#WaraElMazzika: Rising Rap Star Mandou on Making Music During COVID, Working With Pablo, and the Local Scene
In this edition of #WaraElMazzika, we had a fascinating talk with one of the most talented and promising artists in the Egyptian rap scene, Mandou. The rising rap star has been killing it lately and has been making solid steps towards making it big in his musical career. Mandou recently dropped a new music video, ‘Kawkab’, with a strong message to convey and he just performed in front of a live crowd in one of the very first gigs to take place in Cairo since the lockdown.
We got to talk to Mandou about how he got into rapping, how he shot a music video during the pandemic, what it was like working with the iconic Marwan Pablo, his future plans, and more! Follow our hashtag #WaraElMazzika for more exciting exclusives from the music scene.
When did you start developing your passion for rap? And how did you begin your career as a rap artist?
I started rapping in grade 10, but just for the fun of it. It wasn’t anything serious. It kept going for a while. It was fun as people at school knew my music, knew how I was, and memorized my lyrics. I almost win a talent show at school. The funny thing is that I almost won it, but I was the prom king, so they thought it was too much for me. So I started rapping in grade 10, but I started taking it seriously as a career in my third or fourth year of uni.
What inspires your lyrics and music?
Real live events. I like to talk about what I do, how I feel. I like to rap about stuff that I went through. Or stuff that other people went through and told me about. I try to make music as relatable as it can be. Whatever I go through, I know that someone else went through it. It’s nice to know that I can help somebody out there, that would listen to my music and feel something. Also I’m inspired from different artists. Some of my favorite artists include Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, T-pain, Black, and much more. I listen to a lot of things and I like to put it all together.
What was it like shooting a music video during the pandemic?
I had to be very careful. It was pretty hard because not everyone might be up for it. Usually I would just post a story and say that I need people for my music video and I would get a lot of people. But I couldn’t do that this time because I didn’t want random people in the video. I just had to tell all my friends and pray that most of them come, because I knew that not everyone is going to come. But it went well, and it was safe, we were at my house, I knew everyone and it went fine.
As an independent artist, what’s the biggest challenge that you face in getting your music out there?
Nowadays, it’s very easy to get your music on all platforms. You just sign with any distribution company. And it takes a couple of minutes and boom, it’s out there on all platforms. But that’s not enough, you have to promote your music, through social media, word of mouth, and performing. All these things need to be planned. Being a musician isn’t just about music, there’s a marketing strategy, there’s the business aspect of it. It’s pretty hard doing it by yourself, but it’s not impossible.
After months of lockdown, how did it feel to perform in front of live audience in your latest gig at soul?
It felt great, cause I love performing. I genuinely love it! It’s probably my favorite thing about being a musician. And the fact that people know my music now is amazing. Especially that I had a gig booked right at the week were the world got locked down for corona, so it felt so annoying back then, and much better when I got to perform.
Talk to us about working with the iconic Marwan Pablo on your track, Wish.
This is probably my favorite experience ever. The first time I listened to Pablo was early last year. I heard a song called Folklore on YouTube, and I really liked it. I wasn’t a fan of Arabic rap before, but I really liked it. So I sent him a message on Facebook and he sent me a number. So I texted the number and it turns out that it’s his manager. I didn’t know back then that rappers have managers..
Then he was like “yes, of course, but there is a price for it”. So I was like “sure”. I made the beat, they liked it, and a couple of weeks later they sent me his verse. That day when I got the verse I didn’t believe that I just made a track with Pablo. So I decided to take another step, which is to shoot a music video, and they agreed. Up until the video, I didn’t have any interaction with Marwan, and it was the first time I meet him. We clicked and it was pretty cool, and everything was upwards from there. And it’s still my favorite track, and it’s my most viewed video on YouTube with almost a million views!
What do you think contributed to the recent rise in the Egyptianian rap scene? Do you think it’s here to stay or will it be temporary?
People are open to rap now, and they’re realizing that rap isn’t just people screaming and shouting angrily. They realize the art and creativity behind it. It’s cool how rap is becoming mainstream now. It’s on ads, movies, radio, and TV. I don’t think it’s temporary, I think it’s here to stay. Rap has been there for a long time, but it started to show now. I doubt that it’ll disappear again. It took Egypt by storm, and it’s only getting bigger. With artists like Wegz, Marwan Moussa, Abyusif, and more are doing a great job representing the rap scene.
What are your future plans?
Obviously make more and more music. I’d like to be a global artist, and not just big on the local scene, but I’m taking it one step at a time. Yeah I have more plans, not to go into details, but I’m going to focus more on my marketing and promotions and all that. I know my music is good, but I just need to do more about promoting it.