The Middle Eastern music scene is taken by storm every year with new, shapeshifting, waves of sounds, helmed by progressive artists who fearlessly subvert the past, to transpire the future. While nitpicking these releases to compile our annual list is getting harder by the year, it's still an honorable, fascinating process putting together all these groundbreaking works of musical expression into one list. From the dominating trap current that has experienced its own regional transformation, to the post shaabi wave where the influential genre has seeped into a multitude of musical spheres, to the avant-garde electronica that couldn't care less about your opinion and to the genre-bending inbetweens blurring the lines, it's safe to say it's been an excellent year for the Middle East scene. Here are the top 50 albums, in no particular order, that have high-handedly broken waves and equally induced us multiple ear worms throughout the year. Dive in to find out who made it to the list and click on the titles below to listen, and find out more about each release.
Shabjdeed & AlNather - Sindibad El Ward
Ever since Ramallah’s BLTNM crew announced their arrival in late 2017, all regional music enthusiasts and followers figured something big was brewing. Over the span of the imprint’s 20 releases, the collective’s sonic imprint slowly materialized leading to up Shabjdeed & Al Nather’s Sindibad El Ward. This album could easily be counted amongst the most influential rap releases in the Middle East over the past decade thanks to its incredibly solid production, courtesy of Al Nather, and insanely intertwined lyricism, wordplay and storytelling by Shabjdeed. Another area where it stands out is the fact that Shabjdeed chooses to address the day to day life in Ramallah without making the Palestinian cause his main focus. The solid 13 track LP is a statement to Palestinian musical innovation, originality and is arguably one of the most cohesively packaged bodies of work to ever emerge from the Middle East.
Carl Gari & Abdullah Miniawy - The Act of Falling from the 8th Floor
Famed Egyptian poet, trumpeter and singer Abdullah Miniawy's entry to this list arrives in the form of his latest conceptually gripping six-track electro sufi EP The Act of Falling from the 8th Floor. Based on a central encompassing poem in the track 'B'aj', Abdullah recites his journey as he free falls from said floor, reflecting upon the different stages through surreal politically charged poetry. Whilst morbid in nature, The Act of Falling from the 8th Floor equally presents itself as a slow burning catharsis of the senses. Read our in-depth review of this release.
Yunis + Ibrahim X - Kafr ElDauwar (Ya Khal)
Signaling their arrival with booming shaabi arrangements, affluent lyricism and an affinity to mark territory, Kafr El-Dauwar Records are perhaps one of the most exciting entries to the Egyptian scene this year. With their debut LP Ya Khal by co-founder, producer and keyboardist Yunis and singer/performer Ibrahim X - the collective paved the way for their lyricist and founder Suliman to fully pan out his vision of delivering a nabatshi (MC)-driven mahraganat experience. Culminating from a gloriously collaborative effort by the KDR family, which also includes their visual curator and international photographer Fathi Hawas. Ya Khal features party starting tracks such as 'Awa2' and 'Al Mesa Altayer' which are imprinted by Ibrahim X's commanding delivery, colorful musicality and tangible thematics. For a more in-depth review on this release, check out our previous article.
Jowan Safadi - Stay Away From the Mid-Evil East and Sing for it
From starting the first and only Arab-Jewish group to come out of the Middle East, to being detained in Jordan on charges of blasphemy in between performances, to starring in Fernando Romero’s film Namrud - the Haifa-based Palestinian singer/songwriter’s second solo LP sees him capitalize on his same satirical yet evocative approach, cementing it as an anthem-laden magnum opus that doesn’t lack the controversy with tracks like ‘The Police Song’ and ‘All Conspired Against Us’ and ‘Tired’. Revisit our full review of Jowan's album here.
NAAR - Safar
Released under Moroccan collective and record label NAAR as an international collaborative LP, Safar stands out as one of the most promising undertakings in regional trap this year in terms of its lyrical themes, production value and concept. Charged with the globally conscious premise that music surpasses language barriers, the 16-track LP features Moroccan rap heavyweights Shayfeen and trap sensation Issam's darija effortlessly intermingled with both French and Italian rap by the likes of Laylow in soaring flow. With tracks like 'Babor' that shed light on the constrictive travel restrictions that Moroccans face in their European travels, Safar accurately depicts realities with conviction and hard hitting trap.
ABOsahar - The Caveman
Hailing from upper Egypt's Al Minya, singer, producer, DJ and MC ABOsahar and his self-dubbed ‘trobby’ music, a PC music-laden form of shaa'bi, saw its first full-length release, and it's beyond potent. Being a self-taught musician, ABOsahar completely abandons common nuances in his music, resulting in an exhilarating, refreshing take on shaabi. With highlights such as 'Hangover', 'Farah Al Minya' and recent video single 'Msh 7az Laa Shatara', ABOsahar takes us a one way trip to his world of trobby, and we're not coming back anytime soon. Read our review of this release.
De.Ville - Sables
Montreal-based duo Simon Pierre and Ziad Qoulaii aka De.Ville released their groundbreaking debut album Sables in November of 2018, however its impact was felt well throughout 2019 as it went on to win Canada’s GAMIQ World Music Album of the Year award. Sables succeeds where the other so called 'genre-bending' albums fail, by sounding nowhere near an experiment. This is not an album that you award an A for effort to and move on. Whether it’s truly the case or not, De.Ville crafted this LP like they knew exactly what they wanted to come up with. It’s almost as if they’ve been secretly cooking this soundtrack to globalization in their basement for years. So let go of your quest to decipher and deconstruct it, and accept the fact that the album amalgamates funk, soul, jazz, hip hop, raï, opera afro-beat and tarab so effortlessly and in a way that’s so unprecedented to the point where it’s head-turning. Find out more about this album in our interview with De.Ville.
Land of Kush - Sand Enigma
Widely-revered Egyptian assembler, composer and musician Sam Shalabi Land of Kush, guided his Land of Kush orchestra through a fourth, genre-defying album this year entitled Sand Enigma. Owing to a cutting-edge combination of Montreal's post-punk rock/indie scene with Arabic classical instrumentation and free jazz, Sand Enigma is a nuanced, instrumentally and vocally rich expression of the multifaceted relationships Shalabi formed between Montreal and Cairo. Read our full review here.
Aghane Servicet - Al Hajj Transportation
Inciting comical hysteria with his high octane political satire in Aghane Servicet, Lebanese composer, director, screenwriter, songwriter and Beirut-ian cabaret aficionado Hisham Jaber brought in an arsenal of talented drama inducers such as Maryam Saleh, Yasmina Fayed and Sandi Shamo'un to bring his sardonic vision to life. The result of discrete research and harmless eavesdropping, Aghane Servicet is a project that follows different protagonists as they hitch on a ride in Beirut's public transport, also known as ‘servicet’, and the hilarity that ensues after. From Yasmina Fayed's sassy 'Wazwaz ElMoto' that sees her fall for a heartthrob biker boy who has a thing or two for catcalling, to Maryam Saleh's unequivocally salty love song 'Ya Habibi (or Cholestrol)', Al Hajj Transportation is shameless, bold and downright hilarious. Head to our full review on this release for an in-depth look into the album.
Ritza - Shoofi
Egyptian singer/songwriter Maii Waleed’s electro pop outfit - Ritza formed in 2015, but up until this year they only had one release single to their name. In May, the band finally dropped their debut EP Shoofi. The four-track release combines new and old material that they’ve previously performed but never issued like “Tafha” and the title track along with “Ard Fadya” and their unqiue rendition of Nagat AlSaghira’s classic “Bahlam Maak”. Impeccably produced and thought out, with a solidly original aesthetic that doesn’t stray far from mass appeal, Ritza managed to capture us with their spaced out, dreamy and uplifting sound that doesn’t shy away from bolstering punchy kicks, fat synths or distorted soundscapes. Check out our full review.
Kosh - Keep Hope Alive
Morocco’s Kosh is one of the vital figures behind the countries stellar dance music imprint Casa Voyager. Contributing in three of the label’s five releases - Kosh forced his consistent electro signature into many DJs’ record bags owing to the sheer force, diversity and consistency of his productions. The dynamo’s third release Keep Hope Alive (CSV05) features five impressionable cuts suitable for multiple slots and energy levels, while still maintaining a common retro influence owing to dusty synths and strings, fast, hypnotic lazerish textures and warm pads. Check out our full review of EP.
MSYLMA - Dhil-un Taht Shajarat Al-Zaqum
Archaic Arabic poetry meets contorting electronica in perhaps one of the most progressive releases this year. Released as Mecca-based MSYLMA's debut, Dhil-un Taht Shajarat Al-Zaqum, which translates to ‘A shade under the Zaqum Tree', is an 11-track transcendental record featuring bone-churning productions from frequent collaborator Zuli, 1127 and the Saudi artist himself. In tracks like 'Min Bab AlKamal-i w AlDawam', the perfect marriage of dismembered electronic beats, spine-chilling vocals, subversive lyricism and shapeshifting textures is witnessed — and it's beautifully harrowing.
Abyusif - Tamam
2019 has been a release-filled year for Egyptian rap don Abyusif who amongst his plethora of releases, dropped his only EP of 2019 - Tamam. In the span of six tracks, the release combines Abyusif’s rapping and singing personas with his rightfully boastful lyrics and frequent, tongue-in-cheek belittlement of other rappers in the scene. Tamam is also loaded with beat switches, and is entirely produced by Abyusif himself except for ‘Maktkhafish’ which was produced by long-time collaborator Zuli.
Bader Azem - 12:00 AM
Through his classic pop sensible mix of rock, hip-hop and indie, Jordan- based Palestinian producer, singer and shapeshifter Bader Azem earned a spot on this year's list with his daring 15-track LP 12:00 AM. Known to the die-hard rap fans as the tattoo-clad trap producer Wikidz, Bader unveiled a completely obscure side to his musical career. Throughout the record, Azem is keen on exploring various lyrical themes, from fighting personal demons in 'Qseet Alth’eb’, to searching for his lover in 'Feek Tkoon’, to 'Alshran' where a sleepless Azem struggles with his expanding thoughts, 12:00 AM is extremely emotive in its delivery and almost nocturnal in its mood.
Maurice Louca - Elephantine
[Northern Spy/Sub Rosa]
Five years after his seminal LP Salute the Parrot, Egyptian maverick and elusive composer Maurice Louca went on to work on several projects including Lekhfa alongside Maryam Saleh and Tamer Abu Ghazaleh, and Dwarfs of East Agouza in collaboration with Sam Shalabi and Alan Bishop. 2019 marked his solo return with release of Elephantine. While completely leaving behind his electro shaabi inspired work, Louca revealed six tracks of mesmerizing, yet challenging avant-jazz, played by a 12-piece ensemble of musicians from Italy, Iraq, Sweden, Turkey and Denmark. Read more about Elephantine in our full review.
PanSTARRS - PanSTARRS
Lead by radically experimental musician Youssef Abouzeid, PanSTARRS charges forward with ravishingly boisterous grunge in their eight-track eponymous LP. Treading multiple lyrical and musical themes, both personal and impersonal, PanSTARRS shift gears throughout the record - From the explosive chorus of 'Blur', to the sinister notes of 'Sonic', to the faint indie of 'Gesm Gedeed' that sees Youssef re-imagining his life in another body. Equally discordant and fragile in its sonic and lyrical delivery, PanSTARRS does not seize to deliver an impactful, relatable record with brazen originality. For a more in-depth review on this release, check out our article.
Sotusura - Saleh Alalhan
After nearly 20 years into his music career as a hip hop DJ, producer and turntablist around the Middle East. Palestinian/Jordanian artist Hicham Ibrahim aka Sotusura finally released his debut album Saleh Alalhan after a successful crowdfunding campaign. The release saw Sotusura flaunt his boom bap background while utilizing vinyl samples he collected over the years from Abdel Halim, Oum Kolthoum, Fairuz, Warda, Najat and more. Saleh Alalhan makes for a neatly thought out concept that’s carried out in equally satisfying quality. Revisit our interview with Sotusura for the full story.
Nass El Hal - Quand comprendras-tu? (Remixes)
One of Morocco's biggest gnawa acts in modern history is Nass El Ghiwane who reached global fame in the ‘70s with their eclectic take on gnawa that combined the traditional Moroccan genre with various styles and elements, resulting in their own unique gnawa blend that was dubbed 'the ghiwani style’ and in turn led to them being dubbed “The Rolling Stones of Africa”. Years and generations later, two of the group's original members Allal Yaala and Redouane Raifak re-joined forces to form the new trans-generational project Nass El Hal who gave us their March 2019 album Quand comprendras-tu? or When Will You Understand? Keen to re-invent their style and fuse it with the sounds of today's electronic music scene. Through cherry picking between many regional and international producers, Nass El Hal settled on a number of household name regional producers producers such as Morocco's very own Adil Hiani, Syria's Hello Psychaleppo, Tunisian acts Arabstazy and Ammar 808 and French act Ghost of Christmas to remix and rework their album. Expect to hear it all from minimal, to DnB, to Italo-disco. Read our full article on this release.
Ousso Loutfy - Khashab W Kahraba
Over the years, Egyptian guitarist Ousso Lotfy cemented himself as one of the most sought after instrumentalists in the Middle East. With over a decade in the music business, as a composer, producer, sound engineer and founder of online tutorial platform Ewsal Bel3araby, Ousso had never released an artist album, even though he started the process of recording his own material as early as 2013 while pursuing his masters degree in Berklee, Valencia. Finally dropping this year, Khashab W Kahraba is Lotfy’s double sided debut LP - a 15-track Arabic jazz fusion experience that was recorded and arranged twice, exploring different arrangements, guitars and musical backgrounds.
Yazan Sarayrah - Sharq Ettabana
We first caught whiff of Jordan’s Yazan Sarayrah aka Slayts during the second edition of Chill O’posite festival in Dahab, Egypt. His final performance on the final day of the festival, and particularly his song ‘Satr Jdeed’ sent several crowd members into a trance prompting to turn like Sufi whirling dervishes. Fast forward nearly a year, the one-man-band independently released his debut album featuring that same hypnotic track along with other bedouin inspired experimental tunes that bolster his psychedelic sound featuring translated Ben Howard covered entitled ‘Nsoni’ and another of Lebanese ‘70s icon and mustache-man extraordinaire Tony Hanna’s ‘Yaba Yaba’ which makes for an all round refreshing sonic experience.
Galaxy Juice - Pantagonia
In 2014, the psychedelic-pop focused “band from outer space” took the Kuwaiti music scene by storm with their first official album Crystal Dunes. Two years later, their debut album was followed by Timenesia including the hit single ‘Let’s Hide in the Dust’. In February of 2019, Galaxy Juice re-invented their sound with Pantagonia which they described as a “futuristic, weird, shimmering, pulsating and bright blast of dream pop”. Going for a more uplifting sonic signature, the band showcased a more indie feel to their sound while still holding on to psychedelic elements on tracks like ‘Surrender’. Read more about this album here.
Various Artists - Dar Disku 001
Bahraini duo Mazen AlMaskati and Vish Mhatre aka Dar Disku released the first EP on their eponymous label this past January featuring two tracks; their own edit of a Syrian wedding sing Sarya Al Sawas’ ‘Bas Asma3 Mini’ along with an edit of an Indonesian ‘60s classic entitled ‘Ya Mahmud’ by Irish producer Jamal Sul aka Moving Still, whom they signed the deal with over some Peking duck in Dublin. The outcome? Two dance inducing Italo-like reworks that maintain their originals’ vintage providing for an unprecedented experience both musically and from a pure cultural perspective. Revisit our interview with duo here.
Islam Chipsy & EEK - Kahraman
There’s no denying that Egyptian electro shaabi pioneer, producer and keyboardist Islam Chipsy and his backing drummers Eslam Tata’ and Khaled Mando are a sheer force of nature. In fact, they’re no longer national icons but rather global figures in the world of alternative music, currently featuring on bills alongside the like of Nina Kraviz, Laurel Halo and Joy Orbison to name a few, thank to their fierce and unrelenting live performance. This year, through longtime ally Mahmoud Refaat’s 100Copies imprint, Chipsy dropped his follow up the iconic Trinity - Kahraman, a six-track EP containing material that’s long been a part of his live set for the past few years including the instantly recognizable ‘El Daynasour’. Kahraman holds one beast of a track selection that will undoubtedly be many people’s gateway into the hard hitting universe of Islam & EEK’s electro shaabi, that does it all except convey their live show energy, which is hard to convey in recording.
Rational Soul - RS1
Mannheim-based Algerian DJ/producer Selim Bouziri aka Wave Particle Singularity has been on our radar for the past two years thanks to meticulously craft lo-fi and minimal productions, and fast-rising profile amongst the European circuit. With releases on Silencio, MomentZ, Soundterasse, Momentum, Moral Fibre, DBH-Music and the newly established After:FX imprint, Selim took some time this year to dig in his previous productions - Deciding to release his re-imagining of Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ along with other edits of his under his new Moniker - Rational Soul. The self-titled vinyl only release draws on his signature, lush minimal and house textures making for killer tools that are extremely enjoyable whether you’re on the dance floor or driving your car to or from a club.
Lege-Cy - 181-191
Featuring tight productions by the rapper himself, Egyptian artist Lege-Cy's four-track EP 181-191 is a diverse exploration the rapper's different rhythms and rap styles. From 'Fata ElShasha's banging trap to 'Yakhoya's classic old school verses, '191-181' truly highlights the rappers unique, original voice within Egypt's rap game. Garnering critical and commercial success with Lege-cy's solid bars and intricate productions, 181-191 certainly deserves a spot on this year's list.
Various Artists - Cairo Concepts by Phil Battiekh
Legend has it that Swiss artist and man-with-watermelon-for-a-face; Phil Battiekh fell in love with mahraganat on the streets of Cairo while studying Arabic a number of years ago. He then took it upon himself to help spread the infectious genre around with globe with his mixtapes, mahraganat club night and DJ sets around Europe. This year the Swiss electro-shaabi ambassador and melon-man set off an adventure to showcase that mahraganat sound left the confines of Egypt and is now inspiring producer around the world from Philly’s DJ Haram, to Australia’s DJ Plead with his Cairo Concepts compilation. The release also features a killer avant shaabi cut from upcoming mystery producer 3Phaz, appearances by Alaa 50 and Nustaliga. Check out our interview with Phil Battiekh. Check out our interview with Phil Battiekh for the full story.
J!N - pink stm & wite ptl
Born of ambient fluff, decaying trip-hop and dreamy vocals, Egyptian producer J!N's HIZZ-signed double sided LP pink stm & wite ptl is a mesmerizing exploration of sound. On side a's 'pink stm', J!N experiments in with ghost-like vocal projections that echo in and out the soft beat pulses in tracks such as the vulnerable 'stretch marks'. Where as in side b's 'wite ptl', all musical structures disintegrate, leaving room for J!N to accompany us on a lush ambient purification as the LP bids its farewell. Check out our review of J!N’s album here.
Various Artists - Under Frustration Vol. 2 by Arabstazy
Channeling electronic anarchy, Tunisian collective Arabstazy's Under Frustration Vol. 2 is here to dissolve the musical status quo. Subverting identities and its corresponding labels, the collective embarks on a state of faceless anonymity—a musical democracy for the new age. Bringing in electronic music savants such as DJ Haram, Praed and Hello Psychaleppo to the mix, Under Frustration Vol. 2 is colorfully saturated with break-beats, shattered samples and progressively futuristic outlooks that has us equally excited for volume three. Check out our in-depth review here.
Papa Soul - Moody Type Love
Released under his own record label Feedasoul, Lebanese producer Papa Soul's three-track EP Moody Type Love re-interprets lo-fi, deep house with offsetting breaks, warm white noise, nifty samples and relentless grooves. In 'Smiles In Her Eyes', Papa Soul lays down smooth vocal lines as the track gains momentum while on 'Flirt' we hear a tangled, syncopated beat, long awaiting its release. Effortlessly gliding through his four on the floors, Papa Soul earned his spot on this list with his nuanced house.
Various Artists - Kombile 002
Drenched in sharp edged textures, warped dysfunctional rhythm and fleeting vocal lines, HIZZ's Kombile 002 arrives as the second edition of the record label's riotous compilation. Featuring innovative, genre-bending producers such as KZLK, Ismail Seleit, 1127, Onsy, 'Kombile 002' shines through. From Fuzzy Little Brain's tantalizingly eerie avant-rock of 'EARPLAY' to Kafr El Duawar's composer and producer YUNIS's lucid, garage-y shaa'bi of 'Balad ElMillion Ragel', the compilation expands upon the sonic understanding of regional electronic music, dismantling any rigid preconception it had left. Check our full review of this release.
Issam Hajali - Mouasalat Ila Jacad El Ard
Habibi Funk records re-released the 1976 debut album of Lebanese band Ferkat Al Ard's lead singer and composer, Issam Hajali. Comprising a harmonious meld of guitar-folk and jazz and lyrics borrowed from Palestinian Samih al-Qasim's poetry, Mouasalat Ila Jacad El Ard is a deeply personal account of Hajali's experience following exile from Lebanon during the Syrian occupation with an inspiring story behind its re-release. Read our article on the release for more info.
Acid Arab - JDID
At the core of the Paris-based outfit Acid Arab is a determination to deepen the dialogue between the northern, eastern and southern coasts of the Mediterranean, however without attempting to reinvent MENA region's sound. Their latest, electronic-raï LP, JDID, comprises an organic fusion of Arab melody and western techno beats, featuring vocals from Algerian artists Radia Menel, Sofiane Saidi, Amel Wahby and Cheikha Hadjla. Read our full article about the release.
Grup Ses & Elektro Hafiza - Varyete
Turkish, Cologne-based experimental artist Elektro Hafiz and Istanbul's established beat-maker Grup Ses collaborated to release a playful, psychedelic album, Varyete, on London-based record label Zel Zele. Guided by Elektro Hafiz, Side A is laced with a congruous combination of trance and groove. Grup Ses's Side B features classic hip-hop beats, Arab melodies and creeping macabre vocals. The duo's release is testimony to the robustness and expandability of the Anatolian psychedelia genre. Read more about Varyete here.
The Maghreban - Islands
Previously know for producing strictly hip hop beats under the alias Dr Zygote, recently, the Egyptian, London-based artist Ayman Rostom, revived his dance music alias - The Maghreban, and rekindled the meld of his hip hop know-how with house. His 17th release under this moniker, titled Islands, is a four-track EP of rhythmic and somewhat dark jungle house which inhibits that meaty beat he, as Dr Zygote, spent 16 years refining.
Malik Polo - JOMO
London-based Egyptian rapper, Malik Polo, released JOMO - the antithesis to his debut EP, FOMO. Contrary to its antecedent which is a trap-infused, melancholic expression of the artist's "deep city blues" experienced upon arrival from Dubai (where he grew up), JOMO is a similarly mellow (in sound) yet more hopeful account about overcoming FOMO-induced angst and embracing what's real - family and friends. Read more about the album here
fuzzylittlebrain - fuzzylittlebrain
Belal Ali aka fuzzylittlebrain's eponymous LP is a refined amalgamation of the sonic discoveries he made as leader of the indie band Portrait Avenue and electronic music trio Finrod. Released on Cairo's Hizz imprint, Ali's latest body of work is introspective yet theatrical, with opening and closing tracks "Don't Die" and "Airport Please" containing quivering, pleading vocals fused with vicious, spasmodic chaos. Check out our article for more info
Polyswitch - Feverish Cuts Vol. 2
As a DJ, Casablanca's Polyswitch has been a key contributor to Morocco's thriving electronic music scene. However upon establishing his own label, Astrofever, the artist has been fueling its soar. His latest release, Feverish Cuts Vol. 2 embodies a groovy, Afrofuturistic basis with similar funk, soul and disco influences present in Feverish Cuts Vol. 1, making for a smooth transition between the two. Read more about this release here.
El Rass - يمكنك دائماً أن تموت أكثر
Lebanese word viper El Rass draws up on experimental soundscapes in latest alternative rap release - the somber six-track EP 'Yuminuka Da'eman An Tamoot Akthar', which translates to 'You Can Always Die A Little More'. Mainly instrumental driven, the EP is focused more on inciting an atmospheric, murky sonic experience where the Lebanese rapper appears like a phantom, cutting through the haze or dispersing within it. On 'X', El Rass exhibits a no-sweat flow as he self reflects in his rap bars over growling, textured beats. Evolving his sound into uncharted territories, El Rass lands easily on this year's list.
Various Artists - Yalla SDR Volume One
[Salaam Dance Rally]
Earlier this year, with a mission to diffuse regional sounds in a culturally unorthodox manner, Cairene DJs Genial and Mohamed Sadek founded their Salaam Dance Rally record label. The imprint's debut release is an EP titled Yalla SDR Volume One, from the artists themselves. Genial's "Monte-Carlo Bongos" is a 303-rick track laced with a groovy bongo beat and overlaid female Arabic vocals. Meanwhile, Sadek's "Dear All (Spam mix)" is an ambient, '80s synth-pop influenced gem. Check out our article on the release.
Bellakoud - The 8 Ways Album
Tunisian word prowess and no-frill production are well represented on Bellakoud’s debut album. The adlib-laden, Afro trap spiced release is diverse and will elevate any rap playlist it finds its way into thanks to frequent Samara-collaborator Ahmed El General’s production. Stand out tracks include ‘La Vida Loca’, ‘Flash’ and ‘Tro7 W Terga3’.
El Wali - Tiris
Sahel Sounds released Tiris, the 13-track album by the West-Saharan, Sahrawi movement's band, El Wali. Recorded in 1994, the album was designed to emulate the popular sounds from refugee camps in the region. Through their signature deployment of the electric guitar, El Wali greatly influenced the Tuareg guitar genre - a type of poetic and politicised folk deriving from Western Sahara, which as of recent has expanded to incorporate psychedelic rock, synthesizer and drum machine. Tiris's organic sound differs from the polished world music of the decade, rendering it unpopular in the global West while a viral success in West Africa.
Wegz - Geziret ElBatal
Showcasing unprecented emotional vulnerability with thumping production by DJ TOTTI and Sakka, Egyptian rapper Wegz' Geziret ElBatal stands out as perhaps the rappers most autobiographical work. In its search for answers, the EP traverses the rapper's bustling life and equally its romantic counterparts. Leading with a lyrically unguarded video single 'Horreya', the album is musically split with the lead single and 'Kan Nefsi' conveying a softer, more pop sensible sound while 'Al Zar' and 'Ala Rahti' delivers the pounding trap Wegz is notorious for. Read our full article on Geziret ElBatal.
Yazz Ahmed - Polyhymnia
British-Bahraini composer Yazz Ahmed released her third, experimental jazz album titled Polyhymnia. Named after the Greek goddess of music, poetry and art, the revered trumpet player and composer's album comprises a fusion of Arab psychedelia blended with staccato vocals commemorating the fortitude of heroins, from Rosa Parks to Saudi Arabia's first female film director, Haifaa Al Mansour. Polyhymnia is an expression of female fortitude. Full album review here.
DJ Haram - Grace
Member of New York Discwoman collective and one half of the rap group 700 Bliss (along with Moor Mother), Philadelphia-based DJ Haram is a force to be reckoned with in the evolving DIY/experimental scene. The DJ and producer's latest release comes in the form of an eight-track EP titled Grace. A flawless agglomeration of classic Arab instrumentation (predominantly, the tabla), breakbeat, deep bass and shots of synth, Grace is commendably fresh.
4LFA - Age Began Counting (ABC)
Tunisian wordsmith 4LFA's entry to this year's list comes in the form of his extroverted six-track EP Age Began Counting (ABC). Charged by bounce-inducing old school hiphop beats, 4LFA lays it all out with outstanding flow using both Arabic and English, no autotune, no vocal processing whatsoever. With a diverse field of subjects in track, 4LFA dwells upon the contemporary hussles we all face whilst masterfully boasting his street cred and lyrically destroying competition.
Bergsonist - ض
A 21st century sonic embodiment of Deleuze's ideas on "Bergsonism", Moroccan artist and activist Selwa Abd has incorporated the philosopher's psychoanlaytic precepts (namely, on intuition) into her being so much so as to name herself Bergsonist. Her latest, politically-charged self-released LP "ض " diffuses a multilayered and dynamic electronic sound which, taken together with her approach as an artist, is powerful. Read our full interview with Bergsonist.
The C!rcle - A 249 Experience Vol. 1
Curated by New York-based artist Aidyproof, A 249 Experience Vol. 1 is a collaborative 17-track compilation album featuring Sudan's finest, freshest rap talent. With the likes of rap assassins Too Dope, Nadine, Hemdi and more gracing the beats with lyrical mastery, the ambitious compilation features 18 rappers delivering track after track, mostly in English. Albeit switching between various rap schools and techniques , A 249 Experience Vol. 1 manages to preserve its sonic cohesion while exhibiting socially and politically reflective lyrics over some seriously floor-stomping beats.
Prince Tut - Purple Sun
Earning him a spot on this year's list for its solid bars and lyrical wit, Minneapolis-based Egyptian American rapper Prince Tut's 13-track Purple Sun marks for an impressive debut. Reflecting both inward and outward, Prince Tut fires up various hard-hitting themes such as racism, wealth, diaspora and more. Following a more old school technique, Prince Tut spits his bars with a uniquely smooth flow that is highlighted in moments like the cryptic 'Mummy' and the confronting 'Fit In My Skin'. Read our full review of this release here.
R3 - حاجات متقالتش فى وقتها
Rising Egyptian rapper R3’s Hagat Mat2aletsh Fi Wa2taha is a four-track EP that really showcases the young MC’s storytelling style, musically documenting a short phase of his life, complete with its thoughts and challenges from the perspective of a rapper in his twenties. R3 delivers slick bars overtop well contained but solid trap beats that shine on their own but don’t divert the attention away from his impressive delivery.
ILLIAM - Before Bed
Palestine’s ILLIAM issued on the of the most diverse rap albums of the year with his Before Bed LP which addresses different aspects of his life and career. The concept of the albums is well thought out with a multitude of features from the likes of Dodix, Bader Azem and Nurulez. ILLIAM’s delivery varies greatly with the tracks and their mood, from dialogue like bars to full on spitfire mode, Before Bed highlights the young Palestinian’s range.