Voices of Egypt III: Revolution Through Arab Hip-hop

Jun 19, 2011

By Shadi Rahimi

Last month War Times correspondent Shadi Rahimi spent ten days in Egypt. This is the third of a series of videos she made about what she saw and heard there.  You can see the others here and here.

Hip-hop is a fairly new movement in Egyptian music, considering one of its biggest hip-hop groups, Arabian Knightz, formed in 2006. Here, they would be placed in the genre of "conscious hip-hop," although unlike the U.S., a lot of popular music in Egypt has social and political themes. One of their most revered performers, Mohammad Mounir, is in his late fifties and sings in a fusion style that to young Western ears may sound like an older generation's Egyptian Bob Dylan. But Mounir has young fans along with older, and poetically powerful songs that include one he wrote in honor of Che Guevara. His and other Egyptian artists' influence on the younger generation is clear - in the same way that Dr Dre, Pharrell and other American producers remix classic R&B, Egyptian hip-hop artists sample traditional Arabic music in hip-hop records.

During the Revolution, Arabian Knightz released two anti-government songs and videos that included footage from Tahrir Square, "Prisoner" and "Rebel," which garnered them media attention. Band member Rush (aka Karim Adel Aissa) protested in Tahrir Square in Cairo daily, while the other band members, E-Money and Sphinx, were in their hometowns. Sphinx even left the country temporarily to protect his family, as his neighborhood erupted in gunfire and chaos. Their album, "Uknighted State of Arabia," is expected to be released in the fall, as the country prepares for democratic elections.

Arabian Knightz is part of a larger effort to unite hip-hop artists across Arabia through an independent record label called Arab League Records, which includes Palestinian artists Shadia Mansour and FredWreck, a producer who has worked with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg; and Qusai aka Don Legend of Saudi Arabia, one of the first Arabic hip-hop artists. Their movement, and the Revolution, is all about Arab unity, Karim aka Rush says. "They can't get us when we're together," he says in the video.

Here is a translation of the words in the rap in the video:

We were one people, united, against the odds,
despite the hate, one God,
the rest jealous, envious,
hating on genuine history,
destroying Arabism, united,
under a symbol, targeting us
we have no option but unity.

Despite the hardships,
there’s no boundaries
between us.
If we part, it’s destructive,
the unity of our army
after the darkness
there will be light,
and our message won’t fade.

They misunderstood
our calmness for weakness,
we’re gonna struggle
against the circumstances

with our words like swords.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the entire War Times project

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