Transforming Egypt through Hip-Hop

Af Kiki Hynding Hansen

Something changed in the hip-hop scene in Egypt the last couple of years. And something changed in the hip-hoppers as well. Egypt has been in a chaotic state since the so-called Arab Spring, and the youth of Egypt have in general had to face a lot of new things and change their way of thinking.

In Alexandria the hip-hop scene were also active in this transformation of Egypt, but it also transformed itself. RAPOLITICS wanted together with Revolution Records, the first Egyptian underground hip-hop label, to help boost this transformation. Therefore, we established a recording studio with the purpose of uniting the Alexandrian hip-hop community and put spotlight on Arabic hip-hop.

When Revolution Records  arranged an Allstar hip-hop concert in February 2014, it was held in the “Great Hall” of the world famous library in Alexandria, which is the city’s biggest venue. With a hall with more than 1,200 excited fans, some of the greatest rappers in Egypt went on stage, and proved that hip-hop in Egypt is very much alive.

It have not always been like that though, explains Shahin, who is one of Alexandria’s most popular rappers at the moment. Within the last year the stage has changed a lot, he tells

The hip-hop scene in Egypt has developed a lot within the last year – more concerts, more audience, more studios available for professional recording. And what I see as one of the biggest moves is the radio 16bar (first Arabic online hip-hop radio by Revolution Records) which is like a music library that contains Arabic rap songs only.

Revolution Records add to Shahin’s enthusiasm by saying that the hip-hop scene hasn’t been stronger for a long time. In March they held a release concert for the first mixtape produced in their studio. Even though the guys are very familiar with the rap and hip-hop stage in Alexandria, the popularity of this release concert went beyond their imagination. The hall in the French Institute, which normally holds around 300 people, was filled to the maximum, and at least the same amount of people where standing outside, behind the closed doors, eager to get in. The concert was a release concert for a mixtape album with 10 yet unknown rappers from Alexandria, carefully chosen by Revolution Records. The hope is that they will carry on the hip-hop torch. The rapper Seen who recorded a track to the mixtape explains:

I felt at some point that maybe I should find a job and at least be financial independent instead of rapping. But Revolution Records helped me restore my enthusiasm and encouraged me to continue with what I love – rapping.

Revolution Records has through a partnership project with RAPOLITCS managed to establish the first hip-hop recording studio in Alexandria. Before the studio opened, the rappers had no real possibilities of recording their tracks. They would record their tracks on their home computer with the computer microphone, Temraz from Revolution Records explains. Not only is the studio a professional recording studio it has become a hub for the Alexandrian hip-hop scene, which helps giving new energy to the community.

Revolution Records added something to the Egyptian rap scene that no one else managed to do. The studio became for me the lighthouse, as it showed me clearly, which way I had to go and what is important in my life. Now I have hip-hop running in my veins again

These are the words of Seen, who started his rap career more than 14 years ago.

When the Danish rapper and RAPOLITICS coach Pelle Møller visited Alexandria and the Revolution Records studio in March 2014, his impression was also that the hip-hop scene was expanding. “I’m starting to sense that something is stirring in conjunction with the hard work of the underground artists, among other Revolution Records.” Pelle writes in a blog just after his visit to Alexandria.

Egypt is in these days facing yet another change with the election of a new president. What this will bring for the future is still hard to guess. What is sure, is that the rappers of Alexandria will continue and keep expanding the hip-hop scene. The project by RAPOLITICS and Revolution Records has for now ended, but this does not mean the end to the close relationship established over the last year. Revolution Records and RAPOLITICS will still be working to help boosting the hip-hop scene in the future. At the moment, we have granted to continuation of the studio until October 2014.

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Kiki Hynding Hansen is a member of the RAPOLITICS’ board. She was involved in RAPOLITICS-projects in Bolivia and Denmark, and has studied the rap scene in Vietnam. She is currently responsible for the partnership project with Revolution Records funded by the Danish Center for Culture and Development. kiki@rapolitics.org