In the realm of music, there are tales of unprecedented synergy and unfettered authenticity that reshape the narrative of artistry. It’s finding that sweet spot where the threads of friendship and creativity intertwine to weave stories of passion and triumph. No story embodies this more than that of Ra2sMal, the trailblazing music label and collective that has turned the Egyptian rap scene on its head with a dizzying assortment of creative exploits.
This powerhouse collective, comprising of Egyptian rap heavyweights Marwan Moussa, Afroto, Eldab3, Yonyo, and Karim Enzo, recently hit the airwaves with “Shahr Mal,” a dazzling, month-long composition of five hard-hitting EPs, each day punctuated with a new track, a microcosmic snap of the vibrant Egyptian scene.
The quintet’s May blitz, a sonic shower born from the quiet intensity of April’s preparations, cut through the deafening silence of the Ramadan music slumber. The collective spent the month of April meticulously plotting and crafting, moving from the quiet corners of the studio to the loudspeakers of the masses, showering us with fresh releases just in time for spring.
Ironically, despite its Arabic translation as ‘Capital’, the collective’s genesis was deeply organic, its roots planted in the soil of their mutual respect and for music, not a commercial undertaking. Co-founder, linchpin and chief architect of the group, Marwan Moussa, paints a picture of this inception, “We didn’t start intentionally to create a profit-driven label or group. What happened was that we all happened to make music and became friends over that shared interest.” This organic alliance acted as a catalyst, igniting a surge of creativity that transformed Ra2sMal into a familial collective where their individual artistry could flourish, rather than be constrained by the confines of a traditional music label. Co-founders Omar Emad and Marwan Moussa helm this fraternity of artists, their vision rooted in subtle stylistic nuances and the rawness of emotion.
Ra2sMal’s narrative not only chronicles their meteoric rise in the scene but underscores the inherent camaraderie in their music-making journey. It is a reminder that music, in its purest form, isn’t a competition, but a celebration of shared experiences and stories from the streets of Cairo to the alleyways of Alexandria. Their music is something of a sonic journal, narrating their own personal journeys and reflecting the hues of their reality.
There’s no singular, defining Ra2sMal sound, and that’s exactly how they like it. The group’s auditory fingerprint is a chorus of a diversity of influences and experiences as Afroto explains, “We all contribute to each other’s tracks, offering advice and our individual perspectives.” This mosaic of styles, narratives, and sounds is mirrored in the individual EPs, a celebration of their dynamic range.
The group’s workshop-style approach to creation bolstered the quality of the tracks for the “Shahr Mal” release, as Marwan points out, “We had a workshop vibe during the Eps, especially in the final stages… we’re kind of executive producing for each other in a way as well and I think that made a difference in terms of the quality of the track.”
This was essential in getting through the month-long sprint for the release. The artists, Moussa revealed, “sat down together as a team and brainstormed, and since we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, we helped each other come up with the theme or concept that best suited how each one of us was really feeling during that time.” This burst of creativity for the month-long marathon has its roots in the unique synergy among the members.
In the whirlwind of creative momentum that Ra2sMal represents, each artist has something unique to bring to the table. Trust and knowledge sharing are the enduring threads that bind this group together, elements that self-taught producer and rapper Eldab3 attributes as vital to their exponential growth. “Initially what brought us together was our shared interest for music. I think what kept it going is that we were able to build trust and share knowledge between each other,” he expounds.
The cornerstone of Ra2sMal’s success lies in their mutual support and creative interchange as Moussa asserts, “The direction for the five EPs was about capturing the state of mind we were in and translating it into a concept for each EP.” The outcome? A sonic palette diverse in sound, style, and narrative.
In a bid to redefine music, Ra2sMal isn’t too focused on standing out. Their aim is to create irresistibly good music that will captivate their fans and it all grows organically from there. Moussa states, “We want our product to be so good that you genuinely can’t listen to other music.” Their strategy for standing out in a crowded industry? Stay authentic, continually push boundaries, and deliver music that truly resonates.
Moussa reflects on their approach to the EPs, highlighting the importance of individuality, “When it came to creating these EPs, we didn’t think of having some kind of cohesive identity. We really want to highlight how different and unique each of our styles is and that the common denominator between us isn’t this homogeneous identity, but rather our shared interest and appreciation for the craft of making music.”
Each artist demonstrated their mastery over their respective rap styles, imparting their unique musical influences into each track. In the landscape of Egyptian rap, Marwan Moussa stands out with his high-energy, lyrically-focused style. This vivid dynamism permeates his latest EP, brimming with incisive lyrics and intense rhythms. But what fuels this relentless intensity in his work? The answer lies in Moussa’s music regimen, akin to a finely tuned diet.
Rather than feasting on a buffet of genres, Moussa adheres strictly to a diet of select music that keeps his creative senses attuned to the nuances of his craft. Through this auditory nourishment, Moussa remains at the top of the game, perpetually evolving and refining his approach to songwriting. His latest EP is a testimony to this method. Each track encapsulates Moussa’s dedication to lyrical sharpness and vibrant energy, reflecting the hours of carefully curated music he absorbed.
Karim Enzo’s latest EP exudes dark trap influences, a product of his fascination with narratives that blur the lines between the melancholic and the sublime. His penchant for dark trap can be traced back to his childhood, where he developed a deep appreciation for the style’s raw, visceral energy.
His approach to music creation is spontaneous and genuine, freestyling for extended periods of time before refining his lyrics into a cohesive song, “I go on recording a freestyle for around 20-30 minutes on each beat, then arrange it and come out with a song.” His sound isn’t manufactured; it’s the unfiltered rhythm of his street, his environment, his reality. “I picture myself on the street. In the last EP (El Mata7en) during the recording and writing process, I always had the vision of myself with my friends on the corner where we always hang and do whatever. That’s the explanation to the way I sounded on that particular project, because I mostly talk in that calm tone in real life.”
Eldab3, known for his innovative blend of sha3by music and modern hip-hop elements, sought to push the boundaries of Egyptian music, stepping away from the world of western melodies and trying something a little new for his latest EP. This novel approach to music creation resulted in a genre-bending auditory experience that would come to define his signature sound. He attributes this breakthrough in his music to the immersive process behind the creation of their work as a collective, “We spent maybe a week developing the ideas together, which I feel helped me develop a more cohesive and well-structured EP. At least once or twice a week, you would hear one of the other’s tracks and it was kind of like an endless stream of inspiration, so I feel that also helped enrich my sound.”
Alexandria-born rapper Afroto echoes a similar sentiment, underscoring the importance of collective mentorship in their work, “Each one of us acted as a mentor. We’d sit and listen to each other’s tracks, give pointers and offer our perspectives individually and as a collective.” His personal experiences have also deeply coloured his work. His recent travels became the inspiration behind his EP, serving as a tribute to the various countries and cultures he has encountered, “Over the past two years, I travelled a lot outside of Egypt and I toured all over. I wanted each track on the EP to be completely different from the one before it, representing the diversity of countries and cultures I experienced over the last couple of years.” His own odyssey outside Egypt over the past two years was a compelling muse for his EP, “I was always a dreamer, and I wanted people to dream with me and celebrate this success.” he shares. Each track on his EP is a postcard from the different countries and cultures he’s experienced, together painting a vibrant soundscape of his travels.
Reflective and intensely realistic, Yonyo’s music draws heavily from his personal experiences as well. “My personal life, my love life, is the biggest influence on my music,” he confessed, emphasising the central role of authenticity and self-reflection in his craft. His songs, often characterised as the introspective musings of a university student, offer a candid glimpse into the life of the young artist. The universality of his personal experiences allows him to connect deeply with his audience on an emotional level. The EP further solidified his reputation as a relatable and grounded artist in a scene brimming with larger-than-life personas.
Omar Emad, co-founder of Ra2sMal, traced the inception of the label back to 2021, when the idea was initially brought to life by Marwan Moussa. “Marwan Moussa came up with the idea. Omar Ahmed and I were helping execute the vision as it is,” he reminisces. “About the collective coming together, the five artists were always described as a family. The only thing they needed was a big umbrella for them.” The birth of Ra2sMal was not never about creating a music label; it was about forging a creative collective, a family bound by their shared passion for music. With this cohesive approach, Ra2sMal didn’t just ascend to prominence; they redefined the very fabric of the Egyptian rap scene. They crafted a unique selling point, establishing themselves as a powerhouse in an industry often criticised for its homogeneity.
This familial camaraderie extends beyond the studio to their fans as Moussa stresses, “We’re very close to our fans. Staying in touch with them and trying to understand what the fans actually want is critical for us.” This hands-on approach creates something of a synergistic relationship with their fan base, which greatly influences their musical narrative. This raw connection drives their narratives and creative direction, creating music that throbs with the reality of their collective, lived experiences.
The collective’s most memorable moment thus far, according to Emad, was their inaugural showcase in Egypt, “R2SMLSZN 1”. The event saw an incredible turnout, with a crowd of 10,000 fans pouring into a hockey stadium, a sight that still resonates with the team.
This overwhelming show of support is more than just fandom – it’s a testament to the bonds Ra2sMal has cultivated with their audience, aptly termed the ‘Ra2sMal family’. These aren’t casual listeners, but dedicated followers who resonate with the passion and raw emotion that the label pours into every track.
Their success is not hinged solely on their musical prowess. Instead, it’s their commitment to authenticity, both in their music and interactions, that endears them to their fans. Their approach to marketing, far from the high-pressure tactics commonly seen, mirrors their overall ethos – organic, laid-back, and deeply connected with their community.
Ra2sMal’s journey is only just gathering momentum. Their aim isn’t merely to stand out, but to create a body of work so compelling that it leaves their listeners clamouring for more. Their connection with fans goes beyond that of an artist-listener relationship, instead it is a symbiotic synergy that pulsates through their music and fills it with their lived experiences.
In a realm often caught up in stardom and glamour, Ra2sMal is here with a simple, powerful message: Friends before artists. Fans before capital.
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