It’s clear at this point that rap is at an all time high in the Middle East, having reached the top of the charts regionally. Be it via corporate sponsorship, or historic deals with streaming platforms, the landscape is incredibly fertile for youthful talents to find their voice through rap. With new rap artists popping up every day it’s a bit of a challenge keeping up with the who’s-who of new names and faces. Last month we asked our followers the important question of “who are your favorite new rappers in the MENA region?”
Based on the responses, we’ve compiled this list of some of the most interesting rising talents in our local scenes. Some of these names may have been around for a while, but only rose to prominence this year. Also bear in mind that compiling a list of every new rapper in the Middle East would be endless, so consider this the first just part of an ongoing series. Don’t get mad if your favorite new rapper isn't on here, maybe they will be, eventually.
Part 1 includes a run down of Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Palestine and Jordan. Stay tuned for Part 2 which covers rappers from the rest of the region including Sudan, Kuwait, Saudi, UAE, Algeria, Syria, Iran, Algeria and Yemen.
Egypt: With arguably the longest history of rap throughout the Middle East, Egypt has long been a hotbed for some of the most innovative and forward thinking voices in the region. From oldschool heavyweights like, Arabian Knightz and Kordy & The Cairo Gangstaz, to new school viral wordsmiths like Abyusif, Marwan Moussa, Wegz, and Marwan Pablo, Egypt’s rap scene’s storied history is constantly being rewritten, and following the subcultural commercialization of the genre - rap only started appearing on radio and adverts in the last two years - the focus has shifted towards catchy poptinged verses with stand-out personal style and high production music videos coming to the fore as a new generation of trap stars emerge with dollar signs in their eyes (and occasionally in their names).
Arguable Egyptian trap’s biggest breakout star of the year, producer/rapper Xiety7 made a splash with his hilariously self-aware breakthrough hit ‘Eslam El Marg’, which launched the fledgling rapper directly into the rap limelight. Though most will know him through his monolithic debut, Xiety7 has been around for quite some time as a producer, earning nods and recognition by such heavyweight names as Marwan Moussa and Marwan Pablo.
Egypt’s latest rap badboy Moscow sprung out seemingly out of nowhere this year through his viral hits ‘QUDAS’ and ‘DOKHA’. With a fully formed leather-clad aesthetic, high production quality music video offerings, and an autotune-dripping flow positively soaked in street level emotion, Moscow finds himself stepping out of the sphere of colored-dreadlock clones that seem to be everywhere these days, inevitably carving a lane all to themselves.
Despite being around for the past couple years, El Dab3 occupies a strange position in Egypt’s rap scene through his laidback attitude, nonchalant flows and penchant towards low tempo, slow churning trap/mahraganat bangers like his latest viral hit ’Lama Tdalem’. High profile collaborations with producers Lil Baba and Marwan Moussa indicate the beginnings of a future hitmaker.
Don’t be fooled by ASAP Urban’s youthful appearance. Behind the peach fuzz and glasses lies one of Egypt’s hardest hitting wordsmiths. With a blisteringly fast flow and ear towards contemporary sonics like UK drill, ASAP Urban seems to be confidently taking the first steps into the world of Egypt’s rap scene.
Morocco: Following Universal Music’s high profile record deal with trailblaze hitmaker ISSAM, the country has become a hotbed for new talent. Whilst similarly to the rest of the region productions are somewhat lifted from the Western trap tracks du jour, there is an unmistakable scattershot flow born from Moroccan's heavy Arabic dialect that, along with the interchangeable tri-lingual lyrics (French, Arabic, English) has made it one of the most interesting contemporary rap scenes in the region. Adding to that many artists are coming through with a very strong visual aesthetic in defiance of cultural norms, further fueling their online starpower.
Morocco’s ski-mask toting Snor comes through with the presence of a swarovski-encrusted, North-African MF Doom, with his anonymous identity and lighthearted approach to rap, neither taking himself, the game, or his image too seriously. Despite his imposing aesthetic, SNOR is really just a big softie at heart, crooning smooth RnB over introspective trap beats, with a direct focus on infectious choruses and soulfully autotuned flows. Continuously hitting the millions of views with catchy bangers like ‘La La’, SNOR is definitely one to watch.
One of the most powerful female voices in Morocco’s rap scene, Khtek champions a new definition of middle-eastern femininity, separating herself from the veritable boys club of rappers with a powerful message that brings female pride to the forefront via catchy bars and infectious flows.
Since hitting the moroccan rap scene a little over six months ago, STORMY has been racking up the views with viral hit after viral hit, continuously hitting the millions of plays on his music videos. Whether it’s championing his african identity on afro-beat inspired tunes like ‘AFRICAIN’, or channeling kendrick lamar via blisteringly fast verses on ‘777’, STORMY rarely takes a low-profile to any of his projects, dripping in streetwear swag all the while.
Tunisia: Often heard from the least in terms of regional rap, Tunisia is a vibe all in itself, cultivating a much lower profile than many of it’s regional contemporaries. The coastal region lends itself to more low-key, upbeat take on the trap genre, with a focus on joyful bounce and youthful energy.
Singer/rapper Koast's recent sleeper hit ‘JAPAN’ channelled emotionally charged energies through a smooth afro-beat centered tune that hit all the right notes for a peak summer smash. Despite being currently based in Paris, the BLOC C affiliate is certainly going to be making waves in North Africa and beyond with one of the most recognizable and unique voices in rap.
Biker-chic rap hooligan NVST’s music videos are always exciting endeavors, upping the drama with sweeping camera work, loads of motorcycles, and a comedic take on art direction and fashion sense. NVST really seems to be living his best life, racking up plays in the hundreds of thousands while putting on his veritable army of collaborator rappers and artists. A refreshing youthful take on a genre that too often leans toward hardcore ‘roadman’ cliches, NVST occupies a colorful space within the world of Tunisian rap
Palestine: The political situation in palestine lends itself to the emergence of a different kind of rap, one where conventional rap braggadocio and mainstream chart appeal takes second place behind socially conscious anthems with activism at the very forefront. Collectives like BLTNM continue to make waves in the region with their gritty, corrugated sonic aesthetic, using contemporary rap production to push forwards their incredibly personal narratives.
The recent BLTNM addition is quickly establishing himself as one of the most interesting rappers to step out of the Palestinian scene, with a tight, autotune-less vocal style and lightning fast flows. Through forward thinking collaborations with fellow palestinian, producer Al Nather, Fawzi should certainly be on your radar for 2020 and beyond.
Lil Asaf is a unique case compared to the rest of this list. As the enigmatic rap side-project of esteemed Jordan-based Palestinian experimental producer Bashar Suleiman, Lil Asaf acts as a conduit for Suleiman’s darkest thoughts and social observations, delivered throughout hollowed-out deadpan delivery and labyrinthian wordplay. With a gritty audiovisual aesthetic and an ear for blisteringly harsh beats, Lil Asaf has collaborated with some of the middle-east’s forward thinking producers including Thoom (as Khadije) and Tor5y, and released on music on the U.S’s Astral Plane Recordings and Cairo’s IRSH.
Jordan: Whilst many of Jordan's best rap flies largely under the radar of the rest of the region standout acts like The Synaptik and Emsallam have paved the way for new breed of straight edge rappers whose focus stay on inventive lyrics and beats whilst doing away with the 'gangsta lifestyle'.
A man of many faces, Amman-based producer/lyricist BA (a.k.a Khotta BA a.k.a Akhlaton a.k.a El Borj a.k.a MEG-DAH) is an enigmatic to figure to say the least, first bursting onto the scene with a series of incredibly stunning music videos including a high profile collab ‘100 Katana’ with Egyptian production heavyweight Molotof. Fusing a Neo-Tokyo/Blade Runner aesthetic with a keen eye towards contemporary beats, BA’s latest video ‘FSH AZIZ’ caught our eye for its incredibly forward-thinking visual endeavors we’ve seen yet from the MENA rap scene.
Othman is one of those rappers who lets the music speak for itself, with a solemn focus that leans less towards the ‘image’ and fashion sense of a traditional rapper, and more towards heartfelt rhymes and a deep focus on lyrical complexity and storytelling. Amidst a sea of easily digestible radio-friendly bangers, Othman is a rare socially-conscious voice who displays an incredible range for someone who first stepped onto the scene nearly a year ago, able to hop seamlessly between hip-hop genres such as boombap, trip-hop and trap.
Who do you think should have been on the list? Who would you want to see on the next list? Let us know in a comment or DM @SceneNoise