prodigal son Naved Shaikh aka Naezy announced his long-awaited return. A whole year had passed since his last Instagram post, but his followers erupted with touching messages welcoming him back, asking where he had disappeared, and patiently waiting for him to drop something new. His popping back on the scene might have been more than a well-timed marketing strategy but it certainly seems to have paid off. Today, Naezy dropped his first release since 2017, “Aafat Waapas”—a continuation to “Aafat”, a song perhaps responsible for the big shift in the larger scheme of Mumbai’s underground hip-hop landscape, if not the country’s. It’s been just a few hours to the big release, but clearly, the numbers and comments show how much he was missed on the scene.
While “Aafat”’ served as a great introduction to Naezy’s lyrical prowess and diverse flow that tackled varied subjects all uniquely Bombay, “Aafat Waapas” is a reminder of all of that, and more. Teaming up with music producer Phenom for the comeback tune, Naezy is aware of the cultural impact his music has had on the scene, and more importantly, on his fans during his absence. “The words were ready first,” he says when I ask him about creating a tune with a producer he hasn’t worked with before. “They were not beat-dependent at all. So I know what I was working with, in terms of bars—triplets, old school flow and some light singing as well. Phenom’s involvement has helped the song grasp a sense of versatility, and create a balance between underground and mainstream sounds.”
Check out Naezy’s episode of Voice of the Streets below.
Lyrically, “Aafat Waapas” takes on the same issues that “Aafat”’ did (ambition; life on the streets; family issues). But it does so with a greater sense of self-awareness, and not the angry innocence that the first tune captured. With a video that aims to pay tribute to the city that has made him, Naezy also does a hat-tip to some of his older music videos, with similar locations and a style well-adopted by plenty of rappers across India. Fan queries that Naezy has received over the last few months make their way into the song, and would have perhaps been better used if real voices were sampled but that’s a discussion for another time. Also, do we sense an Emiway Bantai diss at 01:36?
Naezy has been teasing his fans with the song for a while on his social media, and initial reactions make it clear that these fans had been starving for music from Indian hip-hop’s favourite boy. “I think this song is a good sign of where I’m headed in the future,” he adds, talking about plans ahead and the direction the music is going to take. “It’s going to be about treading on a more commercial line, yet retaining control; about making it accessible to a wider audience, but not compromising on my signature style.” In a post-Gully Boy world, Indian audiences are receptive to not just rap music as portrayed in the film, but hold OG artists such as Naezy closer, and in higher regard.
Stream the OG ‘Aafat’ here:
When I talk to Naezy today, he sounds far more assured, confident and excited than the Naezy of 2017. And that is almost always a good sign to hear in the voice of an artist. “I find that being absent for a little bit in the middle worked for me, since people were hyped,” he says. “It created some sort of an enigma. I know that worked in my favour but I want whatever is up ahead to be a complete surprise as well.”
And while you are here, check out our documentary about the rise of Mumbai rap and the other OG guys on the scene, below:
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