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Talking Verses: Elsie Raad Paints The Struggle of Writing A Verse on “OLE”

It’s okay if the name Elsie Raad has not registered on your roll of artiste. She has not hit the limelight or mainstream just yet. But for those with eyes and ears on the non-mainstream circuits, she is one of the most talented rappers you will encounter. She is the only female among a cackle of hyenas of beat slayers that constitute the rap collective WEIRDxGENIUS (WxG for short).

One look at the diminutive rapper brings into mind the American rap star Lil’ Kim; not in terms of stature but the rapid-fire that she spits on record. Elsie Raad knows how to swing on a song: what to say, how to deliver it and the tone to carry her message; the latter informed by who she is on a record with. Unlike Lil’ Kim whose sexually provocative lyrics had defined her personality, something I consider as unfair criticism, Elsie Raad is more about projecting her rap skills. With that said, the queen,Lil Kim should be celebrated for being one of the few rappers to flaunt her sexual appeal, thus empowering many women to embrace their sexuality.

Elsie Raad from her twitter page

The full spectre of Elsie Raad’s lyrical prowess was exhibited on WxG’s 10- track tape WEIRDxGENIUS Vol. 1. Featured on four records, the rapper held her own against her fellow compatriots. Unlike music groups where the lady rapper is treated with some decorum of respect by her male colleagues, Elsie Raad did not need that ‘pampering’. She came out of the gates with something to prove: that she is here to keep the heat on the boys. And, that was exactly what she proved on the tape.

Just like this writer noted in his review of the album, and more specifically about Elsie Raad’s abilities, she is one with enormous potential. “Having Elsie Raad; the only female rapper in the Collective, on four songs which includes a solo performance on “Walls”, was not an act of tokenism or a benevolent gesture. It’s rather an attestation to her brilliance on the microphone, a rightfully earned position”, he wrote.

If there was a track on the WERDxGENIUS tape where Elsie Raad exhibited her formidabilty, it was on the standout track “OLE”. Featuring Tony Dickson (on hook) and Questo (with a verse cast in his own laid back demeanour), the final year student of the Central University did not exhibit any wobbliness or fear on the record. She was like Lara Croft in Tomb Raider: poised and fearless.

The first to come out of the barn, Elsie Raad did not display intricate rhyme schemes, over the head punchlines or triple word schemes. She hooked her rap from an angle that ended up reflecting the bigger message of “OLE”, a song about their future success. What made her verse memorable was largely her description of the neurotic struggle rappers encounter when it came to writing a verse while hoping for it to connect with the audience.

“This (is) about the 18th time I’m rewriting this verse/ Been stuck in the same position for hours, since ‘dawntee’/ Wonla ano fit-bed/Been going back and forth with this pen and paper like I’m studying a memory verse”. This was how the Raad Man (as she calls herself) opened her verse. The opening bars did not only describe the struggle Raad faces when writing, it also captured the experience of many creative writers.

The imagery in the verse is also poignant. You can picture Raad behind her desk or on her bed, her pen and pad in hand scribbling and crossing out numerous lines of rhymes in her quest to finding the perfect rhymes that captures what she has in mind. Like all writers would tell you, translating a formed idea in mind to a page is one of the difficulties in writing, thus the numerous draft pieces before getting to the final or perfect draft (if there is anything like that). These lines: “Ns3m pii na mep3s3 meka but ebi like somebro put my mind for reverse/Ebi like abi cursed”, sums up the feeling of difficulty in getting it right.

Like the many pursuing their passion yet unsure if the road they are travelling is going to lead them to success, Elsie’s next bars highlighted her own insecurities unequivocally. “Am I the man at all?/If I’m not the man on the wall?”, she intoned on the record. Amidst the lingering fear is also the hope of success that she pictures in her mind’s eye (”My mind be playing with me, telling me I’ll be going on tours”).

Doubts, fear and the tricks the mind plays on you when the dream you have chosen to pursue is not yielding the expected results could be daunting on the bearer, especially when no one believes in your dreams. It could impact your mental health as well as your overall wellbeing. Elsie Raad is aware of this situation thus her quest to perforate the cloud of doubt and see her own golden sun up close. She’s willing and ready to make it, the challenges notwithstanding. “If I bring nothing to the table ago feel some way/ My mommy dey spy me so say ago make a way”, she revealed on her verse. These thoughts and more is what keeps her awake at night, struggling to craft the perfect verses and make the best records she could make. Her verse comes full circle at the end, feeding into her opening punchline: “But since dawntee astill dey tap here, ano get what to say/Devil don’t lead me astray!”

Elsie Raad has the appeal of a star: talent, confidence, swag, focus. In a country where women rappers are countable and no real “queen of rap”, Elsie Raad could potentially own that crown and throne. Yes, Elsie Raad’s flow needs some sharpening, likewise her lyrical abilities. She is still a work in progress, something I’m sure she knows. She has to spar more with her compatriots in an effort to sharpen her skills. She must also learn how to make a record. That’s one sure way to get noticed. Until that time, her verse on ” OLE” is remarkable.

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