The Emiway-Raftaar Diss War: Here’s The Story So Far
By Bryan Durham - November 7, 2018
As rap battles go, the one between Indian rappers Emiway Bantai and Raftaar has been most entertaining. There’s been much back-and-forth between the two since Emiway dropped a diss track (with a music video) called ‘Samajh Mein Aaya Kya’, Raftaar responded with a (rather produced) response video of his own called ‘Sheikh Chilli’. Leading in to Emiway responding to Raftaar’s response with ‘Giraftaar’.
It all started with Emiway (real name: Bilaal Sheikh) weighing in on certain statements (from what we learn, taken out of context) made by Raftaar (real name: Dilin Nair) about him, via a diss track called ‘Samajh Mein Aaya Kya’ and the state of Indian hip-hop, in general. The lyrics talk about him being self-made and not needing anyone to get to where he is at this point. Despite a telling line where he says he once looked up to Raftaar. And what changed his mind.
This one hit home. Raftaar, who happens to be a mainstream rapper and is also in-demand in Bollywood (he also has a rags-to-riches story) was provoked enough to respond. He shot his response video ‘Sheikh Chilli’ in and around a hangar, making no bones about the fact that he’s dripping in money at this point. He offers his version of the story, implying that Emiway is peddling in half-truths. He even picks on Emiway’s authenticity with blatant name-calling (literally, calling him out on his stage name: Emiway is a play on his inspiration Eminem; also he goes by Sharukh Sheikh when his real name is Bilaal).
He goes on about how the scene is bleeding and that, while hip-hop is growing in India, the opportunities have dried up. He explains in detail why fellow rappers Divine and Naezy (who’ve both had rags-to-riches stories and who Emiway called out) got to where they are (Gully Boys is a Bollywood movie being made on the street hip-hop scene in Mumbai and is supposed to be about their journey). If you’re familiar with Raftaar’s story, you’ll know that he got to where he is by sheer hard-work and consistently succeeding despite hiccups. You are aware of his struggle. How he went from being a backup dancer to an underground rap artist to mainstream success.
The thing about Giraftaar is, at this point, Emiway sounds genuinely offended about Raftaar bringing his religion and name into the narrative. And it shows. He counters each of Raftaar’s barbs with his version of the story, daring him to tell “the truth” about their brief encounter over #Sadak.
That being said, the reason why Emiway enjoys immense popularity despite being an ‘underground’ artist is because of his perceived authenticity. The reason why any rapper’s poetry (or lack of it, in some cases) works in India, is because people find it relatable to an extent that it becomes part of your own reality. Emiway’s journey has been decidedly different from Raftaar’s, in the sense that he takes great pride in never having signed to a label and being ‘truly independent’.
A short explanation about why this is such a big deal. Authenticity in your words is everything in rap. Lose that and you lose your stans. Ask any die-hard fan who’s been part of an artist’s journey right from the start and they’ll tell you their lowest phases was when their idol became a “sellout”. Real-ness matters to anyone who loves hip-hop.
But does going mainstream/commercial for better prospects, take away from your past work or your authenticity? Does it take from your craft?
Which begs the question: Is this a well-orchestrated battle-royale for mutual benefit or is it a genuine all-out diss war between two rappers?>