(These events took place the last week of November 2018)
I still don’t understand why I go to these places to work. Overpriced coffee shops riddled with loud conversations. Between moms talking about what developing country has the best nannies to public breakups, there are familiar faces that seem to enjoy the same type of suffering. Mohsen is one of those faces. Normally our conversations revolve around our work, but for some reason or the other, he brought up his weekend plan; a trip to Alexandria with some guys to attend a gig called Trap Knights. At the time, I had recently been introduced to the trap scene in Egypt, names like Marwan Pablo, Wegz and Mado-Sam. This line-up included two of these names and then some. This interested me. I asked him to let me know if this happens, I’m definitely in. A study has to be made behind the probability of spontaneous coffee shop plans that actually happen. I’m going to assume that number is between 2-4%, luckily I’m stupid enough to never let that stop me.
I get excited about this plan and start calling everyone I know that could be interested in such a trip. I was able to get a solid 3 confirmations, a group has officially been assembled. The day is coming up and I call Mohsen. His weekend filled up, him and everyone he planned on going with bailed. Now it’s just Tarek Effat, Marwan Morsy, Gahallah and myself. Good enough for sure.
We meet that morning at a coffee shop right outside the Alex-Cairo gates, this one is basically the exact opposite of the other one, it’s the “give me a fucking coffee because I have to drive 300 kilometers on a Friday” kind of place. So I got a fucking coffee and drove for 300 kilometers. We get to Alex, a good few hours before the gig. Having never been to a Trap event before, let alone in Egypt, it seemed appropriate that some form of a pre-game was necessary. We had a couple beers, just enough for a buzz. It’s time.
We look up the venue: نادي ٦ اكتوبر. Google takes us there, we park and walk up to a door to find the last thing we expected. Soldiers. They’re sitting inside a booth by an entrance. We look at them, then look at each other, then we walk up to them
“لو سمحت هو تراب نايتس هنا ؟"
"ايوه يا باشا"
We pay and walk in like it’s the most normal thing that’s happened all day. There’s no sign of any trap or any music for that matter, just a rustic ferris wheel and a bunch of chairs right on the shore, someone’s dream came here and literally died. The closer we get to it, some semblance of music can be heard. We follow.
As we get closer, none of us have any idea what we’re about to walk into, it doesn’t make a difference at this point though, anything at all would have made it all worth it. We go up some stairs into a space covered by some tarps to keep the area dry from the brewing storm. We walk in and there it is.
A crowd, probably around 100 people, predominately guys between the ages of 13 to 16. The energy in this place was unlike any event I’ve ever attended in Egypt. First of all, any kid with a cigarette probably felt like Kurt Cobain in this place, so the sobriety level here was worthy of Heaven. Secondly, the style. Albeit knockoffs, the kids were repping every streetwear trend to the book, Off-White/Nike collab sneakers bootlegged to the zip tie, paint splashed denim jeans, every variety of trending jackets you can think of from oversized workwear to trench coats so clean, anywhere else in the world you’d assume it’s a Raf Simons classic. These kids knew how to dress. Then there were the artists.
The setup was basic; speakers, a sound engineer and an auto tuned mic. Realistically, that’s really all you need. We arrived just as Marwan Pablo started. The energy was contagious. Kids all jumping together in sync with Marwan chanting every single one of his words. They all knew them by heart, in delivery and passion. Every single song, even the one he had released just a few days earlier. You could feel the entire space shake as they all land together with each jump to the beats of each song. We joined the crowd every other song when we knew the lyrics but we mostly just stood back and enjoyed a true moment in youth culture. Each artist that took the mic got the same treatment, respect and appreciation for their craft.
Then, in true hip hop fashion, a fight ensued. And in literal seconds, it was over. The DJ collected his gear, each artist walked out with their entourage, some shouting and curses were thrown around and that was it. We slowly walked amongst a crowd that stepped back into their respective realities, through the gate past the soldiers into an empty street full of giant puddles.
No after party. Just a long drive through heavy rain, reflecting on the whole day. It was surreal honestly, and very inspiring. Seeing that in person confirms a sub-culture in this country, a passionate and real trap movement, through all its forms.
Ensuing months came with a flood of tracks and videos from artists all over Egypt, with views in the millions by people from all types of backgrounds, from the kids in نادي ٦ اكتوبر to freelancers in pastel tone coffee shops. Those artists now sell out venues in Darb 1718 and move giant crowds at D-Caf. And this is only the beginning.
Photography by Marwan Morsy