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Exclusive Interview: MT3 on Hip Hop and the Endless Potential of Viral Musical Content

We tracked down viral hip hop sensation MT3 to clear up Al Jazeera's claims on him being a political activist, and talk virality and the things that make him write.

When overnight viral sensation Mahmoud Tarek (MT3) walked into our office, people got a little starstruck – recognising him and quickly dropping what they're doing to go shake hands or take his number. Some didn't get past the 'stare at him from far away' part. What is it that made the 22-year-old Saudi-born and Faisal-raised rapper the sensation he is, with his amateur Facebook video unexpectedly amassing well over a million views over a week? "Most people or rap artists in Egypt use the medium to diss each other or try to enhance their own persona by taking down someone else," the young artist explains. "I dislike that, I think that rap music is a means to express yourself, so I rap about my dad, girls, and social strife."

It's for this same reason that, in the shadows of the underground, Egyptian rap and hip hop laid their foundations on the concrete Cairene streets way before there was any sign of mahraganat, yet rap/hip hop never made it as big as mahraganat.  MT3 believes that maharaganat artists are stealing lyrics and beats from Egyptian rap artists, claiming that the only reason that maharaganat has found success is because its listeners have no alternative. “They have fertile soil to seed their music, the only reason they are getting so much exposure is because there is no other subculture addressing the type of people they’re addressing,” he says. And that's how MT3 became the overnight sensation he is – instead of beefing with other artists or advancing his own agenda, he used the genre to speak the truth behind every youth in Egypt's social strife, and he did it with lyrical class. After pulling him away from the MO4 masses, we head over to the studio and talk about the hip hop game in Egypt, the misconception surrounding him being a political activist, and what you need to know about going viral.

The kid is brimming with talent and self-confidence; he knows that his skills are still raw, though, and understands that he has a long way to go, using the words 'much bigger rappers' in reference to some of Egypt’s underground artists. Whenever we would speak about music – or rap, to be precise – his passion for music would show; his face would light up. Resisting several offers from producers wishing to sign record deals with him, MT3 is choosing to remain independent in order to be able to craft his identity in his own way. He says that the next six month are the most important since rappers, rap music fans, and people who have never heard rap/hip hop before are now waiting for his next move. With all the attention this kid his been getting recently, all we know is it better be big, because it will probably go viral – or will it?

Find MT3 on Facebook here for regular updates and follow him on Soundcloud for more tunes.

Main image and video by @MO4Network's #MO4Production.
Photographed by Ahmed Najeeb.
Videography by Taher Gamal and Mohamed Gawish