As an ever-growing number of artists from the region explore internationally popular styles of music, recent years have seen a surge of drill, trap, and afro-beat music coming out of the Arab world.
If we pause to take a closer look at the trends being followed in different locations across the MENA region, it appears as though Palestine has been leading the way in drill and trap music, with artists such as Shabjdeed and Daboor effortlessly delivering hit after hit in these genres. Meanwhile, Egypt feels more influenced by old-school rap, trap, and Shaabi music, with a noticeable lack of drill music coming out of the country.
Recently, however, we have seen Egyptian artists trying to address this blindspot with acts such as Ziad Zaza, Wingii, and FL EX doing their best to define the sound of Egyptian drill.
In his latest album ‘El Rays’ released under Beatroot Records, cutting-edge rapper Ziad Zaza explores a variety of popular genres, with a heavy emphasis on drill. The album takes a slightly more subtle approach to the genre while challenging some of the sonic elements typically associated with drill. Zaza does this with sparse bass lines, minimal drum programming, and an emphasis on unabashed sampling, which give this ambitious release an experimental undertone, and a self-contained sound.
Zaza’s vocal performances on the album are one of the main pillars of the project, as Zaza adopts a sloppy - almost drunk-sounding vocal delivery that compliments the genre well. This may be due to the Egyptian dialect sounding odd when paired with the drill genre, as the speech tendencies of the dialect are choppy and contain rhythmic information that is not the most compatible with drill. Zaza’s approach to the vocals resolves the issue by slowing down phrases and delivering the lyrics distinctly and theatrically with his gravelly voice and slightly off-beat timing.
The 9-track album sees Zaza rapping in his aforementioned singular vocal style over several slightly minimal drill beats. The instrumentals on the album are hard-hitting and aggressive, but void of unnecessary elements, as the production on the album maintains a tight sound that is clear and concise. The use of samples on this album also stands out, as they are reminiscent of the music typically heard in Arabic TV programs of the 90s. This adds an interesting and nostalgic flavour to the production, making the combination unique from anything we’ve heard before.
While the album does add original ideas to the drill genre, and it does an effective job at shaping what Egyptian drill might sound like moving forward, there is a slight lack of variety from track to track. That said, the album does feature songs such as ‘3yal Lakaka’, which explores afro-beat aesthetics, and ‘Bent Lazina,’ which features a classic trap beat and triplet flows, but the drill aesthetics in the album dominate throughout.
The album was put together by a group of producers who worked collaboratively on many of the tracks. The list features 15, Harrby, Lil Zoz, Moharram, Mahmoud El Sammad, and Ismail Nosrat.
Listen to ‘El Rays’ by Ziad Zaza here: