It was usually just Bollywood songs blaring. But eventually, they started playing hip-hop, which was very different from anything I had heard before. I developed a certain curiosity about this new kind of music. I ran back home, and spent days researching and investing myself in this new, mysterious sound. My curiosity led to my interest just growing bigger. Eventually, I spent all my time listening to rappers like Big Pun, Big L and Public Enemy.

The connection was instantaneous. But why such a connection? I’ll tell you why. Have you ever heard a song that was made continents away and that somehow tells the exact same story of what you’re currently living in? It was relevant to what I was feeling and going through, at that moment in my life, at that time inside this neighbourhood – the drugs, poverty, and lifestyle. It was very empathetic, and no music made me feel empathy before. It motivated me to tell my story, my struggles and my life, all through rap. I made my first song on an iPad without any resources around me. And this is when I went from being Naved Sheikh to transforming into Naezy. I went from listening to rap on loudspeakers to performing shows with my own songs. What lies common in this journey is one thing – rap.

It’s rare for a music genre to take you on a front-seat journey through someone’s life and relate to it this much. According to me, rap is one of the most authentic ways of telling your story. Something like rock doesn’t feel personal to me. In rock, there are other instruments to help you tell a story. In rap, it’s just your mind, heart and mouth. You write what you think and you rap what you feel. Your mental state becomes the instrument and you start building melodies with words. That is what is so unique and beautiful about it. This art form gives you an opportunity to tell the truth and communicate with someone on a highly personal level.

I could go on and on about my love and admiration for rap, but it’s also important to see the bigger picture here, especially, in India. I believe 2014 was the year rap truly made its place in the music scene in the country. Not that there weren’t any rap songs being made before that, but I think 2014 was the year rap just skyrocketed. It was undoubtedly a memorable year for the Indian rap scene. Conscious and personal rap made its space in a highly commercial industry. There are so many different kinds of music out there, but it was so rare to have a song with any consciousness in it. It didn’t have anything that would bring out a thought in someone.

Everything is chilled out, all happy, and in the mood to party. That’s fine, but where’s the truth? Putting out music like this not only helps you get out your story, but also involves many other people who start understanding your rhymes and what you’re trying to convey. The more people get involved, more people get educated about the problems we face. There was clearly a need for it, which is one of the reasons why it became so successful. We’ve come a long way

Today, a rapper drops a song and it goes straight to the top of any trending list. Companies are cashing in on it and listeners are investing their time in it. So it’s clearly done something right and made a major impact to bring about this kind of shift. It’s been a long time coming, and we can now finally view rap with respect and seriously consider it as a legitimate genre of music and not just a commercial tool. The trend is to become real these days. I believe rap did that. Rap made ‘being you’ cool, and owning your struggles, acknowledging the problems in society and using your voice as a weapon. I think the Indian rap scene is at a good place right now.

I feel it will eventually reach a place where it has the potential to become as good as the American or even English rap scene. Just like cricket. I want it to evolve the same way cricket did. It was born in England but today, we’re one of the best teams in the world. I envision better rhymes, better punchlines, and a more honest scene building here. And it is definitely happening. I see it right before my eyes and we’re closer to achieving that dream than we have ever been. I doubted we would ever reach here, but a lot of rappers today are using their position to educate and inspire.

So is rap the sound of the decade? Without a doubt, if you consider its evolution, success and popularity. Also, it’s here to stay. Try and stop it if you can