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Interview: Gravity Talks About His Debut Full-Length Album ‘Supervillain’, His Key Influences in Rap Music, Divine and More

For its sophomore interview, Culture Haze caught up with Mumbai’s very own Gravity. Born Akshay Poojary in Mumbai, the ruthless emcee has come a long way – from humble beginnings in Nala Sopara and Santa Cruz to becoming one of the most impactful emcees in Indian rap music right now (though, he would humbly disagree).

In an exclusive conversation, ‘Grav’ talks about his upcoming full-length debut album ‘Supervillain’, Bombay Lokal, Divine, Delhi and Mumbai’s Hip-Hop scene and much more. Please read our enthralling interview with Mumbai’s self-made pioneer Gravity here.

What’s good, Grav? How are things lookin’ in Bombay?

Bombay is humid… and it’s hot. Sometimes, it’s unbearable. But other than that, it’s the grind, bro. That continues. Creating videos, planning shows, and getting ready for the travel and all that. In fact, I have a show in Neemrana, Rajasthan and there are tentative shows planned out here and there too as we speak. So yeah, just going hard all summer and working on the album.

That sounds like a heavy schedule.

Oh, for sure. But you gotta get it.

Before we delve into the music side of things, I wanted to have a chat with you about your perception of self. Recently, this publication did a story about you confirming that Supervillain is locked in and its coming. You pointed out that you do not want to be called an “Indian rap star.” It’s quite interesting because for a lot of people and young emcees out there, you are perhaps one of the most influential emcees on the come up. So, why would you refrain from calling yourself an Indian rap star yet?

So, I think that from like a cultural standpoint, I would rather be referred to as a rapper or a Hip-Hop artist because that’s who I am as an artist at the core of it. I’m a rapper. That’s who I am. I didn’t start out as a star and I still don’t think I’m a star yet. Like, I’ve been on TV for sure but a star is much bigger than that. So, I think there’s a long way to go… I would like to be referred to as a Hip-Hop artist and a rapper… an emcee.

Okay, so in the future, if somebody was to refer to you as an Indian rap star… I apologise if I’m really sticking to this but it’s really interesting ‘cause I think that you are being really humble here. There are kids listening to your music all day… When MTV hustle came, you were one of the Hottest MCs on the show. So, if somebody had to call you an Indian rap star or a superstar, what does that vision look like for you?

I think personally for me, I want to have a discography which competes with international acts. I think that is when it will be justified.

Is it just competition or such a discography might involve collaborations too?

Definitely it has to be an effort which involves collaborations. For me, I first want to create projects that, you know, set benchmarks for sound production, lyricism, composition and… experimentation perhaps. I want to create records that even international acts look at and be like, “Wow, there was something new here… there was something that hasn’t been done before or has been done before but this is a new way to do it.” That is the ultimate goal – the acknowledgement from all around the world.

Further, I think that at this point, India is being really put on the map by artists who have preceded us. Sidhu Moose Wala and Divine have put India on the map globally. However, we still don’t have that reputation yet of being consistent with projects that can be critically acclaimed worldwide… and sonically being up there. So, that is the goal. It always has been.

Moose Wala and Divine also have one of the biggest album track lists in India’s Hip-Hop history to date and have really heavy features. Do you think it’s possible for an emcee to reach the highest level on his own without that backing?

That does require a solid marketing that reaches that global scale. It comes with a lot of money which usually an independent artist cannot afford and that vision has to be backed by a label.

Without all these broad collaborations and these bridges which connect audiences, it’s actually very difficult. I don’t think that it’s legitimately possible unless like… Anthony Fantano drops a review and the audience that follows him or listens to him catches up and then it becomes a priority. That’s how it changed the scene for Brockhampton. So similarly, it can happen for an Indian Act as well. Nothing is impossible in today’s times.

However, it’s still very difficult because the chances of Anthony Fantano reviewing your rap music are very slim. (laughs)

Looking at Kai Cenat’s work recently, it could be possible.

For sure. I hope that too.

How was life while growing up in Mumbai?

Well, It was the only growing up I had so I had to like it, I guess. (laughs)

Let’s take it back to the days of the ‘Prashna Chinha’ EP. When you were just coming up and it’s one of the earliest records before MTV hustle. However, life has certainly changed multi-folds after you appeared on Hustle. In that album, you talked about your early struggles with poverty, betrayal and mental health among other things. Do those things still concern you or you have moved on from that?

Some experiences are like scars. They will heal but if we look at them, it’s still there. It’s like a picture in your house or a distant memory that you can look at, and it’s hazy, but you know that it was something that happened. You learn from it and you move on but you don’t forget it.

I guess that is what’s reflected by my art and music. The dirt that I am attached to while growing up, it doesn’t rub off. Even though you start rising up in life… wearing better clothes, start living a better life and shit like that… it still doesn’t change who you are at your core.

Who is gravity at his core?

Gravity, at his core, is just an ambitious and humble guy. However, life has given him so many setbacks that it kind of, you know, made him go to that edge where the persona rarely comes out unless it’s the mic and a pen.

Would you like to speak about some of those setbacks if they’re not too personal?

Yeah. Like I had an accident in 2016. It led to a hairline fracture in my jaw and my frontal teeths were gone from the bare root. It’s still gone to this day. Like some people ask about it and at times tease me for it. So yeah, it’s still there. That was a big one. It took me like two years to recover from that.

Then, I was always a bullied kid in school. And even after growing up, when you start independently, there’s not much support for people like me and where I come from. A lot of people have also shown two faces and would just… latch on to me to take advantage of my brand and then just… use that as a jumping jack to move on to the next bigger person. There have also been many experiences in the industry and ‘corporate projects.’

I think that ultimately, at the core of it, everybody is kind of shallow to an extent and that really changes the way you perceive things… and changes the way you approach the music, the art, the lyricism and everything.

Does the aggression in your music stem from these difficult experiences?

I think my aggression derives a lot from the culture that I’ve followed as an emcee. My influences… they are all aggressive and had a lot to say on the mic.

Whether its Pusha T, Eminem, the ‘old Kendrick’ or Danny Brown – he has that natural aggressive range of music. So yeah, I’ve always had an inclination towards harsher views.

You talked about how the culture ‘generally’ is aggressive and your key influences are assertive by nature and have a lot of aggression. How does that flow into your studio sessions? Are there times where you may not feel like a part of a culture at the time and perhaps, try to challenge yourself as an ‘individual’ artist?

Absolutely. When you’re in the moment, all of this doesn’t really come to your head. While I do have strong influences, I’m also here to do my thing. When I work, It’s like an instinct. I’m like a machine in the studio. I just keep at it. I write very quickly and I get done with the recording as well. So yeah, when I’m in the booth… just listen to the beat while it’s produced, smash your words out and as soon as the beat’s done, record it. Listen to the demo and vibe to it. It’s wild how many demos I’ve listened to by now.

Everyone knows about your contribution to ‘Bombay Lokal’ alongside Shaikhspeare and some of the earliest Hip-Hop artists in Mumbai. What has been the impact of Bombay Lokal on you as an artist? When you find yourself being a part of such a diverse Hip-Hop collective, does that instil a strong sense of cultural responsibility and perhaps, influences your work ethic and the way you look at rap music?

Far as I remember, I always wanted to make a collective. It came together and has turned to a cultural force right now. I remember meeting Shaikshpeare in a rap battle that I had participated in. He was judging it at the time and he came up to me and that’s where it all started to come together. So yeah, Bombay Lokal has certainly influenced the way I think about rap in a big way. Most importantly, it turned me to a leader and perhaps, as a visionary. And oh, I had my jaw broken when I met Shaikhspeare. (laughs) I was still recovering.

Did you spit some bars at the battle? You had your jaw broken.

So, the day I had the accident, I kinda went nuts.

Why would you do that?

My friend, who was a producer at the time, came and I had some ideas. I know it doesn’t sound convincing. (laughs)

Did that lead to a record or an official release?

Oh, nah bro. (laughs) I sounded horrible. It wasn’t that great.

We gotta talk about MF Doom. You even have his tattoo on your left arm. What has been MF Doom’s impact on you? How did an emcee from the UK reach you in Nala Sopara and perhaps, pushed you to take Hip-Hop as a profession. What did that early introduction to MF Doom’s music look like for you?

It started when I was more of a Hip-Hop fan I would say. I was just starting to transition into being an emcee… and I was always a nerd about rap while growing up. I remember coming across one of the blogs that I was reading and it had MF Doom. Back in the day, blogs were the only way through which I could know more about rap. There wasn’t a lot on YouTube… the artist breakdowns that the platform has right now. It wasn’t available so easily then.

So, I used to read through all these blogs, all these articles to find great albums, great emcees to listen to and everything. That is how I came across MF Doom and ‘Mad Villainy’ album. From there, it was ‘Operation Doomsday’… and I just kept, like going down the MF Doom rabbit hole, and went through this whole discography. It was like, “Whoa, like, what is this!” I had never seen an artist who’s a producer and a rapper with such a distinct sound that it would feel different everytime I heard it.

He laid the foundations for artists like JPEG mafia, and so many more till this day. Further, I’m not a rapper-producer, I’m a rapper. But I think about and understand the position of the producer and his perspective because of Doom’s music. So, when I write my flows, I always compose them to a specific part of the beat, like sometimes I’d actually be writing to the high hats. On one track, it is like this. One time, it will be the drums and one track, you are switching back and forth. Yeah, so like, all that really comes a lot from studying.

Now, new flow switches are so interesting. I think I can grasp it much more ‘cause I listened to Doom quite early on in my career. So, what is like one bar, he’ll be writing a very nice pocket and then suddenly, like a three-syllable rhyme and switch to completely new rhyme scheme and a new flow. So, MF Doom taught me that one can be really boundless when it comes to emceeing and rapping. And that is why I had him to be engraved on. He was the first artist for whom I cried for after he passed away.

R.I.P to one of the greatest to ever do it. So, as you said that now you’re able to grasp the essence of production behind a song, what has been the contribution of your friend and frequent collaborator Outfly in this whole process? I’m assuming you must’ve learned a lot of things from him too? You both have been working together on projects for quite a while now.

Yeah, definitely. Ever since he has come into the picture… he wasn’t initially producing a lot for me, he was just mixing and mastering. However, the whole thing came together quite organically. He asked me like, “Let’s cook something up and you see how you feel about the beat.” So, we did a couple of studio sessions initially and recorded lesser songs because we were still finding the groove. After a few records, it all made sense and we felt like, “Yes, this is a good direction that we are going towards.”

Then we made it to another track on the album. Slowly, it all took shape in the process. I’ve definitely learned so much. Even though he’s a producer, I have a merit in vocals and rap music and I listen to a lot more artists. So, I introduced him to a lot of Hip-Hop and alternative. He has introduced me to a lot of great bands. So yeah, he’s introduced me to a lot of music and improved my recording techniques and my understanding of sound. Plus he’s a dope producer himself. I vibe hard with him in the studio.

You often use language as your friend and a weapon in your rap records. It’s quite interesting because your records truly reflect your versatility as a lyricist. Is it your deliberate attempt to delve into such a diverse language paradigm where you’re rapping in Urdu, English and Hindi on the same record? Or it’s just natural.

I would say it’s pretty natural. I don’t really think of language in terms of its nature. For me, it’s about musicality and having the max impact at the moment. If it connects with my fan and it pushes him to do something, it’s all that matters.

Now even when you’re collaborating with artists like Shaikhspeare or Farhan Khan, for many, Khan is a poet and easily one of the most profound Urdu emcees in India right now. Does it influence the way you write your music and perhaps, push you to stick to your best vocal delivery both in terms of musicality and language?

For me, it actually comes down to the fact like, what is the vibe of the song? And to be honest, the more diverse the better. And I think the more different the approach is for not just me but Farhan as well, it leaves a whole lot more room for experimenting. Sometimes, we’ll be mixing up each other’s references and you can’t even guess who wrote it anymore.  

We have a track together called ‘Musafir’. The track has an inherent vibe where both of us decided to strictly go with our styles. Mine was a mix of Hindi and Urdu and his was purely Urdu. To say that Khan had a certain influence on me to write the way I did… I wouldn’t really think of it that way. We’re just such natural collaborators man… it’s kind of weird how it happens but the records are fire so we good. (laughs)

As I said before, at the end of the day, everything comes down to pure instinct… whether its songwriting or producing. If your instinct… if your gut tells you this sounds good, it sounds good. You can’t really think too much about it.

Are there any artists who have inspired you or your body of work outside of rap music?

I would say pro-wrestling. Fuck it. I’m a pro-wrestling nerd, bro. Yeah, big time and I understand the business of pro-wrestling and I understand like, you know, behind the scenes, what roles people play and shit like that. So yeah, in my early days, pro-wrestling was my thing when it came to pure entertainment.

I was never a sports guy, I never really loved sports that much nor I played it quite often because I wasn’t really a strong kid when I was growing up. So yeah, Pro-wrestling was my escape because it showed a world that was larger than life.

Far as music is concerned, I would say that I partly understood the whole process of writing catchphrases and take ‘jabs’ through pro-wrestling. They are just so good at catchphrases. You know it’s not real but they still make you believe it.

It made me understand how important it is to have conviction in your belief. So yeah. I also read literature so there’s that too. Prem Chand’s Godan among other works. However, once I started listening to Hip-Hop more and more, it had taken over everything.

What are you listening to these days?

‘Scaring The Hoes’ by JPEG MAFIA & Danny Brown. After that, it’s ‘Her Loss’. All these collab albums are in fact quite great. Metro Boomin and Future is on the way too… can’t wait for that. And the JID album with Boomin. Looking forward to that record as well.

You must’ve heard that Danny Brown went to rehab right after releasing ‘Scaring The Hoes’. Have you observed addiction in Indian rap music too?

I would say yes. For me, any society that is riddled with problems will always have addiction at its core…  because people are so depressed and so shocked and so frustrated by what is happening around that they need something to numb the pain, and ultimately, the drugs come in because that is perhaps, the cheapest way to do it.

Some people stick to like, the normal things, like cigarettes while some people go towards the bottom part like meth and everything. So, there is a deep underlying addiction problem in Indian rap music too which no one talks about, unfortunately.

Do you think music could be that cure for some people?

Music is also an escape. However, I read research about how if you are a music listener, then you are more likely to do drugs because all the artist talk about doing all that shit. It’s much worse in rap music at times.

Do you think that that’s not because of rap music but rather because of the rappers themselves? Not all of them are perhaps talking about it?

I would say that It’s more about the impact. There’s a very thin line between finding Wiz Khalifa cool and actually trying to imitate him for the freedom his music provides to you. Some might know that it’s okay to not be like him and still love his music. And yes, it’s certainly true that at the end of the day, it’s you who decides whether you want to go that route or not.

If you’re a strong-willed person, you will absolutely not do anything, regardless of who does. But if you are someone who easily gives into, or actually has the desire to do it, you will obviously do it, regardless of whether a rapper does it or doesn’t do it. So, it is just a matter of opportunity. Being present.

You frequently collaborate with artists from Delhi and even spearheaded the first ‘Verzuz’ battle which went down in Delhi. Since you’re quite observant as an artist yourself, what are some differences that you feel between the rap scene in Delhi and Mumbai?

I don’t know but after a certain time, like post-lockdown or around that time, the scene in Bombay completely lost its unity. Like, it’s not like there were fights or some shit like that but everybody just started doing their own thing. It stopped feeling like a community because nobody really meets anyone now. During Hustle, barely any major Mumbai artists showed me love. So, you know, if it’s somebody representing your city, you should be out there because if I was on the opposite end watching at home, I would have gone all out for someone who was representing Bombay but I didn’t see the support from anyone from me.

It didn’t happen in Delhi. So yeah, that is the difference. Why Delhi-based emcees are actually making the waves that they are making is because the scene is so united. Guys doing features for like, rappers who are not your million streams per track artists. Ikka for. e.g. and he’s actually delivering in those verses. It’s not like he’s giving a weak verse or something. That’s the reason that everybody’s rising and growing.

Why is it so though? Do you think is because a lot of emcees probably feared that you might take over? Because while Delhi has a very united scene, the throne still sits in Mumbai. Divine is here… MC Stan, Emiway Bantai and all the bigger names right now.

I don’t know if it’s all that. I think it’s just something that they call, you know, perhaps “self-centering” too much and not thinking about the larger picture. If everybody is great as an individualbut we are not a community at all, anymore, I don’t think it will be like this for long. There hasn’t been a major cypher in Mumbai in the last two years.

And even if somebody tries to do something, most people don’t show up. Because everybody suddenly has a ‘star syndrome’. I hope it will change in the near future because the newer… the younger generation will probably start collaborating more. Even for me personally, collaborating with Divine is definitely something that is has always been on the bucket list. So, I would I definitely look forward to doing that.

Have you had a conversation with Divine about a possible collaboration or perhaps, expressed your interest into making a song together?

Initially, like when I personally went to the scene and I had just dropped my album in 2018, Divine gave me an opening slot at his very first Gully Fest. So yeah, he’s always been on the lookout and supported me.

However, I have never been able to approach him in the sense of appearance because he’s always been at a way higher place than I have been. Hopefully, in the near future, I can do well enough. Recently, during Hustle, he texted me that he always knew I had it in me. So yeah, always appreciate him for that.

Let’s talk about your debut full-length album ‘Supervillain’. How did the record come about?

So, initially when we started out, I actually didn’t know what we were gonna do or how to execute the vision that we executed. I always knew how I was gonna end it and how, perhaps begin it; however, I was putting together the bridges to that ending. Since day one, I wanted to model this album after the movies.

This album has a gradual and insane buildups and then, it all comes crashing down in the end. So yeah, this album has a similar plot where for the first 8 to 10 tracks, you just consume whatever is happening and then, it blows everything away.

Why the title ‘Supervillain’?

Oh, it has an interesting story to it. There are many situations in your life which change your perception about yourself and how you see yourself. Back in the day, when I was I was a young kid going to tuitions. One of my tuition teachers, so he used to ask us, like, “what do you want to become?” So, initially, I wanted to become an author and an actor. However, once I told him, he started laughing and he was like, “you can either be the side comedy character or you can be the villain.”

So, that stayed in my head and kinda demotivated me and I held myself back from pursuing it. Maybe I would have pursued it seriously and might have even made some kind of progress. But that’s like, a debate for another lifetime. So that really stayed into my head. Like how everyone ultimately wants you to not believe in your art or what you actually want to do. But once you prove them wrong, and you bask in your glory, you suddenly become the villain. Yeah. So, I have proved everyone in my life wrong and I see myself as the supervillain for that.

Is this an album which is rather self-celebratory?

I would disagree. The album is very abstract and multifaceted. The story is not linear. It’s not clear. However, It’s also not like you have to put together a lot of the pieces. I have also ordered it after like Heath Ledger a little bit where there are multiple origin stories and you don’t actually know what is right and what is true. And it’s like, psychological thriller made into an album.

What does the production and the lyricism on the album look like? 

It’s ferocious, brutal oh it’s brutal. All ragers there. I do have some groovier tracks but it’s a rap album. There are no commercial bangers. There are no, like, thought-about hits. It’s all straight raw-doggin’. Yeah, it’s pretty good.

Are we expecting any collaborative efforts on this album production-wise or any guest verses?

There are two more features. I won’t name them and the tracklist just yet. However, it’s all about Outfly and Grav. It’s a Gravity and Outfly album. It’s very organic, very raw and the way we, you know, progressed with this is dope. Since day one, we knew what we were going towards. We just needed to execute it. Outfly being the ace producer that he is, it’s gonna turn out well I’m sure. I think this album will set a new bar for like cohesiveness in a project. It sounds real tight.

Before we end this interview… I know you’ve heard it a lot but people tell you all the time that you resemble Pop Smoke. How do you feel about it?

(Laughs) I take it lightly because I know nobody really says that to put me in a box. They just know that I look similar. And everyone knows that I have a different identity. In fact, that is why I made the track so that gets put onto the track too. I don’t really mind. I take life lightly than that. If it’s all about like having fun and just like normally trolling, then I don’t mind it. It’s pretty funny. I actually cannot deny that I really look like him.

Would you want young kids to listen to this album and be inspired to make music?

I would rather want young kids to not listen to this album. (Laughs) Just have a good time listening to this album. It’s for you, me and all of us.

Any last words everyone who would be reading this interview?

Shout out to you. Thank you… great questions. Keep growing and to all the people who are reading this interview and watching and listening to the music I put out and support, this was for you. Gravity and Outfly ‘Supervillain’ comin’ in hot.

Danny Brown or MF Doom – if you had to choose one, who would it be?

Danny Brown.