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EL touches on fan obsession on ‘Nina’

Celebrity obsession has been covered or spoken about by many in various forms- from rappers in their lyrics, entertainment critics in their commentaries and psychologists when proffering advice on pop culture and mental health.

Extreme form of celebrity obsession, where fans see their favorite artists as god-like, is a common thing in the Western world. In Ghana and across Africa, fans tend to express their love for artists through various forms: buying their music, attending shows, defending them (sometimes beyond logic) and fawning about them on social media. Hardly do we hear tales of (a) fans obsessing over their favorite artist(s) to the point of hurting the artist or themselves when that love isn’t reciprocated. That kind of obsession is an European or American ‘thing’. That’s, Africans can’t relate to on the same level.

On his latest single, ‘Nina’, rapper EL weaves a chilling story about extreme celebrity obsession, revealing in the process the absurdity of it, the challenges celebs face dealing with fans, and how such obsession could end tragically if not handled very well.

Concept/Story

‘Nina’ rides on a mid-tempo, soft drum and kick driven beat. The story is about a female fan, Nina, a self described ‘number one Elien’ (fans of EL are called ELiens). A casual conversation with EL (via his DM) eventually leads to her desperate attempts to meeting him, which eventually blossoms into a strong love. She even leaves her boyfriend of ‘seven years’ so she could hook up with EL, who is least interested in an affair. Nina tracks him down at a show, mounts the podium, confesses her love to him and feeling unappreciated, shoot herself in front of the concert audience.

The concept of the song takes the form of police interrogation. EL is arrested, taken to the police station following Nina’s death for his statement. He breaks down the details of events leading to her committing suicide.

The narration or breaking down of events can be cut into acts: Act 1 details how they met; Act reveals how she became obsessed; and Act 3 is about the suicide.

Style of Song:

EL blends two styles on ‘Nina’. First, and more clearly is that, the story is inspired by Eminem’s ‘Stan’, except the character is that of a female obsessing over a male rapper. This is quiet interesting since it’s usually guys who fawn over their favorite hip-hop acts.

EL also borrows from his own track ‘Talk Don’t Bother Me’ where he indulged in a conversation with his ‘mum’ over the phone. On ‘Nina’, he does same, where his Nina voice is telephonic in tone (obviously for flashback purposes). Interspersing the beeping message tone at the beginning of each rendition of events gives the whole song a certain realness.

He addresses, in one bar his relationship with his former label BBnZ which he describes as ‘cool with everyone’ who treat him with ‘respect’. He also speaks about WAVS (West African Vibes). WAVs should have been out by now considering the ‘noise’ EL made about it some months ago. But, I guess the breakdown in relationship with his former label and moving on to establish VO Nation label may have dragged its release.

‘Nina’ is the first single off BAR 4, the mixtape strictly dedicated to hip-hop and his die-hard hip-hop fans. The BAR 4 would be released on Saturday 26th November, same day as his annual ‘BAR Concert’. The BAR 3 didn’t quiet hit with fans so this next installment is definitely expected to resonate with his fanbase.

What I also find remarkable about ‘Nina’; the story, imagery and flow aside, is the beat which EL himself produced. It appears mid-tempo, minimalistic, non-aggressive and easy on the ear type of beat unlocks the fluid rap flows in him. Think of the politically charged ‘State of The Nation Address’, the playful ‘Talk Don’t Bother Me’, his verse on Kojo-Cue’s ‘Lowkey’ and you’d notice this.

The reservation I hold against ‘Nina’, lies in how the story ended. The account of events sound all believable (we know how in the era of social media some female fans may catch feelings for some celebs), the final act of shooting herself ruined it. The amount of fictional paint spread at the end is similar to crashing into a stone while enjoying some good waakye.

Fan obsession is real. Eminem waxed lyrically about that on the graphic ‘Stan’. Reports of fans acting crazy or weird because their favorite celeb isn’t extending the same love they offer abound. What EL did on ‘Nina’ is to shed light on the subject once again and advice both fans and celebs on how to manage their expectations of each other.

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