What is 'Diss'? Egypt’s latest rap 'diss tracks' war captures ears and views

Zeinab El-Gundy , Saturday 27 Feb 2021

Abyusif, Marwan Moussa and Marwan Pablo among other Egyptian rappers attracted particular light with the Diss Track war of words that erupted the scene

From L to R: Marwan Pablo, Abyusif, Marwan Moussa
If you are a veteran rap or hip hop fan, the term diss track will have a familiar ring. However, for many Egyptian social media users it was enigmatic when they found themselves flooded by diss tracks last week with rappers whose names they never heard before top-trending in all major social media network and music streaming services.
A diss track or diss song in hip hop or rap is a track where the singer is “disrespecting” his rival and is making comments directly -- when using the rival’s name -- or indirectly. Diss tracks are a well-established feature of hip hop culture since its emergence in the United States with earlier forms already existing in pop and rock music.
Egypt’s diss track war of words started publicly in November when a renowned Egyptian rapper named Abyusif released a diss track titled Okay. Though it did not include any names directly, he managed to open fire on several famous rappers in the scene, above whom was his former friend and disciple Marwan Moussa. This prompted Moussa to release on 20 February Msh Okay (Not Okay), slamming Abyusif for his song. Thus, the battle of the lyrics ensued.
In response, Abyusif released another diss track called Megatron, to which Moussa responded with Megatroll.
Moussa was not the only rapper to take part in this war of words as other rappers mentioned Abyusif indirectly, like Afroto and Batistuta who began to take sides.
Ahram Online cannot share the diss tracks published last week due to their explicit 18+ misogynic, violent language.
One visit to Egypt’s top trending music videos on YouTube is enough to see how some of those diss tracks broke the one million views milestone without any media campaigns. The tracks have even succeeded in reaching out to their target audience from the rap underground fans to the main Egyptian social media realm.
The Egyptians who are not fans of rap, especially from the older generations, had no idea who those rappers are. The commotion led several Egyptian news websites to report on the topic.
Ironically, a diss track is not an unknown concept in Egyptian or Arab culture. Older generations remember how classic Arabic poets whether in the olden or modern times dissed each other in sophisticated classical Arabic poems, playing with metaphors and double meanings in classical poems; Hafez Ibrahim and Ahmed Shawky’s diss being among the most prominent examples.
Naturally, sarcastic Facebook pages found a goldmine with jokes and memes.
Meme 3
“Hit him Aby (as in Abyusif), fire back Maro (As in Marwan Moussa) “ Photo: Creative Sarcasm
Suddenly the whole genre that is still considered underground until present is in the limelight to the extent that some even wonder if that “beef” or the diss fight was not a publicity act from all those rappers to bring more attention.
A quick explanation for non-rap fans, the term “beef” is when two rappers or more get engaged in a rap feud.
“It is [a] very natural diss, it has no marketing goals for real,” John Sadek, a music producer and former manager of Wegz, a rap band, told Ahram Online, recounting the origin of “the beef” that started with an Instagram story then moved to audio tracks.
“The guys did not arrange the diss for marketing purposes,” he clarified.
So far, diss audio tracks stopped when Marwan Pablo, the famous Egyptian rapper released his track Ghabba (Forest) last Wednesday, nearly a year after he had retired and closed his social media accounts.
In less than 12 hours, the song Ghabba generated 1.9 million views, breaking records nationally and regionally for a rap track and fans on social media loved it. The fighting rappers put this diss aside and united in welcoming the return of Pablo online.
Meme 1
One of the popular memes commonly shared about the diss-track war (Photo: Sarcasm station FB page)
Suddenly, the diss war seemed to come to a halt.
“It has not ended yet, the young men continue with their diss in Instagram stories,” Sadek said.
Sadek believes the diss war is benefiting the rap scene in Egypt. But then again, it is not the first time it happens. “It happened before, but people have just paid attention to it now,” he commented.
An Egyptian rapper who goes by the name of Fo2elsotoh told Ahram Online that “this diss was a natural [phenomenon]. It was not faked for marketing purposes because those rappers are angry with each other. However, the diss gives exposure and acts as a marketing tool for the rappers and rap scene itself.”
The young Egyptian rapper revealed that in the past there were diss battles staged by Abyusif to “invigorate the scene” with rappers from other countries, such as Lebanon. This time, nonetheless, it was “a natural verbal fight due to genuine anger.”
Abyusif is one of the oldest and most established rappers. He is 36 years old, while others in the arena are in their 20s.
“These guys are too angry to the extent they did not pay attention about the contracts that some have with advertising companies in mainstream media,” Fo2elsotoh said, referring to Abyusif and Moussa who starred for the first time in nationwide campaigns for two mobile phone operators last month.
Moussa became the first Egyptian rapper to perform in front of the Egyptian president as he participated in the inauguration of the men’s Handball World Cup in January 2021.
It is a milestone in the underground scene, but this month he goes on an explicit diss war.
Meme 2
“Mocking the people who are not in rap and its terms but got engaged in the fight: Marwan Youssef “instead of Moussa” will diss Abu Moussa “instead of Abyusif” and it will be a beef battle track fried chicken scene.” Photo: "Facebook"
Fo2elsoto7 believes that this round of diss war was over by the release of Pablo’s hit track which shifted the people’s attention to his comeback.
“After the end of this diss war, I can say there are winners and losers,” Fo2elsotoh told Ahram Online, adding that the winners were the audience and the rap underground scene.
“The audience listened to several tracks and the rap scene found new listeners and it is top-trending on streaming services for free,” Fo2elsotoh explained.
But the biggest losers are the rappers participating in that diss war who should not have been dragged into this war of words and had a chance to grow in the field instead. Fo2elsotoh himself released a track last week dissing those rappers for engaging in that battle.
“I believe those rappers were letting off the steam. Maybe now they can refocus on their music for real,” Fo2elsotoh said, adding that they now will have to work more after the return of their rival Pablo, who chose the perfect moment to stage a comeback. 

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