If the Egyptian musical pantheon is well-known throughout the entire Arab world, with famous artists like Oum Kalthoum or Farid el Atrache, the present has nothing to envy of the past. In recent years, a new scene of young artists influenced by rap and hip hop invaded clubs of Cairo with its unique flow. Focus on five of them …
Arabian Knightz, the singers of the revolution
The Arabian knights could be considered as the patriarchs of Egyptian hip hop scene. Formed in 2005, this trio made up of Rush (Karim Adel), Sphinx (Hesham Abed), and E-Money (Ehab Adel) was discovered with Rebel, featuring Lauryn Hill, a song quickly called by the media « anthem » of the Egyptian revolution of 2011. Composed during this troubled time, the single was censored by the government, who judged it too rebellious. Finally launched on mideasttunes.com, a platform dedicated to alternative musicians in the Middle East, this was the first Egyptian song to be released online the day the internet was restored by the government during the revolution. A year later, the knights of rap released their first album, Uknighted State of Arabia, thanks to a strong network of guerrilla distribution in Egypt, but also the support of international distributors like Itunes and Amazon.
Zap Tharwat, the feminist rapper
This hip hop artist born in Jordan grew up in the middle class from the suburbs of Cairo. Before rapping, Ahmed Tharwat studied engineering for four years. He began by collaborating on the third album of the famous Egyptian rock band Cairokee, el shekka shemal (wrong direction), which also includes the Algerian artist Souad Massi. He writes his own songs and quickly establishes himself as “the rapper who loves women”, with feminist titles that do not hesitate to tackle the machismo of Egyptian society and gender stereotypes. Among his most famous titles: Meen el Sabab (who is responsible?) released in 2014 with Menna Hussein, or Nour with the Egyptian actress Amina Khalil, where he makes fun of the male chauvinism clichés and questions the role of women in the family. In April 2018, he released Al madina (the city), an album in collaboration with Sary Hany, a famous Egyptian musician of film and television, who also signed the Gaza surf Club soundtrack.
El Joker, face of the society
Ahmed Nasser is a young rapper from the suburbs of Cairo. Self-proclaimed the “joker” because he sees society as a game card in which he would incarnate the character, he started his career with poetry, winning a contest at the age of 15. However, he soon turned to rap in order to spread his ideas to a wider audience. For him, the alliance of words and music is the best way to engage with people in a social dialogue. He transmits his messages through titles such as Aya, who speaks of a flowers seller in Egypt, or Efsam 7ad (severe schizophrenia) which evokes the duality of good and evil within each person.
Youssef Altay, a.k.a Abyusif, was born and raised in Zamalek, a posh neighborhood of Cairo. He quickly established himself on the rap scene with dark beats and energetic songs that deal with the problems of everyday life in Egypt. Among his most famous titles, the single Azrael where he talks about success and his career, but also 3azama or Thanos.
Born in Alexandria, Ahmed Ali a.k.a « Wegz » made himself known on social media in 2017 with the song TNT, when he was only 20 years old. A video made with very little budget, using graphics in a Jean Michel Basquiat style, which was quickly shared by more than one million Internet users. He also released Matwalesh (do not follow), a single where he encourages not to follow the society diktats. Since then, he has been using his unique voice in a mix of Egyptian hip-hop, chaabi and Mahrganat.