Meet Perrie El Hariri, the fierce new face of Egyptian hip-hop

The artist has been appointed as an ambassador for Equal Arabia, an initiative by Spotify to amplify the voices of female content creators from the Mena

Egyptian musician Perrie El Hariri says her second album will be darker in tone. Photo: Spotify
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Rapper and producer Perrie El Hariri had her name up in lights recently on Spotify's digital advertisement hoardings in New York's Times Square.

The recognition follows her appointment as the ambassador for Equal Arabia, an initiative by the streaming platform to amplify the voices of female content creators from the Middle East and North Africa.

El Hariri, whose artist name is Perrie, is only coming to terms with the notion of joining the small list of Egyptian superstars, including Amr Diab and Mohamed Ramadan, who have appeared on advertisement hoardings in Times Square.

Egyptian rapper Perrie El Hariri's photo recently appeared on Spotify's digital advertisement hoardings in New York's famed Times Square. Photo: Spotify

However, it is what the move represents for Arab female artists that is more inspiring, she says.

"I do it for myself, the [hip hop] culture and women," she tells The National. "That's what keeps the drive going when it comes to my work, ethics and effort. It is also quite a strong move to be on the billboard, it's not something that we, in a scene, would have ever imagined.”

Perrie caught Spotify's attention in 2020 with her breakout single Shigella, a potent retort to Tameem Youness's Salmonella, a controversial track the singer hoped would be taken as a joke about how men respond to rejection from women.

However, with lyrics wishing the ex falls ill from food poisoning or a promise to spread false rumours about her lifestyle, the track was accused of encouraging harassment against women, a charge Youness vehemently denies.

Shigella’s lyrics have Perrie forcefully calling out men’s disrespectful behaviour towards women, something she says remains depressingly prevalent in Egyptian society.

"Salmonella was a reflection of society and I view that song, basically, as the man or majority of men speaking, while Shigella is the sound of women talking back and standing up for themselves,” she says.

“The song is not a direct response to Tameem but more a response to patriarchy and misogyny as a whole."

Born in Egypt, Perrie was raised in an artistic household with a music-loving mother and her father, the late Egyptian actor Omar El Hariri. Despite the influences, her move to becoming a musician came with its own share of anguish.

"Being an artist was expected after having such individuals in my family," she says. "But the thing is, I've always wanted to be a doctor or gynaecologist and I had that battle between having my own path and doing what everyone expects me to be.”

Perrie's eventual decision to commit to music was down to the freedom it afforded.

"I am not really a multitasker but when it came to music I was able to write, produce and mix songs very naturally," she says. "Even the act of creating a song and being fully responsible for it from start to finish made me feel like I am a one-woman industry.”

Fans have been given taste of where Perrie's passions are taking her through El Sa’a Tes’a (9 O’clock), the lead single from her coming second album.

The track epitomises the command she has of her craft as a performer, writer and producer. Backed by murky trap-hip-hop production, the lyrics are boastful as she compares herself to, among other things, a cobra poised to strike.

"I didn't want this song to be accessible to the general market, but only for rap listeners. It is very intense when it comes to the flow and the lyrical punchlines and metaphors,” she says.

“Where the last album felt like I needed to prove something to myself, the new work is more self-expressive, dark and hostile, in a way."

With the track leading Spotify’s Equal Arabia playlist, which has Perrie's face on its cover, it seems the world is primed to listen to what she has to say.

Updated: April 28, 2022, 7:07 AM