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Behind The Mic: A Q&A With Cairo’s Rising Rap Star, Tommy Gun

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 In a country like Egypt where talent can be found in practically every street corner, to make yourself noticed (or should we say heard), being loud is just the first step. If your voice hasn’t already been muffled by the honks of passing cars, the screams of local vendors, and the hustle of daily life, standing out, in of itself, is a mission many might have embarked on but only a few have managed to master. Yet, for the few who recognize the power of unity, success becomes a collaborative journey where everyone involved reaps the rewards. And amidst Cairo’s concrete jungle, one collective is currently shining brighter than the rest: Maadi Town Mafia (MTM).

Founded by Mohammed Raouf and Ahmad El Ramly mere weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe in January 2020, the independent record label, more commonly referred to as M-Town Mafia, quickly adapted to the challenging circumstances, proving to not only be immune to the sudden upheaval but also thriving amidst a microcosm abundantly rich in talent. Sitting at the helm of one of the most respected entities in the region’s soundscape Raouf and El Ramly have, in a handful of years, established themselves as heavyweights burnishing drill and trap’s credentials as a genre in the Arab World. And in doing so, they simultaneously placed their boyhood neighborhood, Maadi, at the center of all their endeavors alongside their seven signed artists, one of which is 24-year-old rapper Tommy Gun.


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Une publication partagée par العرباوي🦅 (@_tommyygun)

Born Adham Salama, the Cairo-based MC can partly thank the world wide web for his vertiginous growth as beyond his lyrical abilities and vocal prowesses, it’s his viral snippets on TikTok which catapulted him into the limelight practically overnight. As the usual story goes, with views came fame, which eventually brought opportunities, collaborations with producers as well as a deal with MTM, making him an exciting figure in Egypt’s hip-hop scene despite its nearly saturated market. A couple of singles, and hundreds of thousands of streams later, the artist’s time spent honing his craft recently culminated with the release of his debut album last month. Dubbed EL 3ARAB, through nine tracks, the up-and-coming street poet earns his stripes, infusing his raw and energetic style in each verse penned down, mirroring his craving to leave an indelible mark behind by any means necessary.

Just weeks after making his first sonic statement public, we asked the young artist a series of rapid-fire questions to get to know the person behind the mic. From how he got started to what it meant to release his introductory opus to the world, below, a conversation with Cairo’s rising star, Tommy Gun.

Who is Tommy Gun?

Tommy is Adham Salama, from Helwan, specifically from a borough called Arab El Walda. He’s a rapper, a singer, and a songwriter too.

What inspired the name?

The name Tommy came as a reference to Peaky Blinders, which is a show I’m a fan of, especially Thomas Shelby, the eldest brother of the family. It’s also a nod to the iconic Thompson Submachine gun.

When did you first start rapping?

I figured that I had a good voice at some point as a teenager and people started to point it out, and I was always a huge fan of mahraganat music. Essentially, what got me rapping was falling in love with how hip-hop artists can have a very unique persona and how versatile the genre can be.


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Une publication partagée par العرباوي🦅 (@_tommyygun)

Did you always know that you wanted to be a rapper? 

I always knew that I wanted to be a rapper, but if I wasn’t going to be one, I would’ve definitely been a singer or at least made sure to find a way to utilize my songwriting skills and vocals in one way or the other, as a mahraganat, pop, or folk artist.

What pushed you towards trap music and drill? What it is about the genre that you find so appealing? 

I’d say that I’m quite talented when it comes to these genres in hip-hop more than boom bap for example as the themes and topics usually associated with drill are some that I can relate to through my upbringing or background. It also allows me to express rage and anger while delivering an energy that is unique to this sub-genre of hip-hop.

As a pocket of music that does not carry the best reputation, how do you explain to elders, or simply others, why it is your favorite outlet? 

It’s always a tough situation, especially for people with a similar background to mine. In other words, I’d say that Egyptian society doesn’t generally accept what we do nor the culture we belong to and helped shape. My general answer whenever I’m asked about what I do is that music changes with time and generations, and it can’t stay the same forever. In my eyes, not every song is for everyone to enjoy, and on my side of things, I have to also accept that not everyone can be OK with what we do 100%, as long as they learn to appreciate our impact.


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Une publication partagée par العرباوي🦅 (@_tommyygun)

You recently released your debut album. Why was it important to release such a body of music?

The album experience to me was basically my first as a solo artist since my debut. Things went quickly for me and I remember after my first cypher being put under a lot of pressure to deliver quality music, present it in the right manner and shed light on my story the way I wanted. This whole process, especially when having to come up with an album, taught me patience, discipline, and a work ethic that changed the way I view and make music as a whole. There’s no doubt about it, an album was necessary as I wanted to showcase the range I’m capable of in different genres. I also believe that albums are the proper medium to release music and present your full idea as an artist.

What’s the reception been like from audiences so far?

So far so good. I can see my fanbase take form, and I think I gave them an album that will stick around for a while and that listeners will be able to revisit in the future, finding different favorite tracks as time goes by. I think that it will also help diversify my audience — all in all, I’d say that I’m quite happy with it all.

What is it like being part of the Maadi Town Mafia? What difference does it bring when it comes to making music and a name in the region’s scene?

When I first got signed, I thought it was going to be a collaboration for work. Within weeks though, I quickly realized that I got myself involved with a family, a new ecosystem, that I would never replace with anyone or anything. I found myself considering our studio and spaces as my second home and the guys and everyone around as my chosen family. It’s with these people that I’m striving to come out with more albums, and make more music, only hopefully with a little less stress.

picture courtesy of @michaellmedhat

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