5 Egyptian Rappers That Have Populated the Arab Rap Scene
By: Noureldin Mohamed/Arab America Contributing Writer
The Egyptian rap scene has seen different transformations from the likes of Ahmed Fishawy, MC Amin, ZAP Tharwat and Ahmed Mekky to Mr. Kordy (more gangster rap) and Abyusif, up until our more modern, younger rappers. Egyptian rap cross-section between hip hop and shaabi, a mix of flute, drums, and often oud.
These Egyptian Arab rappers have used their voices and lyrical greatness to achieve a spot on the floor with mixed arguments on who deserves to be king of the Egyptian rap scene. Starting off with the famous Soundcloud app for more underground rappers, they increased their fame through Apple Music, Spotify, and releasing music videos on YouTube. The modern rappers have gained some fame from youtubers all around the world. Although many do not understand the language, they do like the beat and vibes they give off.
Starting with the young, Wegz; he reaches almost 70 million impressions. The rapper is out to get on top. His song “T.N.T” broke him out for his upbeat and rather lyrical motivation schemes. His words may not all sound familiar, but the Alexandrian 22-year-old is one of the rising young rappers in the city. With almost 690,000 followers on Instagram, his unique voice outshines others like him. Currently, he has been succeeding in collecting advertisements, international collaborations, with his goals yet to be known for Spotify’s most-streamed Arab artist.
Next up, Marwan Moussa who grew up in Cairo and is based in Los Angeles, California adds interesting hooks, a profound aesthetic in his videos, and a flush sound. Moussa first got into rapping after seeing the movie 8 Mile in 2004. “My friend Omar (and I) would listen to Eminem, 50 Cent, The Game every day on our way to school and back. We felt like we were the only people listening to rap in Egypt.” Moussa faded out of producing and rapping, and after high school in 2012, he went to Rome to study film. In 2014, he was re-infected by the hip hop bug when he “heard the sound of 808s and rolling hi-hats in trap music and wanted to recreate that,” diving back into producing and freestyling in English. After graduating in 2016, he returned from Rome to Egypt: that’s when Moussa decided to rap in Arabic. Marwan Moussa’s tracks are distinctive. He evokes a timelessness in his music, employing styles both old school and cutting edge. His sound is characterized by “warm melodies that evoke some sort of emotion. And very clear drums.” When it comes to lyrical matter, he enjoys comedy, and his tangled flow of thoughts takes you on a stream of consciousness joyride “where we follow words and see where they will take us,” though Moussa claims he will always “make sure to reveal something about myself in the process.” He abhors anything sounding inauthentic or forced.
Another Marwan who has gained fame but later retired for personal reasons, Marwan Pablo. The Alexandria native has spoken, last month, about withdrawing from the public eye, and ultimately, retiring. Just two weeks ago, the rapper went live on Instagram and spoke candidly about his exasperation with the burgeoning trap music scene in Egypt that he has been at the forefront of, claiming that it has lost its way and damning it for its lack of variety and originality. In 2019, Pablo racked up millions of views on YouTube, with his trap anthem ‘Free’ reaching the top of YouTube’s trending chart in Egypt within days of release in November. Fans have speculated online about the rapper’s mental state, with many suggesting that he is displaying signs of depression and burnout – topics that are rarely spoken in the realm of celebrity in the Middle East.
(Skip to 2:32 for the full song)
Some others chose English over Arabic rap. Timmy and his companion NOVO told Scene Noise, “Living in California and living in Egypt for 13 years each, I have somewhat of an identity crisis,” he explains. “And I feel a lot of people in our generation are going through the same thing. Expressing myself in English is just a product of what I have been through in my life. So, I feel it’s time people started learning to take art as-is and not critique everything from a biased standpoint. If YAYO has come out in America or Europe, you wouldn’t be asking me why I decided to do ‘YAYO’ in English”. Other rappers like Rush and Sfnx, members and founders of Arabian Knightz along with E-Five, Kordy, and Pharoahgamo, also started out and continue to rap in English to this day. So maybe it all depends on what you intend to achieve in your career and who do you want your music to impact, Is it grabbing Arab listeners or do you want to grab everyone’s attention, including the US and Europe? It’s clear that every artist has a path mapped out for him/her self, and some might disagree with diverting hip hop from its original English form.
Lastly, is the 23-year-old, Shahyn. His lyrics are inspired by what average people in Egypt and in the Arab world feel. He is inspired also by their daily life situations and even uses Egyptian slangs that are easy to understand and which promotes deep morals. He blends that with the Rap Old School essence and gives it a unique Egyptian and Arab flavor that is so different from other Arab rappers who copycat the foreign legacy of rap which alienates them.
One of the landmarks in his career was starring in the movie Microphone in 2010 which introduced the underground music world to people in Egypt. Shahyn made a very remarkable appearance in the movie which gained him more fans and publicity. In February 2014, Shahyn was one of the main performers in the biggest Hip-hop event in Egypt “Hip-hop All Stars Vol. I.” The event included 2 concerts in a row, the first one was in ‘Bibliotheca Alexandrina’ in Alexandria, and the second one which took place in El Sawy Culture Wheel in Cairo.
Shahyn is now a member of Y-Crew; his aim is to make Arabic hip hop culture wider in the Arab world. He is distinguished because he loves helping any rapper taking his first steps in this area by giving Rap workshops, passing his experience to others. He is also working on many collaboration tracks with different rappers from Egypt and other countries.
Along with putting the final touches to the “Y-Crew” new album, recently in 2015, Shahyn and Y-Crew have established their first official studio and art space in Alexandria under the name of “Empire Studios.” It’s where Shahyn started his career as a rap coach and it’s where he established a new school called, “Y-Fan” with the help of his crew and some talented friends whom also happen to be professional artists in different fields. The Y-Fan is a platform which basically gathers all the Y-Crew fans who can rap, breakdance, DJ, and do graffiti art. In addition, it gathers any fans that are willing to join the hip hop culture and learn more about it and become professional artists with a cultural background.
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