Rap circles, also known as cyphers, have long stood as a predominant component of the flourishing hip-hop culture in Egypt. In its basic form, a rap circle is a gathering of rappers (surrounded by fans) who take turns spitting bars in freestyle and challenging each other to a battle of words. Born out of a disenfranchised youth movement in the music scene, these circles serve as communitarian mobilizers with their capacity to circumvent social constraints and challenge norms. From Alexandria to Zamalek, and even Sharqiya, we have observed these circles erupting across Egyptian streets.

In Heliopolis, near Merryland, we came across a burgeoning cypher known as EL MAFSH5A - a community of aspiring young rappers. Despite the cold winter night, this group of young artists braved the rain and gathered from all corners of Cairo, driven by only one thing: their love for the rap game. With their gathering featuring an unrestrained flow of ad-lib logorrhea, improvisatory rhythms and gritty unfiltered lyrics with gunfire punctuation, EL MAFSH5A is now playing a pivotal role in nurturing the thriving cypher culture in Egypt.

EL MAFSHA5A was founded by rising Egyptian rapper Ahmed Hossam, better known as 5ash5ash, who was inspired by the rap stylings of his older brother, 3freat, ever since he was young. For Hossam, the art of rap extended beyond mere beat-making. “Growing up, rap wasn’t just music, it was the heartbeat of our home,” 5ash5ash, Founder and CEO of EL MAFSHA5A, tells SceneNoise. “I found solace, energy, and truth in rap, and I wanted to create a community that connects individuals who share these same profound feelings, one that serves as a way of preserving the indomitable essence of rap as well as a catalyst for change in the rap scene.”

Beyond its role as a launching pad for aspiring local rappers, EL MAFSH5AH –one of Egypt’s longest-running rap circles –serves as a breeding ground for networking and opportunities, where emerging talents collide with established hip-hop veterans. “While traditional rap battles often revolve solely around competition, EL MAFSHA5A transcends these conventional boundaries,” 5ash5ash says. “It aims to break molds, and cultivate a space where artists, irrespective of their backgrounds, are given an equal opportunity to shine.”

True to its unfiltered and audacious moniker, the cypher encapsulates the untamed essence of Egyptian rap, with its raw lyrics that defy censorship. “The choice of the name ‘EL MAFSHA5A’ was far from arbitrary. We wanted a name that, both in Arabic and English, fully embodies the unapologetic fierceness of our rap battles and the explosive potential of talents we aim to bring to the forefront of the rap scene,” 5ash5ash explains.

Stepping into the realm of EL MAFSHA5A, though it may seem almost claustrophobic akin to the congested Cairene streets, one is immediately immersed in its aura of infectious beats, impassioned screams, and wild moshpit-like energy. It can simply be described as a liberating atmosphere, a space where artists are free to express their authentic selves. Each performer showcases their rhetorical prowess, technical and linguistic aptitude, as they skillfully borrow, layer and rapture words and rhythms to show up their opponents. “Our rap battles and circles are akin to wildfires, igniting wherever the beats take us,” 5ash5ash says. “We are not confined to a single location, wherever we venture, the palpable and contagious energy of fresh rap resonates, transcending the boundaries of the streets we tread upon.”