E.L is rapping again. Not that he hasn’t been rapping. But, the raps haven’t been anything like what fans who have kept taps on the rapper since his Skillions days, through to the B.A.R series expect from him. On Sunday, he released a double header which confirmed his ability to rap when he decides to. “Dare To Dream” and “My Way”, the two tracks he released, are both introspective and instructive; something that many of his ‘day one’ fans have missed.
With its soulful tone held in check by the hip hop bass and drums, E.L pours the paint on the canvas; drawing a portrait of aspects of his life: staying focused, the challenges of celebrity lifestyle, commitment and personal relationship. ‘’I’ve grown and have realize there’s more to life than rolling a blunt and taking groupies home’’, he declares on the few opening seconds of the song. He cites the relationship of fellow rapper and friend, C-Real, as evidence of a happy relationship. A line like ‘I guess I feel marooned on an island watching all my friends sail away’ portrays a man realizing his growing loneliness- friends are getting hooked.
For years, E.L has been reportedly dating radio/TV host, Bella Mundi, a speculation both have shot down in the past. The two, apparently are great friends. E.L addresses how he has to wear hoodies as disguise when they are out on a date just to avoid media scrutiny and speculations. The issue of ‘groupies sliding in my DMs’ also confirms another hazard of celebrity life. E.L has partly addressed the Berla Mundi subject on his 2016 track ‘Talk Don’t Bother Me”, at the height of the Sarkodie-M.anifest matter.
Featuring crooner BOYD, whose singing provide an alluring and soulful tune to the song; Gemini, the rapper EL said had all the keys to his secret closet, and Nana Benyin (aka Rumor). In his characteristic triple rhyme style, Gemini anchors his lyrics on individual differences, mental health and self-esteem issues. He speaks about disturbing occasion: how inferior self-esteem and unfulfilled life could lead people to inflict pain on others-through suicide and ‘raping women and defiling children’.
Nana Benyin, (formerly known as Rumor) dropping a verse on ‘Dare To Dream’ is surprising, considering the rapper has been off the rap scene for a long while. Earning a feature on this record points to two things: his period of hibernation is over, judging by his recent announcement of a new tape, ‘Happy Place’. The feature is his way of reminding fans that, he hasn’t lost his touch.
Like the preceding verses by E.L and Gemini, his verse reveals how he came into the world with his ‘two’s up’. He recounts his mum’s desire for him to be an astronaut but found literature. Despite his choice of vocation, she continues to support his dreams of becoming a rapper: ‘You promised me notoriety in its entirety/ that, if I approach this music with the required focus and piety/ I’d make it out of the society’, he raps.
The second song, ‘’My Way’’, is also clasped in hip hop trope, where E.L preaches about leveraging on one’s talents: that each person is blessed with a unique set of talent to support their vocation.
The music industry is a bumpy ride, and sometimes, the losses could suck out every ounce of passion you hold within. E.L has seen it all. But, staying positive and working harder has resulted in his success, despite the criticism. After listing a couple of professions which he could have pursued with excellence, he offers this piece of advice: ‘no matter who you be/ better fulfil your dreams/They try to bring your energy/Your mind is still supreme’. E.L cleverly interpolates Reggie Rockstone’s “Elephant You, Elephant Me” line from his 1998 album, ‘Me Na Me Kae’.
E.L has suffered bumps as far as his music career is concerned. Not only did he cut ties with his former label, BBnZ, which perhaps delayed the release of his much promoted ‘WAVs” (West African Vibes) album, his recent afropop releases haven’t been massive hits. His hip hop side hasn’t suffered as the BAR 4 epitomized.
The 2016 VGMA Artist of the Year might have heard or read about the criticism leveled against him as his afropop singles fail to peak. Some of these critiques are borne out of good faith; not to undermine him.
“Dare To Dream” and “My Way” reveals E.L can rap if he decides to do, and more importantly, if “Dare To Dream” and “No Way” means E.L is embracing his hip hop side once again. I hope we hear more of this from him.