Ghanaian hip hop artist E.L has crowned himself as the best rapper on the continent with the release of The B.A.R. Mixtape two days ago. That’s a ballsy proclamation. But it’s also the kind of confidence African music needs at this moment. A time where music makers across the continent are trending more and more on global, and particularly western, radars.
The new mixtape is E.L’s boldest work till date. Well, at least since “You Go Kill Me.” References to smoking weed and one’s dick game are not such popular expressions in Ghanaian hip hop. In “Your Girlfriend Anaa” with M.anifest, E.L brags about his inevitable charm and how he’ll sex your girl when you’re not looking. We’re not at all feeling the details of wanting to bang hot girls with body parts like zebras, cheetahs and rhinos. Say word?! This rings of misogyny and racist stereotypes – not cool, E.L. The song ends with a cocky skit shouting out the boys in Accra whose women are getting treated well well.
The song that jumps at you immediately on The B.A.R. Mixtape is “American Passport”. It is layered with many conversations all at once, particularly pointing out a kind of Ghanaian obsession with everything American. Indicting himself first, E.L flips the table and calls out society at large for partaking in the seductive snares of the American Dream or rather, what young Ghanaians imagine this to be. On one hand, it sounds satirical but after a while, you’re left wondering if E.L is really longing for an American birthright or privilege.
Other songs that buzz on the mixtape are “Over” featuring Edem, “My Guy” and by all means, “Borle”. At times, E.L sticks to a common groove leaving the listener wanting for a more adventurous sound. He picks up the hypnotic boom-bap tradition of U.S. 90’s hip hop but it would be nice to see the kid flow over some homegrown highlife/Funk Electro fusions. Other than that, the tape is filled with a bouyant re-creation of stories from the rapper’s inner mind.
Truth be told, E.L has come a long way from his Skillion days. He’s owning his art and its starting to show in the music. The mixtape’s braggadocio presents a playground to explore all kinds of desires. It’s also a signal that free expression without apologies is not just a FOKN BOIS thing anymore.The Pidgin and Ga flows show a lot of growth from his last project. This might very well be his signature sound.
Is E.L the best African rapper? You tell us. For now, he sure is staking a claim.