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Kid Pharaoh’s “British Museum” Resonates with Egyptians at Home and in the Diaspora

posted on: Feb 1, 2023

By Salma Heram / Arab America Contributing Writer

Kid Pharaoh’s “British Museum” Resonates with Egyptians at Home and in the Diaspora
“British Museum” / @thekidpharaoh via Instagram

In his latest single, “British Museum,” Egyptian-Australian rapper and producer Kid Pharaoh takes a stab at the British monarchy and its long history of imperial exploitation in Egypt. Based in Sydney, Kid Pharaoh voices the feelings of Egyptians when they visit museums in the diaspora, including the one in London that inspired the title of his song. For many Egyptians, one may perhaps feel pride for seeing the work of their ancestors on display and admired by hundreds on a daily basis. However, this is quickly overcome by feelings of rage at the exploitation of their country, mixed in with hurt and sorrow for the suffering of their people. 

Kid Pharaoh encompasses these mixed feelings in sharp, to-the-point lyrics, along with a music video of the same name. Produced and directed by Kid Pharaoh, the song and accompanying music video imagines a heist and Egyptian takeover of the British Museum. Throughout the song, Kid Pharaoh asserts that he will “hit the British Museum and take everything back.” Riddled with underlying satire and sarcasm, both the lyrics and music video criticize British imperialism, while also celebrating Egyptian culture in a proud, at times humorous way. Follow along as we take a deep dive into analyzing the song and music video, which is split up into three acts. 

Act I: Avenge the Ancestors / الانتقام للأسلاف

The music video begins with an alarm resounding throughout the museum, cutting to scenes of different ancient Egyptian artifacts through security cameras. The song’s intro repeats “London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down.” Kid Pharaoh is seen walking into the museum wearing a mask, which takes the viewer only a second to realize it is a mask of the late Queen Elizabeth II. He then takes off the mask as he walks up to a mummy case and begins to rap the chorus of the song: “Imma hit the British Museum and take everything back/ Can’t nobody hit me and think that I ain’t gon’ hit back.” As he repeats these plans, the background music features a “zaghrouta” that’s hard to miss, a celebratory tongue-trilling sound used to express joy in Egyptian and Arab culture. 

“Act I: Avenge the Ancestors” / @thekidpharaoh via Instagram

Kid Pharaoh goes on to share more of his heist plans with forceful, curt lyrics with a fast beat: “London Bridge is down / Imma fly up into town/ Pay my respects to the fallen crown / Imma fade into the crowd/ While there ain’t no guards around.” The listener realizes that Kid Pharaoh plans to utilize the Queen’s funeral as a distraction to raid the British Museum, using this “perfect timing” to “hit em while their guard down/ Just like they did our town.” As he shares these plans, he stares directly at the mummy case, as if directly telling his ancestors how he will avenge them.

The song’s beat then slows lightly as Kid Pharaoh lowers his voice for a sort of sarcastic diss-track at British colonizers asking them “How you got a wall full of my history on a bookshelf,  man, where’d you get that?” and “How much did you pay for that?” Of course, Egyptians like Kid Pharaoh know that these artifacts were stolen, and often exploited Egyptian labor in order to extract the artifacts and ship them to England. Act I ends with a tease for the next act, saying that “It’s about to be a whole lot of Egyptians in London” and “I might hit the palace and come for your crown.” 

Act II: The Egyptian Occupation of Britain/ الاحتلال المصري لبريطانيا 

Kid Pharaoh’s “British Museum” Resonates with Egyptians at Home and in the Diaspora
Egyptian settler / @kidpharaoh via Instagram

Act II of the music video imagines a scenario of reverse-colonialism, in which Egyptians take over Britain. Featuring a plethora of nods to Egyptian culture, this scene is a perfect balance of satire and cultural pride and fills the viewer with joy after an angry first act. The scene opens to an Egyptian man feeling right at home in the British Museum, watching soccer on TV while relaxing in his galabiya and tarboosh. He snacks on lib, or sunflower seeds, while taking puffs of his shishah, or hookah pipe. Sitting on the table next to him is a bag of El Aroosa Tea, an iconic tea brand found in every Egyptian household. Next to it, a picture of Princess Diana and her Egyptian boyfriend Dodi Fayed, who died alongside her in 1997. Princess Diana is beloved throughout the Arab world, so it seems that including a photo of her here indicates that she is an exception to the evils of the British monarchy.

“Act II: The Egyptian Occupation of Britain” / @thekidpharaoh via Instagram

As the Egyptian settler passionately shouts at the soccer game on TV while snacking on the lib, a clearly distraught museum director tries to ask him to leave, saying that his behavior “is not appropriate for the museum.” The man is astounded by her comment, responding in Arabic: “What museum? Look around, these are all my relatives! This is my family. This is my aunt’s house lady, go away!” As she persists, he continues to refuse, gesturing to the various mummies and saying that one is his grandmother, while the other is his mother’s aunt’s cousin. As such, he is surprised by her audacity to try to kick him out of “his family’s home.” The woman angrily leaves, presumably to find security.

Act III: Restitution/ تعويض

In the final act of the music, Kid Pharaoh once again appears in the same museum room as Act I. This time, however, the artifacts are gone from their previous cases and stands, while Kid Pharaoh raps “take a hundred million off the shelf then I’m headed back to Cairo.” The music video ends with the mask of Queen Elizabeth’s face abandoned on the floor of the museum, accompanied by a final zaghrouta. The song itself, however, includes one more verse not included in the video, in which Kid Pharaoh returns the artifacts back to the people of Egypt. In these final lines, Kid Pharaoh affirms that he “took the artifacts, gave them back to the streets” where he gave the to “kids that look just like [him]” and reminded them that they’re all kings and queens. He celebrates that everyone will be able to eat now, as they have enough “to feed the whole town.”

Kid Pharaoh’s “British Museum” Resonates with Egyptians at Home and in the Diaspora
Act III: Restitution” / “British Museum” Music Video via YouTube

Calls for the Return of Egyptian Artifacts

Throughout the “British Museum” song and music video, Kid Pharaoh skillfully pairs his Egyptian culture with his western upbringing. The Western-style rap lyrics and beat are accompanied by samples of Arab string instruments and the repeating characteristic zaghrouta. The music video, along with Kid Pharaoh’s carefully constructed lyrics, takes viewers and listeners along for a revenge heist riddled with a flurry of different emotions. Kid Pharaoh successfully evokes these feelings in his audience, with the rage-filled assertions in act I, the satire, humor, and pride in act II, and the serenity and calm in act III. Many Egyptians in the diaspora will agree that the “British Museum” successfully filled the gap needed to express these different attitudes towards British imperialist exploitation of their country. As petitions arise calling for the Rosetta Stone to be returned to Egypt, Kid Pharaoh seems to take a Gen-Z spin on these calls, mobilizing people in a unique way.

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