Fourteen Arab Rappers you should know

Who are the Arab rappers shaping the landscape of Arab hip-hop? No matter what language, dialect and style they rap in these are the Arab rappers whose voices are making a change

By Staff Reporter

Culture 7 August 2018

How do you define an Arab rapper? A rapper rapping in Arabic? An Arab rapper rapping in English? Do they rap about war or luxury cars, popping champaign or going to the mosque and living diaspora? A more interesting question is not weather Arab rap is good or bad but whether Arab rap works or not. If you ask us, we think it depends on the rapper.

Hip-hop is one of the most influential cultural movements in the world. The underground phenomena which started in the 1970s in the Bronx, New York City has become a voice for many people from different cultures and backgrounds as a way to express issues around oppression, politics, society and the material world.

Hip-hop culture and specifically rap has been a great influence over young Arab artists and musicians. This shouldn’t come as a complete surprise when we think about the Arab world’s long history of oral storytelling and their love of poetry. Arabs have taken the themes and stylistic innovations of rap and fashioned them around their own storytelling techniques and issues they have faced.

From luxurious lifestyles, to war, poverty and violence, Arab rappers are creating a new sound and a unique way to understand the modern Arab experience through rap. The Arab Edition isn’t interested in one hit wonders and wanted to find Arab Hip-Hop artists on the rise or had been around for awhile that were continuously working on their craft to get their message across. Whether they are rapping in English, Arabic and other languages here are the most interesting Arab rappers today that you should know about.
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Zap Tharwat

© sayedmostafa_seka / Instagram

Ahmed Tharwat, also known as Zap Tharwat, is an Egyptian rapper whose music deals with many of the social and political issues currently plaguing Egypt. Like a few Arab rappers on this list, Zap Tharwat rose to fame in 2011 during the Egyptian revolution when he collaborated with the Egytian rock band Cairokee and Asflat created politically charged songs during revolutions. Seen as the relevant and current voice of young Egyptians, Zap Tharwat’s most popular songs include Meen El Sabab (who are the young?) and Ehna Generation and Generation Antua (We are the Generation and the Generation is You). His latest single Al Madina with Hany Sary featuring Ingy Nazif was released in April of this year and has already had over 1.5 million views on YouTube.

Shadia Mansour

© Shadia Mansour / Instagram

Referring to herself as the ‘First lady of Arabic Hip-Hop’, Shadia Mansoor’s career began as an Emcee. Born in London to Palestinian parents, she started singing as a child and was known in London’s Palestinian community for performing classical Arab songs of protest. Her first song, El Kofeyye 3arabeyye (The Keffiyeh Is Arab) was an angry response to finding out that Israeli version of the Keffiyeh was being manufactured with blue and white colours along with the Israeli flag.

Medine

© medine_officiel / Instagram

Medine Zaouiche, known as Médine, is a French-Algerian Kabyle rapper. Initially part of the hip-hop collective La Boussole formed in 1996, Médine has made quite the name for himself. Rapping in French, his voice is unique and his range is pretty diverse. Médine’s music describes the hardships many people living below the poverty line in France experience from migrants, refuges and Muslims in the Western world. His work has often been heavily criticized by the mainstream French media. Médine has also written several articles for Time Magazine about issues pertaining to French identity.

Omar Offendum

© Omar Offendum / Instagram

Omar Offendum is a Syrian American hip-hop artist, designer, poet and activist. Born in Saudi Arabia, raised in Washington, DC, he now lives in Los Angeles, California. His song #Jan25, which went viral in 2011, was inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt. #Jan25 was an important song in the spread of Arab rap on an international scale. He has since released other singles and has performed all over the world as well as lectured in major academic institutions and helped raise millions of dollars for various humanitarian relief groups. Omar was also recently named a Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow for 2018 / 2019.

The Narcycist a.k.a. Narcy

© tamarabdul / Instagram / www.tamarabdulhadi.com

Yassin Alsalman, also known as Narcy or formerly The Narcicyst is an Iraqi-Canadian journalist and hip-hop MC. He started performing with the group Euphrates, The Narcicyst but decided to go solo in 2004. His single Hamdulillah featuring Shadia Mansour has had over 1.5 million hits on YouTube. His large body of work tackles a lot of social and political subjects from stereotypes of Arab and Muslim migrants, the Arab Spring and the war on terror. Narcy has performed with the likes of Public Enemy, Talib Kweli and Kanye West more impressively though, in 2013, he established The Medium, a creative agency that provides a platform for independent artistic endeavours of Arab artists.

Mona Haydar

© Feda Eid / Instagram

Mona is a rapper, poet and activist. Currently living in New York, the Syrian American artist grew up in Flint, Michigan. Mona shot to fame after her first music video, Hijabi (Wrap my Hijab), went viral with more than 4.3 million views on YouTube. Mona refers to her Hijab as a “Badge of Honor” and believes that her music is normalizing the narrative of Muslim American women and women in general. Her EP is about to launch in a few weeks. Mona is married and a mother of two and recently graduated from an MA in Christian Ethics.

El Rass

© El Rass / Instagram

Mazen El Sayed, popularly known as El Rass, is a Lebanese rapper from Tripoli. Religion, foreign occupation, unemployment, civil liberties and corruption are major themes in his music. Greatly inspired by the politics that followed the events of the Arab Spring, he says, “The Arab Spring changed everything.” El Rass’ has two albums and a total of more than 100 tracks on his SoundCloud.

Qusai Kheder

© Anas Jamali / Instagram

Born and raised in Saudi Arabia, Qusai Kheder is the first professional Saudi hip-hop artist. Qusai spent some time in the US studying and his music is inspired by American rap artists including NWA and Tupac. However, he’s always embraced Arab issues and themes in his music. Qusai started rapping at a time when any type of musical performances in Saudi Arabia were extremely rare. Qusai says that his first tracks were recorded on cassettes and sold at the back of a truck near his high school. Qusai has released five albums to date.

DAM: Tamer Nafar, Suhell Nafar and Mahmoud Jreri

© www.damrap.com

DAM is aPalestinian hip-hop group founded by brothers Tamer and Suhell Nafar and their friend Mahmoud Jreri in the late 90s and also includes Lyd and Maysa Daw. Their song Min Irhabi (Who’s the terrorist) was downloaded over a million times shortly after its internet release in 2001 making them incredibly with Arab youth. DAM’s lyrics are largely protest-driven, and their songs are centred around fighting oppression, Israeli occupation, racism, poverty, drugs, and fighting for women’s rights. The group raps mainly in Arabic, but also in English and Hebrew. They have released two albums and more than 100 singles so far.

El Joker

© El Joker / Facebook

Ahmed Nasser, popularly known as El Joker is an Egyptian rapper. He’s released more than 40 tracks and his music is mainly distributed by private channels on YouTube and SoundCloud. His popular songs such as Salma, Enfsam 7ad and El Waqe3 have gained his YouTube channel more than 70 million views.

Ostaz Samm

© Oustaz Sam / Facebook

Samer Shaqfa, known as Ostaz Samm, is a Jordanian rapper. He appeared in the first season of Arabs Got Talent making it to the semi-finals and his audition video has more than four million views on YouTube. Ostaz Samm also has his own TV show where he trains local hip-hop talents, guiding them through the entire process from choosing topics, writing lyrics, performing and recording in the studio. His recent video Qararek is about empowering women’s rights in the Middle East. Other than his music, Ostaz Samm is a teacher specialized in teaching orphans, Palestinian refugee camp kids, and disabled kids and young people. He’s also worked on different projects with UNESCO and UNRWA.

Psyco-M

© Psyco-M / Facebook

Mouhamed Jandoubi, known as Psyco-M is a Tunisian rapper and a rather controversial figure. He gained popularity in 2010 after some of his conflicts with the media. The newspaper Turess claim that it’s unclear if Psyco-M is in fact a rapper or a preacher using rap influence the youth since many of his lyrics are based on ideas from Islam. Psyco-M constantly calls out the mass media in his lyrics and proclaims himself as a “jihadist” which has garnered him a lot of backlash.

Don Bigg

© Don Bigg Official / Instagram

Toufiq Hazeb known as Don Bigg is a Moroccan rapper. He used to rap in English before a close friend advised him to rap in Darija, a local Moroccan dialect in order to be understood by all Moroccans. He has a raw and outspoken style and raps about the issues Moroccan urban youth face. Don Bigg has released three albums and several singles accounting for millions of hits online to his music videos on his YouTube channel.

Malikah

© malikah961music / Instagram

Lynn Fattouh, known as Malikah was born in France and raised in Lebanon. Her music focuses on women, freedom and the Arab nations. Her latest music video Sma3 was released in January 2018 and features Z The People.

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