Original Content on Arts and Entertainment

Album Review: Nana Benyin Is A Man In A Happy Place

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His disappearance from the music scene in 2013, after the release of his second studio album, “Poetic Licence”, was felt among fans who had been following his career. The disappearance came with no notice. It was a sudden act; an idea the rapper, perhaps, had conceived for a while. What prompted that action is a question only Nana Benyin can answer. But, speculations abounded: he left because of frustration about the lack of strong support for lyric biased hip hop; others cited his quest to pursue other opportunities than rap, if he wanted to keep the lights in his house on.

As questions grew about his whereabouts and his career, Nana Benyin decided to undergo a name change. He first traded his known rap moniker, Rumor, for Kid Named Ru. He finally settled on Nana Benyin as his ‘legal’ rap name. (Interestingly people are still not sure if Nana Benyin and Rumor are one of the same).

The skills and talents of Nana Benyin aka Rumor shone from his days with Skillions. Impressed by a verse he laid while recording a song during his Senior Secondary School days, rapper, producer and founder of Skillions, Jayso, drafted him to the rap group he was assembling called Skillions New Generation.

Nana Benyin was one of the stand outs from the group. His lyricism and intellect sparkled across songs. Unlike breakout artists Joey B, Shaker and BraKevin Beats whose verses where humor clad, Nana Benyin was like the student who conformed to the tenets of rap purist. He was like the Ab-Soul of the group.

It is clear Nana Benyin hasn’t lost the qualities that got fans and rap critics enamoured. “Happy Place” is a tale of a man who took a step back, studied the scene and returned invigorated.

After releasing two albums- “FFF” (Fans, Friends and Followers in 2012) and “Poetic Licence”(2013), as well as few singles, Nana Benyin blacked out on fans. A glimpse of his return to rapping came by way of a verse off Lil’ Shaker and Ko-Jo Cue’s highly regarded “Pen & Paper” album. A few days ago, he was on E.L’s, ‘Dare To Dream’.

“Happy Place”, the third studio album by Nana Benyin doesn’t deviate from the sonic and themes portrayed on his previous works. The soundscape drifts from soulful, trap to funk to azonto. The themes reflect issues of love, dreams and triumphs. Take the opener of the tape, ‘Bittersweet’, a song about doubts, frustrations and unflinching self-belief in his pursuit. Backed by singer, Boyd, whose soulful delivery adds a layer of attraction to the piano chunks and reflective lyrics, Nana Benyin reflects on the unrewarding nature of hip hop in Ghana: ‘So, what am I doing wrong?/ maybe I’m crazy for doing these type of songs in this damn nation”. “Bittersweet” shares traits a favourite song of mine, ‘’My Epitome’’ (ME), off ‘’FFF’’, where he recounted the economic struggles of his family.

On songs like “Everything”, “Nothing New” and “In My Heart”, he addresses the subject of staying steadfast (‘dem do try deter you/but, I swear if you keep your head up and speed up/you go see them in your rear view’); ignoring the fake love from people; and the pressure of being a celebrity as Shaker quib quizzes: (‘You believe everything you read? /You believe everything you see? Pressure s))”). “In My Heart”, featuring E.L and Lil Shaker, extends the story told on “Broke & Famous”, on “Poetic Licence”. (Broke & Famous featured Lil Shaker).

Sonically, “Happy Place” veers into the world of funk and azonto, as well as neo-soul. ”Freaky Tonight” is pop-funk, club groove in character, and sounds like a record Daft Punk or Pharrell Williams would make. Assembling JumpOff and the versatile Darkovibes for support, they urge party goers to get loose and get freaky. The slithering synthesized bassline on this certified bop, prepares you for what’s to unfold. On the cajoling love song, “Smile”, Nana Benyin veers into the realm of azonto sound. “Smile” reprises the Joey B single, “Cigarette”, produced by NSHONA Muzik, and it made sense to have Joey on. If there’s a record for radio, it is the trap-sounding ‘I Be Jerh’. Featuring Magnom, ‘I Be Jerh’ (which means I’m unique) is up-tempo, riveting song. Magnom adds sheen to the track with his ebullient delivery.

Even though the singing done by Nana Benyin is a great addition to his musical repertoire, there are moments when he struggled with his low notes, as ‘’Tell Me (Digital Talk)’’ exemplifies. It goes unnoticed how, on a song like ‘’Smile’’-a typical azonto beat, Nana Benyin peppered his lyrics with few pidgin phrases and more ‘textbook’ English.

It is clear Nana Benyin hasn’t lost the qualities that enamoured fans and rap fanatics. “Happy Place” is a tale of a man who took a step back, studied the scene and returned invigorated. It marks a happy return for the rapper formerly called Rumor

Get ‘Happy Place’ on aftown.com

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