In the midst of the ongoing revolution, Egyptian hip hop group Arabian Knightz has released Rebel, the first song to come out of Egypt since January 25 and the internet blackout. It was released immediately when internet services were restored, in a raw, unmixed version because, due to the uncertainty of the communications situation, they wanted the song to be out as soon as possible. The world needs to hear their message. As of right now, it is people like them who carry the voice of Egyptians.
Arabian Knightz is a Cairo-based rap outfit comprised of emcees Rush, Sphinx and Money, and they record music with both Arabic and English lyrics. Their newest track Rebel is an emotionally empowering song produced by Iron Curtain and featuring a sample of Lauryn Hill on the hook. It captures the heart, courage and spirit of the Egyptian people currently embattled in fighting for their country. The debut album of Arabian Knightz, Uknighted State of Arabia, is set for a mid-2011 release. Mashallah had a talk with Sphinx and Rush about the track:
When was the song written: during the uprising or before?
Sphinx: My part was written about five months before the revolution. The Arabian Knightz’s movement motto is “Arabs Stand Up” and that is something we constantly push in our lyrics. We were actually saving Rebel for the right time, and when this happened I felt there would be no better time to release it. So, I sent it back to Rush who immediately wrote his verse. This was only moments before he was called by his neighbours to come down and protect his building from looting thugs.
Rush: Yeah, and it’s crazy how his part fits perfectly.
These kinds of songs are always hard to release. Did you face trouble releasing such tracks before the uprising?
Sphinx: Of course. Whenever we release music with this type of content, we get frowns and censorship. We don’t care about that because, like my verse says: “The truth is my ammunition”. Nothing will stop me from telling the truth, regardless who it may hurt. We are actually kind of sweating the censorship on our upcoming album, although we always stay away from mentioning names because of fear of people being imprisoned by the dictator.
Rush: For us, this was a now or never thing. Before the uprising everything was hard to do. Even making this interview was a risk then.
What message does the song convey?
Sphinx: The message is to rebel. To rebel against oppression, to rebel against the divide and conquer of our society, and to rebel against the dumbing of our people. As humans we all need to stand up against such things whenever we see them. And, as Muslims we are demanded to do so by God. We all need to do what we can to speak out against the wrongs of the world.
Rush: The message is to speak out and rebel. You have a voice: use it.
What do you hope the listeners will get out of the track?
Sphinx: We always hope to inspire people to speak out against injustices. These are the issues we bring up in our music. So, with this track we hope that people will begin to stand up for their rights and to take back what is rightfully theirs.
Rush: I hope that our listeners get the actual message and that everyone starts sticking up for himself/herself and what he/she stands for. People need to be more straight and vocal about what they think. There shouldn’t be room for fear now. Some people try using your fear to control you: this shouldn’t be allowed.
Describe the situation in Cairo as you see it?
Sphinx: The situation was and still is really hectic. These criminals that were sent out to cause havoc in the streets of Cairo are the worst thing I’ve seen in my life. I saw men jumping onto balconies with guns trying to kill the men and rape the women of the house! Then, on the other side, I am very proud of the young men and women who actually stand up for their rights and demand changes. It really takes a lot of guts. I’ve never been so proud as I am today to say that I am an Egyptian. And, I witnessed a revolution.
Rush: The situation is a war of wits and tolerance now between the government and the people. The regime is using old tactics that we are able to read right through. First, they used the violence and oppression of the police system until people literally destroyed the whole police force in only four hours. You can’t oppress a whole nation. No matter how much weapons you use and how many cops you have, the masses will win. Once people win over their own fears and unite, everything becomes possible. Egypt proved it and so did Tunisia.
Then came the release of prisoners from the jails and paying thugs to perform drive by shootings all over Egypt in order to scare people. This was a plan to basically frighten people into begging the regime to stay and protect them. But, the thugs that got caught told the media about that plan right away! The regime miscalculated the fact that media today is not what it was in the 80s: now there is internet and cable channels. Media is not controlled anymore to spread government lies.
So, when that failed came a speech by the president which was full of emotions and sorrow trying to get to people’s hearts. He made promises to answer to people’s demands, but without a single action or guarantee. Yet, many people bought into it. The last card that the regime tries to play now is the “Islamic radicals” one. This is the card Mubarak always uses with both the US government and his own people: “If I leave the Islamic radicals will take over.” That’s why cameras at rallies were shooting only people with beards. I was there, and there was barely anyone with a beard!
What are your thoughts on the role of media in this revolution: Egyptian TV vs. international TV?
Sphinx: Well, I believe that the majority of media has distorted what is happening. Either they make it seem more than it actually is, or less. The Egyptian media has really downplayed the situation to make it seem like nothing is happening, whereas international media is blowing things out of proportion. There is no real truth being shown. It’s as if they are trying to make our revolution a reality show.
Rush: Egyptian TV probably isn’t aware that people nowadays have Youtube and satellite channels broadcasting everything. I am disgusted by how local papers have portrayed the January 25 revolution. Can you believe that they wrote things like “The cops and the people exchanged roses”! Where was that report from? Disneyland?! The vice-president of Nile TV even resigned as he was so disgusted with their lies.
What is your message to the Egyptian government now?
Sphinx: My message is to just listen to the people and to do exactly what they ask them to do. This should be done as quickly and peacefully as possible. The government has the duty to protect its people, and it’s them that are in charge of the process. They will all stand up before God one day and answer to him about how they treated the people under their power.
Rush: I want to say: Leave. You’ve had your time, it’s not your time or age any more. People who are in their 70s and 80s and still cling on to their big positions need to back off. They are the ones who have literally f***** up the planet and driven it to its darkest times EVER. As for the Egyptian youth, what we have seen these days is that this generation can do anything. We are the first ever nonviolent and non-militant revolution to beat a violent regime.
You can download Rebel right here (please support Arabian Knightz and spread it!)