In today’s saturated and try-hard rap-zeigeist of dyed dreadlocks, dollar sign pseudonyms, full-time stylists, curated social media pages and mumble-rap machismo, Abyo stands out by being nothing more than his authentic self - from the crocs on his toes to the constant crazy on the tip of his tongue.
Last spring we met Abyo, as he’s affectionately known, in his spacious high-rise apartment where you immediately get the feeling you’re traipsing right into his brain box. The first thing you notice is the combination of fluorescent primitive graffiti and black etchings scattered literally all over the walls of the house, reminiscent of a man incarcerated – likely in this case inside his own thoughts. He keeps several sofas lined up against one wall as if those who enter should sit and get comfortable for the theater about to unfold - and for eight hours, he was in just the right mood to give us the full unabashed Abyusif show.
Constantly shifting and convulsing, speaking in metaphors and a barrage of witticisms that has our crew laughing in stitches half the time, he shape-shifts between the thuggish, flamboyant bravado we’re used to seeing in his music videos, to Youssef Altay the more insecure former advertising executive who was sat in his parents house seven years ago, producing tracks for a niche and secluded group of rap enthusiasts using a microphone in a cupboard. This was at a time when hearing rap in any sort of mainstream media was absolutely unthinkable in Egypt. In fact, it was looked down upon – and yet, seemingly overnight, Abyusif found fame – or perhaps fame found him. In a sudden turn of events, he became the poster boy and ignition for a new subculture that toppled the commercial stranglehold on the rock-band obsessed musical bandwidth of the country's youth. Cue sold out concerts of ten thousand people, corporate sponsorships and hundreds of millions of online views.
Over the course of the interview, Abyusif navigates us through both his own and the scene's transition into becoming mainstream, and the constant need to evolve his lyrics-first sound within an ever aggressive rap landscape. He talks about the erratic attachment he has with his fans, dives deep into the state of the rap scene today, and about joining the El Mexic collective. He contemplates where his own future might lie – and the notorious beef between him and a certain former friend, Marwan Moussa, that made Egyptian rap the top ten trending videos in the country.
This is an unfiltered, frenzied wormhole into the rise of a legendary Egyptian rapper who has seen it all, and has it etched on the walls.
Video by SceneNoise | MO4 Network
Creative Producer: Timmy Mowafi
Director: Ayman Alaa
Cinematographer: Ahmed Reda, Mohammed Kordy
Editor: Menna Badran
VFX: Omar Abd Elghany
Gaffer: Ahmed Gamal
Photography: Mahmoud El-Beleehy