From misogyny to politics, these rap artists tackle a spectrum of topics through their music.
The Arab world birthed prominent artists that continue to leave a mark in the music industry, from Fairuz and Abdel Halim Hafez, to Umm Kulthum alongside numerous others who emerged in the mid 20th century.
The music of various prominent artists from the region serve as keys that open multiple doors into the Arab world, introducing other cultures to the region’s rich culture one decibel at a time.
Some songs have influenced the western music too. For instance, Mayada El Hennawy’s “Batwanes Beek” can be heard in the background of Aaliyah’s “I Don’t Know What to Tell Ya” track.
The 21st century has witnessed the expansion of music genres in the Middle East with the rise of hip hop and rap artists. Whether it be about love or issues concerning the region, especially during the Arab Spring, Arabic rap has been dominating musical charts.
In recent years, women rap artists have been taking the lead. Here are some of the top women rappers from the Middle East and North Africa.
Rana – Sudan
Rana, 21, is a Sudanese rap artist based in Qatar who is at the beginning of her musical career.
While the young artist is still in the process of discovering herself, her songs focus on Sudan’s culture, freedom of expression and other issues concerning personal freedoms.
Her Instagram page “PartofRana” has more than 17,000 followers, where she shares her latest musical releases and spontaneous rapping sessions.
Shadia Mansour – Palestine
Shadia Mansour, 37, is a Palestinian-British rapper, widely known as “Arabic Hip-Hop’s First Lady”.
Born in London, Mansour has used her music as a form of protest against the ongoing Israeli occupation of her homeland, Palestine. She grew up attending rallies with her parents against the Zionist state, before eventaully entering the music scene in 2003.
Mansour also taps into issues concerning gender within the Arab world, especially misogyny, giving attention to the feminist movement. She uses her music, which she sings in Arabic, to preserve her culture.
Throughout her music videos, Mansour dresses in traditional Palestinian clothes and the keffiyeh, a prominent symbol of Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation.
In the song “El Kofeyye Arabeyye”, translating to “the keffiyeh is Arab” in Arabic, Mansour tackled the appropriation of the scarf.
Felukah – Egypt
Sara Elmessiry, known by her stage name Felukah, is an Egyptian rapper based in New York City. Elmessiry is in her early 20’s, and entered the music world in 2018 with her EP “Yansoon”.
The artist’s songs merge both Arabic and English, inspired by what she had described as “the pulse” of New York, which became her place of residence in 2017 for college. The name ‘Felukah’ is derived from the sailboats running along the Nile River, and was suggested by her mother.
Her songs touch on women empowerment, self-discovery and her own culture. Besides her musical career, Felukah is a poet with three published poetry collections. Elmessiry’s work is seen dominating the Egyptian hip-hop scene alongside her male counterparts, on global lists such as Spotify’s “Rap Egypt” playlist.
Raja Meziane – Algeria
Raja Meziane is an Algerian rapper based in Prague in her early 30’s, who rose to fame through her hit Allo le Système, released in 2019.
The song’s popularity was based on many factors, mainly the powerful lyrics calling out the political system at the time – when Algeria was witnessing mass protests. The protests aimed at ousting former leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the country’s longest-serving president.
The late leader, who died last year, had stepped down two years earlier in 2019 amid mass protests and pressure from the army after announcing plans to run for a fifth term.
One lyric that resonated with the listeners is: “You have buried us alive and left the dead in power.”
Meziane had to leave Algeria in 2015 due to censorship, a key obstacle in her musical career given that her songs are political.
Speaking to the BBC in 2019, Meziane said she was told,“either you sing in support of Bouteflika’s fourth term or you forget your career in Algeria.”
Queen G – Kuwait
Queen G is a Kuwaiti rapper who rose to fame in the Gulf region and the entirety of the Middle East and North Africa within a short span of time.
Her songs were quick to spread to TikTok trends and Instagram reels, offering a new form of music to the Gulf, merging hip-hop and rap. She coined the term “Queen-jawy”, taken from her stage name, which she believes reflects the genre of music she offers.
A prominent hit is “Tarshalh”, translating to “Send to Him” in the Kuwaiti dialect, that garnered more than 50 million views on YouTube since its release in 2020. The song was both written and produced by the artist.
“I believe that one of the basics of success is the satisfaction of God first, followed by the satisfaction of parents and loved ones. As for satisfying all people, it is an unattainable goal,” Queen G told Kuwaiti media outlet Al Rai last year.