On the second installment of his BAR mixtape series, EL intoned on ‘Inside Out ‘ that he is not about to back down; that he is here for the long haul; and that he is the Best African Rapper:’they still can’t find a rapper that matches the bars i write/Ebi like I go be the BAR for life… I’m literally out of your league/The most valuable player, the rap Lebron’.
Rapping over hard hitting and silvery striking chords, EL’s passion, hunger, determination and arrogance claded with a cloak of self-belief were oozing without restraint in broad strokes.
Fast forward to now (two years on), that malignant arrogance and festering hunger is still present but the passion seems measured. On BAR III released some weeks ago, EL came across as one whose work is almost done, his BAR credentials cemented and has nothing to prove to anyone again. He made that evidently clear on the BAR III opener ‘Change’ when he rapped ‘If Ali was the greatest/BAR III is the apex/ This be the last I go make them cos I say more when I say less ‘ on the sampled hope hallowed Sam Cooke (or was it Beverly Knight’s cover?) classic Change Gone Come.
Unfair criticisms has a way of propelling or crashing you-depending on which side you choose to focus. Clearly, EL is still not done addressing his critics who thought he was unworthy of his 2016 VGMA Artiste of the Year accolade- even though he had partly addressed these critics on Kaa Bu Ame. And that quest to set the records straight does waltz across some of the songs on this mixtape.
Since the release of his sophomore album, Lomi, and the bagging of the VGMA top award, EL has found himself, suspectedly so-if the theories are to be believed -to be prime target for other rappers who, on songs have thrown sublimal shots (disses) at him. When everyone expected him to come out with a diss response, he savantly ducked, releasing the preachy ‘Love God’ and the quasi-response ‘Talk Don’t Bother Me’. When all thought there wouldn’t be anything worthy of a response, he emerged with the unapologetic and razor sharp ‘Body Bags’. At that point, the anticipation for BAR III was reaching a crescendo.
With a line up of ‘friends and family’ -rappers he has featured on previous BAR tapes as well as producers- EL, also paraded some ‘news’ faces’ on the tape such as out-of-the-box acts like Worlasi and AI, the sensational Adomaa, Medikal AMG and crooner Osei as well as the ebullient AYAT, who proved once again why they are indeed the future of GH music.
Whiles AYAT, Adomaa and Osei were kept at delivering hooks on the trappy and crowd pleasing anthem BARS, the love-ly ‘ Real Time Love ‘ and Can’t Let It Phase’ respectively, Worlasi showcased again the depth of his talent on the DJ Juls produced ‘It’s Your Life’, where he rapped and crooned and even spoke on one of the standout tracks along with Ko-Jo Cue and EL. The three artistes mocked pretentious contenders, keeping a low profile and making money whiles talking their future prospects.
The least said about AI who was featured on the closing track ‘Shine’ the better. In his now familiar chirpy, sing- and- talk, ebb and flow cadence, he masterfully breathed out some words of wisdom to compliment EL’s statements about continuing to keep the gloss on his career. Indeed, AI has seen his profile grow (and growing) following his stellar performances on tracks from the latter part of last year till date.
BAR III is a collage of various musical influences- hard hitting hip-hop beats, afro-trap bounce with its sneering 808s, soulful and mid-tempo soundtracks. It also swings from bombastic self- exaltations (Lomi, Pelican Fly, You No Go See) to introspective musings (Change, Shine, Can’t Let It Phase), vulnerabilities (Love God, You Don’t Know) as well as YOLO moments (Portay Dey Be, Lalafalama, BARS).
‘I am the one and only/No other one, no please/ I make my own path/society does not control me/Wake up and count my blessings/Thank God for all the trophies/ Then put my city on for all my homies’ – Shine (feat. AI).
Months back when EL tweeted at MI about a beat he had sent him and MI responding that, he had been forced to up his game thanks to EL’s verse, one knew they were going to slay a record. That surmise was to be made fact on the Slimbo produced ‘Drop’, where the two rappers along with South Africa’s Khuli Chana proved why they command such respect within the hip-hop landscape in Africa.
There are times when listening to EL, one can’t help but admire the confidence and self-belief the young EL held before he finally broke out to stardom. When he said ‘I told my mama’s preacher look I’m a different creature’, you pictured a guy who was being driven by his determination and passion than the glamours of stardom.
While some artistes are happy to go on tours to the US, EL went to New York’ City (NYC) not to just ‘tour but I got a bigger reason/not leaving NYC until I get that Jigga (Jay Z) feature’. Big dreams yes, but EL throughout his career has been marking out targets off his dream chart one at a time.
EL knows he can’t impress or win everyone to his side. His critics will still be lingering out there, scrutinizing every (in)actions of his and offering loudly, their criticisms via the microphones, blogs or social media trolls. However, as he has exhibited, he is unfazed- talk doesn’t bother him. Indeed, such criticisms have become the fuel for his passion as epitomized through his work ethic and success. Name a rapper who has consistently been releasing tapes twice a year (or each year?)
And how cheeky a way to wave a finger in the face of your critics than reminding them again ‘I wrote the best gospel song (Koko) of the Year’.
It’s truly #TheLomiEra