Fresh off the release of his latest single Cash Do, MC Altaf virtually sits down and chats with us on his success, friendships and future.

First of all, talk to us about your relationship with Divine and Gully Gang

Gully Gang is family to me. They were the ones to first approach me, and I was thrilled about that. The artists in the group are so lyrically strong, I could learn a lot from them. Plus, I have been watching Divine for a long time now. He started as this hustler, and then went onto become a superstar. So I wanted to go on this journey with him as well, and make good music together.

I go way back with the other members as well. I used to take part in college competitions with them. We used to even do rap battles together. D’Evil was always a good friend and he was a part of Gully Gang. So for me, the group was a great place to be in, because I felt a sense of homeliness, and it would be like spending time with my boys.


How do you see Divine? Do you see him as a teacher, competitor, or a friend?

Actually, I see him in all the ways you mentioned. He’s a teacher, brother, friend, and also a competitor. But he will always be a friend first to me. He’s always respected me and he’s always treated me as a good friend. I’m glad I get to work with artists like him, who help me push myself.


Okay, let’s talk about Gully Boy. There’s no denying the fact that it helped bring desi rap on the map. How do you think it has impacted the lives of you and your fellow rappers?

Earlier, as rappers, we used to only get to do these small events. It would probably be an open mic night with one DJ in the corner. They used to pass the mic around to anyone who wanted to rap or sing, and I used to patiently wait to get that opportunity. Even in clubs, we used to hope, somehow, we would get a chance to show off our skills and perform for an audience. Today, I’m being booked to do festivals, with a whole crowd waiting to see us perform and rap our songs along with us. That’s how much the rap scene has grown in the country, all thanks to Gully Boy.


Captured by Mohit Mukhi


Once upon a time, only Punjab had the cool rappers. But today, rap is all over the country. It’s in the west, south and even the north-east. How do you feel seeing rap take over our country so swiftly?

I feel so glad and happy to see this. I used to rap because I love doing it, but I never realised the vast audience that was growing along with it, and I was also unaware of its huge impact. Today, rap is everywhere. Almost every gully has its own rapper.

Also, I think one great thing about Indians are that we are very emotional about the things we love. If there’s a rap song, and if people like it, they automatically attach emotion to it, and that’s beautiful because rap is just expression of emotion. I think that is why rap is growing so much as a genre here. Because of how personal it is, and how people have gotten emotionally attached to it.


I’ve noticed you moving towards a more fun, trap sound rather than your previous gully rap/boom bap sound and lyrics. How did this change suddenly come about?

Experimentation is key to an artist’s growth, and as a young artist, I believe you should keep exploring. I’ve rapped on boom bap and had my fun, but now I’m looking to explore a bit more, just like I did on Cash Do. I’ve talked about my struggles and the streets, but this time, I thought to change my beat style, flow and lyrics. I think trap is something that people love to listen to now, especially youngsters. Even though I changed up the beat style a bit, I still try to be as authentic as I can with my lyrics. And Cash Do is a great example of that.


Captured by Mohit Mukhi


Beef is a crucial part of hip-hop. And with the onset of rap in India, beef will naturally follow. But it seems like there’s a lot of that going on that’s got people’s attention. You’ve been involved in one as well. What do you think about beefs in desi rap?

Rap should just be pure healthy competition. If it goes beyond that, then you don’t have my support. If you’re beefing and simply dissing people for the sake of views and publicity, then I have no respect for you. But if it’s simple, civil back and forth, that’s what I love to see. Let’s treat beefs like beefs. Also, there are certain lines you don’t cross. Because our listeners consist of a lot of youngsters. They look up to us and respect us. If you keep putting out this negative content against someone else, then that’s what they’ll be exposed to and we’ll be spreading more hate in hip-hop and less love.


India has a handful of female rappers today. Raja Kumari is probably the hottest name in female rappers currently, but there’s still a gaping hole in India when it comes to that. Do you hopefully see that changing soon?

There’s definitely very few female rappers today. But I hope more female rappers will grow confident to release music and come up, and I feel it will happen very soon. I have several rappers that I love to listen to like Raja Kumari, Siri, Dee MC and more. I think we can expect some more talented names to pop up in the coming years, because having a female voice in rap is extremely important.


What can we expect from MC Altaf in the coming months?

*laughs* Oh, you have no idea. I actually have a crazy collab coming out. I cannot reveal much about it, but all I can say is that people are going to be shocked. It’s an artist fans have always wanted me to work with. I’m currently shooting the video and planning to put it out by the end of October. Just wait for it. Trust me, it will be worth it.