Vivian Fernandes aka Divine first made waves in 2015 with his single ‘Mere Gully Mein’ featuring fellow rapper Naezy. Since then, he has become the most recognizable face of the ‘gully rap’ movement in Mumbai – his videos have amassed millions of views online, he composed the track for Puma’s Suede Gully campaign, Red Bull has announced that they will be releasing a documentary about him, and Zoya Akhtar’s upcoming film Gully Boy starring Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt is inspired by his life and Naezy’s.
On 4th September, three rappers from Kolkata dissed him in a track called ‘Gully Mein Apne Kutta Bhi Sher Hai’ that, as of last count, has almost 90,000 views. In it, they make fun of his voice, the Puma ad and accuse of him of being a sell-out, among other things.
When I met him for an interview ahead of the release of his new album, I asked him why he thinks he is the frequent subject of criticism and diss and parody tracks. He said, “I am the biggest. I went from 15,000 rupees to 700,000 a show in two years. They want a piece of my cake. But it’s not so easy to get it.” Here’s his response:
“First of all I didn’t know the guys until now. I’ve never met them, I don’t think they know me at all. I saw the song just like you saw it. And I was surprised at first. I was like, ‘Who are these guys, do they know me?’ because my friends sent the song to me and they were like, ‘These guys are saying some shit about you.’ And then I obviously went and checked the song. The song is good. It’s good in the sense that they at least tried. But on the other side, they just wanted to grab some attention and this is not the first time somebody did that to me. It’s been happening for the past one year.
“There are so many things on the internet. And I feel very blessed and I feel very loved because, when I started, I would get only a hundred views. Now, to steal from my views, people are making songs. And it is not even like I hit a 100-200 million views. I am just playing with 7-10 million views and they want some even from that.
“I am always seeing the good side because we didn’t have a scene and I feel that they should concentrate on their own music more than me because at the end of the day, I can only give you one or two morsels, what after that? And I am enjoying because everyone is after me.”