Rap music is huge. Spanning from hardcore gangster rap to the realms of RnB, ask anyone you know about who their favourite rapper is and you're sure to get a different answer each time. But while it may not all be about fast cars, women, and bling bling over in our part of the world, if you take steps away from the Kanye, Lil Wayne, and Drake (who I’m convinced Arabs only like because of his beard), and look a bit closer to home, you’ll discover a vast, sprawling underworld of Egyptian MCs and rappers who challenge and sometimes surpass the skill, aggression, and depth of Western artists. Going through and ranking all of top voices in the Egyptian hip-hop scene seems like an impossible task, but here at CairoScene we’ve narrowed the list down to our picks – in no particular order - for five Egyptian rappers we think are killing it in the game right now.
Arguably the biggest old-school influencers in the Egyptian hip-hop scene, the criminally underrated three-piece Arabian Knightz – comprised of rappers Rush and Sphinx, with producer E-Money – set a high bar for Middle East-infused rap since their 2012 debut album Uknighted State of Arabia. Seamlessly transitioning between rapping in English, Egyptian Arabic and fos7a, the Arabian Knightz truly transcend borders with a formidable collaborative force that embodies the hectic mob-mentality of the Wu-Tang clan, and the hardbody, boom-bap style of hip-hop à la Vinne Paz and Immortal Technique. With a socially conscious message to spread, and beats that somehow blend the usually Western genre with the instrumentation and soul of traditional Egyptian music, be prepared for the Arabian Knightz’ worldwide takeover.
Spitfire lyrics and a voice that speaks directly to the youth, 22-year-old Mohamed Ehab is skilled beyond his years. Rapping under the stage name Dawsha, Ehab’s lyrical content is a furious combination of adolescent angst mixed in with his own life experiences; Dawsha treads through success, anger, and heartbreak, leaving no words unsaid as he captivates listeners with his spitfire rapping style and infectious flow. Since his debut track Ah Magroo7 way back in 2012, Dawsha has established himself as a rising star in the Egyptian rap scene, with a dizzyingly large catalog of EPs and singles to boot. Though Dawsha’s sound has evolved rapidly throughout the years, he’s recently taken on a darker, more mature tone to his rhymes, and while there’s no word of an album in the works, we’re always on the lookout to see what Dawsha whips up next.
F Killa (aka Flow Killa, aka Al Moukatel) is Egypt’s rap terminator; he doesn’t let up, seemingly never breathing between verses as he spits furious fire over high-impact, booming beats. From the streets of Shoubra, F Killa has been a rising force in the Egyptian underground since his debut in 2006, collaborating with such local rap titans as Asfalt, Mr. Kordy, and El Zero. Prior to the revolution, F Killa’s lyrical content touched upon the issues facing Egyptian society such as poverty, politics and the 3ashwa2eyat of Cairo, but has since transitioned to rapping about social issues including women’s rights, and the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood Party. Initially part of rap duo Egyskillz with fellow rapper Mak-D, F Killa has since split from the project and started his own solo conquest for the title of rap king.
Okay, we admit it, rapper/producer Youssef Altay (aka Abyusif) is a bit of a favourite of ours around the office. Taking steps away from the socially-conscious rap of his contemporaries, Abyusif’s music is fast-paced and energised, treading through facets of daily life that are purely Egyptian; careful listeners will hear subtle references to life in Cairo interlaced within his blistering braggadocio verses. With tracks dropping on his Facebook or Soundcloud every other day, Abyusif’s blisteringly fast production rate is as matchless - and as frantic - as his multisyllabic rhymes and complex lyrical abilities that hide under the haze of his dark and atmospheric beats. Be they haters, critics, or other rappers, Abyusif is a force of nature - straight outta Zamalek - that absolutely shreds anyone (and everything) standing in his way of claiming rap's throne. His hilariously one-sided beef with Germany-based rapper Hamorabi is all the proof we need.
While born and raised in the city of Mansoura, Ahmad Amin - aka MC Amin - channels east coast U.S hip-hop with an authentically Egyptian spirit and charisma that’s impossible to replicate. MC Amin doesn’t hold back, pulling no punches on almost every track in his eclectically large discography. Innumerable features appear on his records, which, unrestricted by genres, augment the rap heavyweight’s powerful lyrical content. Member of record label Arab League alongside fellow hip-hop influencers Arabian knights, MC Amin first established himself as a colossus in Egypt’s rap underground, and then as voice of anti-Muslim Brotherhood resistance with his satirical track Morsi Fel Kolub, which we think the greatest (and maybe only) anti-president diss track. Ever. Unrestricted by genres, MC Amin’s aggressive, calculating flows bounce over hip-hop, trap, and sha3by beats alike.