Myam Mahmoud: Egypt’s First Veiled Rapper

Myam Mahmoud is an Egyptian rap artist, writer and women’s activist from Giza, Egypt. She initially gained popularity as a semi finalist on Arabs Got Talent in 2013 at the age of 18, becoming known as Egypt’s first veiled rapper. Her hard-hitting lyrics condemn issues faced by Egyptian women, especially the different social and educational standards for women compared to men, sexual harassment and victim-blaming.

Mahmoud became popular during the post-Arab Spring era where the youth population, dissatisfied with high unemployment, poverty, and lack of social freedoms lead to backlash often in the form of musical expression. Hip-hop and Rap, as seen throughout the continent, became one of the most frequent sources of expressing these frustrations. She has faced backlash from some members of the Muslim community on not representing Islam, to which she responds that her veiling does not matter. It was a personal choice and had nothing to do with her music.

The song for which Mahmoud became famous, “بنت بميت رجال”, or “A girl killed by men” challenges expectations of women and the assault Egyptian women and girls face on a daily basis. She says “I won’t be the shamed one / You cat call and you harass / And even if these are just words, they are stones. / Even one look can be hurtful” referencing catcalling and harassment. A few verses later, she says “Who says feminism is about dresses? / Femininity is about thought and intellect.” She goes on to say that the problem in society is not with the girl, but with the society that influences her constantly.

Below is an excerpt from another popular song “من حقى”, or “My Right”, in which she discusses patriarchal norms on a more personal level, even denouncing her family’s intentions for marrying her to someone they wanted.

من حقى اجرى الصبح بدرى من غير تعليقات فصيلة

فيها ايه لو اركب عجلة وميتقالش دى بت هبلة

مش هموت لحد ما افهم مفهوم الحرية

Translated, these lyrics are:

It is my right to go on a run in the morning without silly comments /

What will happen if I ride a bike without it being said “This stupid girl”. /

I won’t die until I know the meaning of freedom.

Today, Mahmoud is still making music and performing, while more recently studying Economics at university and working as an activist and model in Giza. Be sure to check out more of her music on SoundCloud here: soundcloud.com/myam-mahmoud, or follow her on Facebook: @MyamMahmoudArabsGotTalent, Instagram: @myammahmoud, and Twitter: @myammahmoud

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