Hindi rapper DIVINE’s debut is one of the most anticipated non-film music albums in recent times. As the inaugural release from new hip-hop label Mass Appeal India, Kohinoor plays like a series of singles. That’s no wonder—he built his career putting out hit after hit song. In other words: it’s all killer, no filler.
“‘Kohinoor’ means mountain of light and I thought that with hip-hop being in the limelight right now, it was the right name for my album,” DIVINE, who was born Vivian Fernandes, tells Apple Music. From the hard-hitting title track to love-song-with-a-difference “Chal Bombay”, he believes the collection gives fans “a flavour of everything I can do”. Below, he takes us through the making of the album’s seven tunes.
“The track is produced by Ill Wayno, who is from Nas’s camp. He produced ‘NY Se Mumbai’ with Nas, Naezy and me. I really liked his style. I thought the first single should be dedicated to what I loved as a kid and should be on an East Coast beat. And I felt the title track shouldn’t be with a chorus because I’ve been known for my bars. There’s a lot of tension in the hip-hop scene. I wanted to give my fans my bit of the story. I’ve also given shout-outs to the ones that are close to me: Bombay, my friends, my mom and the whole hip-hop community.”
“It’s a track where I’m talking to God and I’m talking to my friends. I lost a lot of friends in the course of the last two/three years because of business and I felt the only thing I could do is address them on a track. A lot of people want to take credit for where I am. I feel the credit should go to my music. My friend Shah Rule, who sings the initial parts, played me the beat which is made by Xplicit, a young guy from Delhi. I did the hook and it just sat so well.”
“It’s saying monetise your music. I felt young kids should not forget that getting money is important. Money is what kept me behind. Money brings peace of mind and opens more doors for you. When I first started, I used to think I’ll never chase money but as you grow as an artist, you need money for everything, like, for example, to make your music sound good. Pinaki Rattan aka Phenom from Goa made the beat. He understands my style the most. I’ve done ‘Farak’ and ‘Kaam 25 (Sacred Games)’ with him.”
“I wanted to show fans my team. It’s a dedication to the Gully Gang movement we’ve started. I came up with the hook, then everything followed. Everyone wrote his own part. I had my verse ready and gave all the boys four bars. The whole thing was done in two hours at a writing camp in Goa. I think for seven people on one track, we’ve done a good job.”
“[Through this track] I want to give non-hip-hop fans a reason to listen to my album. I’m addressing a girl in the song as a Bombay boy. It’s not a typical love song. It’s very reggaetón and reggae-based. I’m a big reggae fan. I take inspiration from it every day. Pinaki and I made the song. That’s how the hook came about: ‘Chal Bombay, meri maa se milata hoon’.”
“I had two verses on it but I let go of one because I wanted Dave East on the track. I feel he’s a very good rapper from that side of the world. What he’s doing for the scene there is very promising. To build the bridge from New York to Bombay, I felt he should be on my record. The lyrics basically say that this is the sound of the streets. This is not music for a wedding show. This is not bubblegum rap. It’s bar-heavy. Dave’s style of music is very close to what I’m saying in the song. He does hood music and I like to call my music hood music.”
“It’s one of my favourite songs from the album. Sid Sriram and me have wanted to work together for a very long time. He had sent me a few tracks for his album, but we had different ideas for them and it didn’t happen. We were going back and forth and then he sent me this song called ‘Too Tired’. I was like, ‘Bro, the melody of the song is banging but I don’t want to call it “Too Tired”, let’s call it “Too Hype.”’ I changed some of the lyrics and sent it back to him. I called it ‘Too Hype’ because we are in the hype stage of hip-hop right now. On the track, I’m talking about my past, where I am and where I’m going to go.”