Thanks in part to globalisation and technology, hip-hop has reached all corners of the world and become increasingly diverse internationally. For those in the Middle East—a region and a people who have a long history of oral storytelling and increasingly more to speak for and against—the hip-hop movement is a rapidly growing one.
Amassing fans and garnering views in the millions—both in their own countries and across the world—Arab hip-hop artists fuse the bravado and grit of rap with uniquely Arab elements in order to craft their own hybrid creations. To that end, regional streaming giant Anghami recently shared stats that found that overall streams of Arabic hip-hop have been rising steadily over the last year, and that ‘Arabic Hip-Hop’ was the third highest trending ‘vibe’ on the platform in 2019.
The influence of the Middle East on global culture is also increasingly apparent. We need only look to Drake’s “Only You Freestyle” with Headie One, in which he took to Arab to rap: “Arabic ting told me I look like Youssef, look like Hamza / Habibti please, ana akeed, inti w ana ahla”—which roughly translates to: “My love, please, I’m sure you and I are better.” Following the release of that track, many Googled what the Arabic meant while Arabs, like me, excitedly took pleasure in the representation, all the while chuckling at the many, many memes taking aim at his (terrible) mispronunciation.
As an Egyptian-born, London-raised hip-hop fan, who started my career writing predominantly about hip-hop, seeing the meshing of the cultures that raised me makes me very happy indeed. Here are 7 Middle Eastern hip-hop artists you should know today.