Egypt's First Democratically-Elected President, Mohamed Morsi, Has Been Laid to Rest

The former statesman has been buried alongside other figures of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Yesterday, former President Mohamed Morsi suffered a fatal heart attack in a Cairo court while he was on trial for espionage charges. Morsi was the first head-of-state to be democratically elected in Egypt's modern history following President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule. However, he was eventually ousted by the military in 2013 after continuous protests calling for him to step down.

Whilst many are not particularly aggrieved by the death of Morsi following his involvement in the killings of protesters in 2012, others have accused Egyptian authorities and current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of his death.

Morsi, who was facing six more trials and serving a 20-year sentence, was reportedly denied medical care and kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day—torture, under UN guidelines. Morsi's history of diabetes, kidney and liver disease coupled with the poor conditions of prison, are said to have brought about what the Independent Detention Review Panel predicted would be a "premature death". The panel added that, "The denial of basic medical treatment to which he is entitled could lead to his premature death...The whole overseeing chain of command up to the current president would have responsibility for this."

In the wake of Morsi's death, there have been renewed calls to investigate Egypt's treatment of political detainees.

The now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest political Islamist group in the Arab world and the organisation to which Morsi belonged, referred to his death as a "full-fledged murder". Morsi was reportedly buried next to other senior figures of the Muslim Brotherhood according to a statement released by his son, Abdullah Mohamed Morsi, on social media.

Photo by Omar Maro/FL EX

FL EX is Bringing Egyptian Drill to the World

Get to know fast-rising rapper and singer FL EX, one of the acts helping propel Egyptian drill and North African hip hop to stratospheric levels.

If you want to get an emphatic and multi-layered view of Egyptian urban culture, the music springing out of youth-centric scenes in cities like Cairo, Giza, and Alexandria is a useful starting point on the life, opinions, and beliefs of citizens of the North African country. Over the last three years, drill music — the Chicago-pioneered hip hop offshoot — has come on in leaps and bounds in the country, helping to soundtrack the angst of a generation grappling with the after-effect of two violent political revolutions. Largely building on the pioneering work of acts like Abyusif, Marwan Pablo, Abo El Anwar, Moscow, and Wegz, a new generation of drill stars is rising from the country’s capital with their base of operation localised in Maadi, a leafy suburb of Cairo.

Fast-rising rapper and singer, FL EX ( born Mohamed Ibrahim Hamed), is one of the acts helping propel Egyptian drill to stratospheric levels thanks to a pint-sized collection of singles and EPs that exemplify the dynamism of the country’s hip-hop scene. Signed to Maadi Town Mafia, FL EX has played a key role in codifying the present ethos of drill music in Egypt, mixing the bravado of the nation’s youth with a leering flow-pattern inspired by his icon, Eminem. All of this led to a proper breakthrough in 2022 that was confirmed by the success of the album, MESAMA3EEN EP, led by the anthemic “Logan.”

Despite his success with drill music, the 21-year-old wasn’t initially considering rapping over drill beats prior to joining Maadi Town Mafia. “I didn’t feel a connection with it until I joined [them] and they convinced me that I was built for it,” FL EX says about the sub-genre. “The team at Maadi Town Mafia told me that my talent lay there and that the way I approached my lyrics was going to be more evident in a drill framework. They also said they have a certain vision for me that became evident after we worked on two songs together and that just convinced me that I was on the right path.”

Egyptian rapper FL EX pulls on his silver chain and stares at the camera Photo by Héloïse Zdka/FL EX

Early Life & Rise

FL EX’s path into music began a long time ago, as a child who spent most of his early life dreaming of music superstardom. Although he’s primarily affiliated with the green of Maadi these days, the rapper spent a significant portion of his earlier life in Faisal, Giza with his tight-knit nuclear family, where he soaked in some of his earliest hip-hop influences and the street culture around him. “Faisal had an active hip-hop scene, even when there wasn’t a big hip-hop scene in Egypt on a national level,” he says. “It was a very special sub-culture where you’d see street fashion and graffiti culture everywhere — and the music tied all of it together. That’s how I got into music because I wanted to do what the older guys in my hood were doing.”

After being scouted by Maadi Town Mafia in 2020 and encouraged to experiment with the drill sound, FL EX debuted late in 2021 with Shayateen, a biting four-track EP that introduced the rapper as a bruising, technically proficient MC with a knack for raging against the conservative public outlook on life in Egypt. Importantly, his association with M-Town Mafia positioned him in an ecosystem that understood his strengths and amplified his gifts. “ I found that Maadi Town Mafia was the best environment available for me to work in Egypt because I found my identity and creative direction here,” he affirms. Importantly, the label also provided friendship for the rapper who spent his earliest years without people who understood his dream of being a musician.

Breakout Years

If 2021 was a year for unleashing his furious flow, 2022 saw FL EX lean into a new role of archivist, documenting the oft-overlooked life of people living on the edge of Cairo’s big sprawl and in the shadow of its high-powered superstructure. That new essence helped propel the single “Logan” to national fame and regional prominence. MESAMA3EEN, the tape housing “Logan” also raced to the top of the charts, confirming FL EX’s status as one of Egyptian drill’s standard-bearers even if he was reluctant to work on the project at first

FL EX - Logan (Official Music Video) | فليكس - لوجان youtu.be

MESAMA3EEN was a massive milestone for me because I didn’t expect the project to pop off as it did,” he explains. “As much as I loved the process of putting it together, it represented a challenge to me as well because it was a solo project and the core value of operating in Maadi Town Mafia has always been rooted in our collaborative work. However, the team convinced me that individuality is key in any artist’s career and having those five songs is an important step in my discography because it turned out great even if I didn’t have high expectations.”

Despite his burgeoning public profile and rising stock on a regional scale, FL EX is quick to acknowledge the work of other artists for the rise of drill as a key part of Egypt’s modern musical identity. “I think that drill has taken off in Egypt thanks to the collective work of artists here as well as the effort and time put into the hip-hop scene by Maadi Town Mafia. It also has to do with the music we constantly put out with regards to myself and other label artists like Husayn and Wingii, consistency was key for the music to pop off,” he says. Navigating his role as an ambassador for drill music is something that the rapper is still getting used to, and he’s getting some much-needed help from label-mate, Husayn, who has been in the limelight for much longer. “It was rocky at the start but I’ve been able to gain some perspective with the help of Husayn who I consider a friend and big brother and that’s been really helpful in putting everything in perspective,” FL EX says.

FL EX, however, enthusiastically loves the thrill of giving a voice to an authentic representation of life in Maadi, even arguing that his music is growing to become symbolic of life in Cairo at large. “It’s the number one motive of any hip-hop artist to be the face of their city,” he says. “When I walk around Maadi and the people I grew up around tell me that I put Maadi on the map, it has a huge value to me and is a big source of pride because that was the motive from time. Thankfully, we’ve always been the face of Maadi and we get to put our area on the map but I’m also the face of Cairo. I consider that one of the biggest honours of my life because it shows that people see themselves in what I say in my songs and feel represented in my songs and there’s nothing bigger than that at the end of the day.”

Pursuing Law School Alongside Hip Hop

At present, FL EX who is also a law student at Cairo University, is concentrating on doing his best in school while continuing to grow his music career at a steady rate. “I try to find that equality between studying and achieving musical success but I’m trying to wrap up my law degree as soon as possible,” he says. “I try to motivate myself by reminding myself that there’s always room and space to do both things efficiently. I’ve been having a good career as far as music goes and I’m trying to take each year as it comes with regards to my education.”

As our conversation comes to a close, the topic strays to the subject of his debut album that he’s been working on for the last two months and he’s pensive as he considers an answer on how that’s going. When the answer comes, it’s a reflection of a musician who is just taking things in his stride and living in the moment. “I’m enjoying the process, even if it’ll take a while, because we’re trying to make music that’ll outlive us,” he offers. “That’s always the goal with me and Maadi Town Mafia.”

Photo by Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images via Getty Images

South African Rapper Costa Titch Dies While Performing on Stage

Costa Titch, who was only 28, collapsed on stage in the middle of a festival performance.

South African rapper Constantinos Tsobanoglou, popularly known as Costa Titch, died over the weekend after collapsing onstage during a music festival performance. He was only 28.

Titch was performing at the Ultra South Africa concert near Johannesburg, when collapsed while on stage. The rapper regained consciousness but in quick succession collapsed a second time. Following his second collapse, emergency responders, and members of his team tried to revive him, but their efforts were unsuccessful. It is not yet clear what caused him to collapse.

Following the chain of events, Costa Titch’s family members confirmed the tragic news of his passing on his official Instagram account.

Ever since the news broke, fans shared their condolences on social media, and praised the artist for his musical ability.

Akon, who signed Costa to his label Konvict Muzik, also shared some heart warming words on his instagram account in respect to the late artist.

“I remember when Babs played me his record for the first time. I was convinced that he was going to make an impact in this world. Costa Titch had a vision that I knew for sure would take over the music industry globally and was on his way to doing just that when god’s plan intervened. It’s been a sad day but what makes me feel better is that I know he died doing what he loved doing the most in this world. God bless you COSTA!!!!!,” Akon wrote.

Before he passed, Costa had released the remix to his commercially successful “"Big Flexa" song. The rapper was also known for records like “Super Star” and “Goat." In 2020, he released his debut album, Made in Africa. Here's what OkayAfrica wrote about it at the time:

"Made in Africa doesn't do much to introduce the listener to the person behind Costa Titch. It's not that kind of album. As mentioned previously, it's made up of bangers and has plenty of guests. Almost every song is designed to be a single. So, there aren't any deep cuts in which the artist digs deep into his personal life to share heartfelt stories and vulnerability. The only instance is the song "Holy Rain" in which he reflects on his ongoing rise to the top of the SA hip-hop food chain—from being Cassper Nyovest's dancer to being tasked with 'saving the game.'"

Our thoughts go out to all of his loved ones.

Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Rema Sends Solidarity Message to the 5 Iranian Women Arrested for Dancing to His Music

Rema has spoken out in support of five Iranian girls who were arrested for dancing to his music.

Nigerian Afropop star Rema, sent out a message of solidarity to five Iranian young women who were reportedly arrested for releasing a video dancing to his music.

On International Women’s Day, which occured on March 8th, the women created a buzz online after they released a video showing themselves dancing to the global smash "Calm Down." In the video, the women were wearing no headscarves, while slightly exposing midriffs.

According to reports, the Iranian government soon caught wind of the video, and began looking for the girls. On March 9th, the Shahrak Ekbatan Twitter account—an account that belongs to activists from the Ekbatan area—first alerted the general public by posting the dancing video online and stating that authorities had been asking residents in the area if they knew the women.

"They looked for CCTV footage of Block 13 to identify the girls who were only dancing and were not involved in any political activity. Police were seen checking the footage and questioning the guards," the account said.

Earlier this week, the Ekbatan-based activists reported that the women had been detained and forced to make an apology video, dressed in regalia that completely covered them from head to toe. The news soon caught the attention of Rema, who tweeted out a solidarity message in support of the women earlier this week.

Although it is unclear how long the Iranian women were detained for, the Shahrak Ekbatan Twitter commented under the Twitter thread, stating that the girls were apprehended for about two days.

Historically, Iran girls have faced a number of restrictions that have limited their freedom. Some of these restrictions include legalities that require them to cover their hair and dress modestly in public.

Although there have been demands to abolish the compulsory headscarf rule, no progress has been made in that regard, and the rule is still in effect.

News Brief
Photo by Kwame Adzaho-Amenortor

Ghana Holds State Funeral For Christian Atsu

Ghanaian soccer player Christian Atsu's family and loved ones come together to pay their respects at his funeral at the State House in Accra, Ghana.

Ghana held a state funeral for soccer legend Christian Atsu in Accra on Friday (March 17th). Atsu, who played for the Turkish club Hatayspor, passed away last month after massive earthquakes rocked Turkey. (Those earthquakes, which began on February 6, have killed more than 50,000 people.)

The ceremony was presided over by Ghana's president Nana Akufo-Addo, who joined the soccer star's friends, family, fans, and colleagues to send off Atsu. During the ceremony, the coffin was draped in Ghana's flag's colors and placed under a white tent.

During the ceremony, Atsu's widow Marie-Claire Rupio tearfully shared her last respects to the Ghanaian hero.

"In life, I loved you, in death, I do the same. It breaks my heart to lose you. You did not go alone. Part of you in me left with you. Your love is still my guide, though I cannot see you. Your smile, your love, I see in my children’s smile... You did not leave alone—a part of me went with you. Your love continues to guide me... You seemed immortal. Your smile, your love, I see you in the smile of our children."

After weeks of searching, Atsu's remains were recovered near the destroyed building where he lived in Antakya, Turkey on February 18.

Atsu—who was 31 at the time of his death and who had just joined the club last year—began his career in 2011 and quickly became known as one of the Black Stars' best players, adopting the name "Ghanaian Messi." He went on to play for several European clubs, including Chelsea, Newcastle United, Al-Raed, and Hatayspor, among others.

During his career, Atsu represented the Ghana national football team and garnered over 60 caps and 10 scored goals. At the height of his career, Atsu also participated in several international tournaments with Ghana, including the Africa Cup of Nations and the FIFA World Cup. The celebrated Ghanaian sportsman was known for his well-times space, his ability to dribble strategically, and the way he created scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.

Atsu leaves behind his widow and three children.

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