Depending on who you ask, the answer will be different. For the ELiens (fans of E.L), the rapper is still a force to reckon with on the Ghanaian music scene. For the non-EL fans, he has fallen off the perch and now playing catch up. That, the once high soaring eagle has, over the years tried flapping the water off his wings without success thus impeding a smooth takeoff.
The rapper’s career has also been blighted by certain decisions which has contributed to his current position on the ‘best rapper’ log. His disassociation from former label BBnZ to start his own VO Nation label has not helped in the short term. His continuous chase for a hit song a la his chart dominating and award winning single “Koko”, a contemporary gospel styled afropop tune has been a frustrating spectacle. The many singles he has released have not worked like expected. His joint album- The ”Linkop”- with the insanely talented A.I (Ayisi) did not offer an spectacular moments.
The numerous reasons that have placated the rise of E.L towards the top spot, where he once rested can be itemized. One thing we cannot dismiss E.L for is his versatility; his ability to straddled across numerous musical styles and fit in that box. We can not act as if we never saw his role in making azonto music a wave almost a decade ago. (Shouts to NSHONA Muzik, the 777god for creating that sound). E.L would go on to score his biggest single “One Ghana (For Your Pocket)” off the back of the azonto sound. That success was miles removed from the hip hop genre he cut his teeth as part of the Skillions in 2003. His hip hop credentials have been cemented with his five BAR (Best African Rapper) mixtapes.
E.L is now reminding us of what made him one of the beloved artistes of his era. His creativity and versatility and his knack for experimentation is gradually reminding old fans of why they loved him at a point. Forget the fact that WAVES (West African Vibes), the album he has been talking about for over three years has not yet seen the light of day. On this day-old new record, E.L exhibit that spark once again.
“Efa Wo Ho Ben”, translation: how the hell does it concern you” or “mind your business”, is an afropop record where E.L poses questions and reproduces [some] public criticism bothering on his career direction and of course, how he is living (read lifestyle or choices). “Efa Wo Ho Ben” is a fusion of choral music, afropop and rap. The traditional choral music sample is very conspicuous across the song- as opening hook and across the whole song. (Fun fact: the choral performance was a viral moment on Ghana twitter).
“Your mouth seeks trouble/You are the only one with eyes/ You are the only one with ears/You are the only one with a mouth to speak/How does this concern you?”, the traditional choir sing on the prelude of the record. The choir continues with further admonishment: ‘Mind your business/ Fix your own issues/ Stop poking nose into other people’s issues”, the mellifluous voices sing in unison. The solo rendition is nicely interrupted by the hard trap kicks and snares from the production board of Kid Mvgic.
In a style akin to Eminem on “8 Mile”, where he referenced all the diss-able pointers about him, E.L’s opening bars resonate the same feeling. He talks about the attack on him after his VGMA win in 2016; something he has discussed on a couple of records. (The issue has been the monkey on his back for years); his ‘beef’ with Sarkodie and Stonebwoy, his womanizing ways, rumored drug use and more. Rapping in pidgin, “Efa Wo Ho Ben” is more of a response to gossips than critics. E.L is alerting them to the fact that he hears all the gossip yet remains unfazed by it.
“Efa Wo Ho Ben” is E.L channeling his inner Ephraim Amu, the legendary music composer to create a song befitting of this era. He is not only paying homage to the beauty of traditional choral music but also proving how hip hop; a spongy genre does adopt or flips other musical genres without ruining its authenticity. The song also brings to mind another record by E.L, “Agbadza” where Kuvie built a knocking hip hop beat built around traditional agbadza sound.
“Efa Wo Ho Ben” is a reminder of E.L’s creativity as a artiste/producer. The lyrical ability of E.L is not overwhelming. The song, however, would definitely court attention and throw him into the rap conversation, again. Whether his name would continue to ring loud till the end of year depends on how many more remarkable records he will be ready to put out. Anyways, “Efa Me Ho Ben?” (How does this concern me).