#Art + Culture

Meet the rapper Deepa Unnikrishnan aka DEE MC from Gully Boy

There are many rap battles in Gully Boy, directed by Zoya Akhtar. Starring Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt, between the underground artists who drive the film, there is a brief sight of a young lady cheering for the two fighting artists during the first of these scenes. A defiant and feminist musician, best known as Dee MC, is the only woman in the crowd, 25-year-old Deepa Unnikrishnan.

SheThePeople talks with Dee MC on the person behind an intriguing personality and musician.

1. What inspired you to take up rapping, a profession which is mostly male dominated?

My journey towards dance inspired me a lot. I ventured into hip hop through dancing. I have been dancing since I was 5 years old.  I am a trained Bharatnatyam dancer, so the stage isn’t a new place for me. The enthusiasm to perform in front of an audience and the artistic inclination was already inside me.  I took up BBoying ( b-boying/b-girling, is an athletic style of street dance from the United States) when I was 17 but I could not carry it forward. After that I was  extremely interested in rapping, and I started back in 2011. This was after someone saw my cover and introduced me to the rapping industry in Bombay. 

deepa unnikrishnan dee mc

Image Credit: DNA

2.As per one report, just 14.4% of 2019’s leading songwriters are female. Only 2.6% of producers are women. What inhibitions do women face in this field?

I believe this exists in every field. There is a huge need to fight for gender equality.  For women to even reach a particular field, is a huge challenge and struggle. I am not saying that men do not face this at all. The entertainment industry is depicted as an industry which lacks social security. Men also face these struggles but women face them even more. Women are questioned more. People need to start talking about how to solve these problems instead of talking about them now. I feel like men need to be asked these questions now.

3.What were your barriers like in this journey?

It has been a decade of rapping. It is a long road. It has been really inspiring for me. Before 2017, I did not take rapping professionally. There was no environment for it earlier. After 2016, things started looking up for this field. I went to the UK, Belgium and Canada for tours over the years and these international tours have escalated my inspiration. Hip Hop does not bow down to any language barriers. It has been an uphill climb. Frankly, it still is. But now I am focusing on what is in my power. I am extremely proud of what I have achieved as a female rap artist coming from India. The journey is still going on. I like to take a pause and look back at all I have accomplished. 

4.Have you faced condemnation or disapproval from your family or society because of this choice?

I have faced it, in the beginning.It was not very easy for me to make my family and friends understand. But the society, I never really cared about. Logo ka kaam hai kehna, basically. For me, the only people I wanted to persuade were my parents. I have had several conversations with them and now they’re completely fine with it. They are completely fine with it now because they have seen how much more it has given me and no 9 to 5 job could ever do that.But it did come with its own share of trauma and conflict. There were tough days. It was not their fault either because they were also scared for my future. 

Rapper Deepa Unnikrishnan aka DEE MC from Gully Boy talks with SheThePeople about the struggles and successes through becoming a musician

5. The hustle culture often allows for little to no space for mental health. How have you maintained your mental health through this journey?

In a way, all the things that used to make me angry or agitated or stressed, do not get to me now. I am processing my emotions better. I am conserving my energy. I do not respond to things that do not deserve a reaction. People who come to me with negative energies get no response. The pandemic has also helped me gain a hold on my physical health which in turn made me feel better mentally. I started cooking in the pandemic which I have never done before. I am also doing yoga on a regular basis. These small baby steps are helping me a lot. When the city gets to me, I usually visit wilderness, places with preserved natural environment and waterfalls. It does not mean I do not have bad days. Taking one day at a time is the only way I try to look at things. 

6. What would be your straight-up advice to someone who wants to make it in this industry?

Har ek jan ka perspective is different. The reasons for getting into hip hop may be different for everyone. If you want to get into it for fame and luxury, you will quit it as soon as you join it. Think of it as a skill you have to improve life long on. Art works like that. Success may or might not happen overnight. Just focus on what you can do. Focus on how much better you can be. It is not a race. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else’s journey. I met Akala, an extremely famous rapper, in the UK and something he said stuck with me “Before you talk about music. Spend a decade in this career. After a decade, try to suffice with your art. See, if your art is surviving.”