2021 Yearender: Rap music is moving to the centre of Egypt’s mainstream

Eslam Omar , Saturday 1 Jan 2022

Egypt’s music streaming in 2021 was dominated by rap and mahraganat releases, with a notable lack of indie bands hits, while modern pop as we know is also showing influences from the booming genres.

Rap music

While successive releases from evergreen Amr Diab as well as Tamer Hosny, Mohamed Hamaki, Angham, Sherine, Ramy Gamal, Ruby and other pop stars frequently made it to the streaming platforms’ top charts this year as usual, it’s obvious that the music streaming era is finding new heroes.

Under-pressure Mahragan is still proving to be the first choice of the majority of Egyptians with Omar Kamal, Hassan Shakoosh and Hamo Bika becoming its most famous names while less-reported stars like El-Sawareekh, 3enba, Double-Zuksh, Moza and Samer El-Medany, are also taking the lead in numbers, besides the more Sha’abi breaking artists like Houda Bondok and Muslim.

The alternative and indie bands, many liked to name 'Underground Scene’, like Cairokee, Massar Egbari, Wust Elbalad, Sharmoofers, Dina El-Wedidi didn’t hit the year’s charts, with most of them didn’t release and other threw only few.

Pop and mahrganat are scuffling in charts and in talk-shows for years, but the most significant phenomena in Egyptians’ listening habits in the second year of the pandemic is definitely the exceptional rise of rap artists to the centre of the main stream.


A genre of a generation

Trending worldwide, rap and hip hop are widening its fan-base in Egypt since 2019 thanks to the generation of Wegz, Marwan Pablo, Marwan Moussa, Afroto and Legy-C who even revived the success of older Shahyn, Anusif, El-Joker, among others.

With Wegz named top artist by Spotify for the second year, Pablo’s return single ‘Ghaba’ is most streamed and Moussa’s album ‘Florida’ topped, it indicates how rap is becoming in Egypt.

“Thanks to streaming, Egyptian hip-hop has become easier to discover and is reaching a much wider audience than ever before,” Nouran Hassan, Head of Communications and PR at Spotify Middle East and North Africa told Ahram Online.

“It is also important to understand why hip-hop is resonating so much with Egypt’s youth. A generation that embraces self-expression and authenticity, found relatability in a genre that speaks about real-life situations and realities that people are experiencing,” Hassan added.

Ahram Online takes a closer look on the works of some of the most streamed artists of the rap genre in 2021.

Wegz on top, again

Wegz has made seven releases throughout the year; four of them are on Spotify’s most-listened songs in Egypt this year; ‘Asyad El Soot’, ‘3afareet El Asphalt’, ‘Msh Fair’ and ‘Hustla’, but his biggest hit of 2021 is ‘Keify Keda’, a collaboration with Disco Masr is leading his year on YouTube with over 22 million views in two months.

The 1998-born Alexandrian talent, most known for ‘Bazeet’, ‘Dorak Gai’, ‘Salka’ and ‘El-Ghassala’, Wegz is ending the year trending with latest release ‘Msh Khalsa’ celebrating the premiere of his debut as an actor, alongside acclaimed Ahmed Malek, in Amr Salama’s latest TV show ‘Bimbo’, currently streaming on Shahid platform.

Pablo’s Ghaba

Another Alexandrian artist Marwan Pablo, of El-Gemeeza, returned from his reversed-retirement in February ending over a year of absence with his hit music video ‘Ghaba’, which kept its place on top of the genre’s listens, gaining attention from over 20 million viewers on YouTube so far.

Pablo’s Ghaba maintained the lead for weeks, even during a bitter beef season before the 26-year-old artist hit the scene with a five-track EP titled ‘CNTRL’ that faded out his releasing action but boosted his multiple appearances in advertisements.

Unfortunately, his high-attendance return concert in October earned him a suspension from pubic performance by the Music Syndicate but this didn’t stop the streams.

Moussa’s Florida

Early in January, Marwan Moussa, of Sheraton, has released his 13-song album; ‘Florida’, that was later listed the top listened album on Spotify, but this is not just it.

Moussa, who became one of the most favourite choices for advertisers and sponsors which target his audience segment, released multiple music videos in 2021 like ‘Drogba’ and ‘BALLON D'OR’ but his highlight is definitely Good People’s production; ‘Tesla’ which was viewed by over 13 million viewers.

Rap Powerhouses

From the same generations; Lege-Cy checked in this year with multiple hits like ‘Arafa’ and ‘Tany, while Afroto soured with ‘Msh Bel 7ozoz’ (13M) and ‘Farq Khebra’ (8M); the official song of a film with the same title.

Older generation rap players like Abusif was more active, trending multiply with releases like ‘Mamlaka’ and ‘2otta’, while Shahyn has made multiple advertisements in 2021 thanks to the success of his most viewed ever videos ‘Siri’ (14M) and ‘Ma 3aleena’ (7M).

More Rap triumph in 2022

Creative Director Khaled Bargona, currently hip-hop and Mahragan Project Manager at Basement Records, that distributes works of many top rappers, thinks that 2021 was backed with 2020-prepared songs which were postponed due to the COVID-19 lockdown, but the next year will see more domination of rap with major changes in the listening map.

“2022 is expected to witness new competitors in the top five lists. There are much of booming tracks in the making for artists like Lege-Cy, Batistuta, L5VAV, E.Evil, VLI WEEZY, Shahyn. The year will start hot. For example; expect a unique album from Mousv this week that could change the rule of the game,” Bargona states to Ahram Online.

Spotify’s Hassan agrees that the next year will see more rise for rap, stating: “Egyptian hip-hop is in a very exciting place right now. It’s only going to get bigger and we expect to see a lot of new acts in 2022.”

'Global Market Benefits'

“With all the respect of the artists’ efforts, the platforms charts which put rap songs on the top do not really reflect accurate indications,” Mahmoud Refaat, a top producer and supporter of young artists, especially in the genres of mahragan and indie, through his project 100Copies, stated to Ahram Online.

“Rap music is artistically minimal and cheap in terms of composition and production. Even lyrics are not rebellious or supporting a provocative cause at it supposed to,” he added, explaining that “the global market is commercially benefiting from boosting local rap production that is similar in sound with global music. There is also a tendency for the return of big production companies to dominate the music market and limit the artistic choices.”

“This eventually could lead to the killing of any real authentic artistic experiment in the country, including the fruits of last decade’s experiment of mahraganat, underground or Egyptian modern folk,” Refat added.

'Extinction of identity'

Veteran composer Helmy Bakr, one of the biggest old guard for the Egyptian music who evaluates talents for TV, Radio and the Music Syndicates for over four decades, thinks that rap will not last for too long.

“The concept of rap is spoken-word poetry on a beat without a clear melody. The same school of Algeria’s Rai of Wahran,” Bakr defined to Ahram Online.

“This is commercial. We shouldn’t focus on the games of trends and views. Rap is a wave that will soon end. Singing defines nations. These kinds of waves make the people forget the identity of their original singing, which would finally lead us to singing extinction,” Bakr added.

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