Quite the character, Ayman Askar, AKA Aymen, plans on plying to Egyptian Hip Hop scene with the unmistakable sounds of old school, East Coast rap, a little naughtiness and a lot of bling. Joe Nadi meets him at the studio to find out more...
It's not every day you meet a New Jersey-based rapper who's decided to leave the East Coast and set up shop in Cairo, but that's exactly what Ayman Askar, AKA Aymen, has done. Having found someone who appreciates the same old school sounds as I do, as exemplified by his album Ghetto Bible, I was eager to find out what he has brewing in the studio and what he's bringing to a scene saturated in Shaabi beats and Oriental-fusion melodies.
So I meet up with the American-Egyptian musician to get to know the guy and understand his mindset. I could see the fire in his eyes immediately as we kick back at Vibe Studio where we delve straight in. When asked what he's been up to, he jumps in without hesitation: "A 24 track album. I already bought 18 songs; I have six more to shop for. I bought the tracks but I haven’t written the lyrics yet but it’s going to be dope. Aside from the 24 tracks I’m going to have two bonus tracks. The first album, Ghetto Bible, was honestly rushed. I wanted to put out an album that people could listen to on an afternoon drive and that’s it. I just wanted to be out there and be on the market. Then next one is going to show the range of talent I've got. I’m going to be aggressive with the rappers in Egypt or the Middle East with this album. I divided it into 2 sessions. The first 12 songs are going to be hardcore shit and the other session is going to be all mellow, it’s going to calm people down.”
Clearly motivated, we dig a little bit deeper into his past. “I’m Egyptian but I grew up in America my whole life so I would say I’m more Americanised because all my childhood memories are there so what can I say. My taste in music went from Rock and Pop growing up because that’s all my brother used to listen to, then it changed strictly to Hip Hop when I was like, nine. MC Hammer and a Tribe Called Quest were like the foundation for me wanting to make music so I started writing and never looked back.” As smart-mouthed in his interview as he is with his lyrics, Aymen is ever the entertainer, as I quickly found out...
When did you know you wanted to be a rapper?
As soon as I heard Naughty By Nature and when I saw him, I wanted to dance. I went to school for it and I became a real street dancer. But the more I listened to them the more I wanted to rap. I told myself, I like what they’re doing, I like the idea that they’re cussing. I mean, he’s on stage and he’s like “I want to fuck Madonna on a bunk bed,” and I’m like 10-years old and thinking, this is sick. I want to do that, I want to be able to say I want to fuck Madonna on a bunk bed on stage, on record and know that I’m allowed to say that and it’s alright.
That’s definitely interesting. So what kind of music do you listen to now?
I listen to a lot of Rock, actually. 60s 70s Rock and a lot of Pop from the 80s but obviously my main thing every day is Hip Hop. I used to listen to a lot of Tupac; I spent years just listening to him alone. It takes a lifetime just to soak his game inside your system and understand what he’s saying. Now I listen to a lot of Lil Wayne. I feel he’s an incredibl and talented individual. I think he’s one of the greatest musicians of all time. He’s a lyrical genius and his music is different so I listen to a lot of him. I’m learning about the music from him. I learned the game from 'Pac and now I’m learning the music business from Weezy.
So do you prefer old school or new school sounds?
Well, old school to get me by. Like if I got problems or are stressed out I’ll be bumping old school. But if I want to be dancing I’ll pump East Coast 90s music. Biggie and Bad Boy. If you want to dance that’s what you’re bumping but if you want to listen to real shit, you go to the West Coast 90s era and listen to real shit. If I want to listen to music nowadays just to see what’s going on and learn I listen to Young Money and Rick Ross’ Maybach Music and all of those new school groups. It's taught me to mix up the sounds. Like, I want all of my music to sound old school but I want it to have that new school twist to show my listeners that I can handle both styles. It will show that I’m old school but I can do new school and it’s not like I need to change. I’m me. I’m like someone coming from the Back to the Future movies.
Sounds like you're on a mission...
Yeah, yeah I want to bring back all that old shit. The old clothes, the mentality, the posse, the old way of rapping.
How do you think you can bring that Hip Hop scene to Egypt?
By bling-blinging it.
Yeah, it would be like the first attraction type of thing. Egypt like coolness more than anything and Egyptians would do anything be cool. And here there isn’t much. I don't mean people; there’s a lot of coolness in the people but there aren’t many products to help them become the cool dudes they want. I mean the clothes or the cars. You can't pimp a car out here. I mean you can, you just don't know how and that’s what I want to bring to the people. Pimp your dress code out. I want to bring jewellery. I want to start a diamond business in Egypt where people can start pimping themselves with some diamonds, bling-blinging themselves. The way I see it, people would be attracted to the type of show we give them and say “Hey this guy is wearing these diamonds and he’s got bling bling and is dressed up in a funky outfit. He’s different.” So I want to bring a little America to Egypt and people will like the music.
Follow Aymen on Soundcloud here.
Photography by Aly Bahr.