Just behind Mumbai’s glittering international airport terminal stretches a teeming borough called Andheri East. A patchwork of tin, tarpaulin, and glass, it’s a blend of shantytowns and working-class neighborhoods—and home to millions who have arrived, over decades, in India’s city of dreams. It’s also where a young boy named Vivian Fernandes discovered hip-hop.
He first encountered the culture on a friend’s T-shirt emblazoned with 50 Cent’s face and on a borrowed CD stuffed with dozens of songs by Tupac, Biggie, and Wu-Tang Clan. In 2015, “Mere Gully Mein”—a track he built online with Naezy, another young rapper on the rise—went viral on YouTube, spawning the gully rap subgenre. Divine’s seminal verse, delivered in his local Bambaiya Hindi dialect, was brash and rebellious yet honest and clean.
In 2019, Nas signed him to the label he co-owns, Mass Appeal, giving Divine international distribution. In December, his face flickered on a mammoth Spotify billboard in Times Square. And earlier this year, he scored features from Pusha T and Vince Staples. “When sounds merge,” he says, “magic is created.”
But Divine remains tied to the streets, launching a venture called Gully Gang Entertainment that helps elevate talent from underrepresented groups. “The people made me. I can never forget that,” he says from his home studio in ’59, still his zip code. “I’m just a guy with a mic. To stay grounded, be rooted in your culture. That’s the only way to go.” —Nidhi Gupta
Photographed by Mohit Mukhi / Gltch at Ballard Estate, Mumbai.
Styled by Neha Bajaj.
GQ Latin America Nominates
The Island’s Heir to the Reggaeton Throne
Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Key Track: “No Se Da Cuenta”
What place will Puerto Rico occupy in music history 20 years from now? Reggaeton singer Juan Carlos Ozuna Rosado, winner of two Latin Grammys, considers the question and smiles, Boricua pride between his teeth. “This is an island that sets the pace for many feet in the world,” he says, “but I think several years from now we will see the legacy more clearly.”
It’s a legacy Ozuna wants to be a part of. Last year he released his fourth album, ENOC, which saw him return to the roots of old-school reggaeton. It also continued the Ozuna tradition of high-wattage collabs, with Sia and Doja Cat dropping in for features.