‘I bet you thought that it was over/Till I came along and showed y’all/ That, this is the beginning… this is not just a game for me cos I live it every day’
That was the chorus to ‘Over’ off the BAR I released last year. And in this hook, EL told us he is in this game (rap) for the long haul. It is therefore; right that he released the sequel in the Best African Rapper (B.A.R) franchise.
With at total of 19 songs, featuring a handful of rappers-known and upcoming- and some of the best producers on the scene, EL continues to concretize his B.A.R credentials. The B.A.R series is shaping up to be another platform, where EL is using to serve his hip hop loving fans.
On BAR II, EL becomes King (though without a Crown) who is in the game not only to sanitize the scene –from mediocrity to seriousness – but elevate and set new rules. He makes the declaration forcefully on King Without A Crown (KWAC): “For those of you who don’t know me permit me to re-introduce myself… I’m the representation of hip hop from Africa. I am the BAR”. The best moment on KWAC belongs to the linguist with those nicely worded appellations.
EL goes further to remind us of how critics who doubted his ability to survive when he started out are now begging for features (they told me I’m a sellout they said I’d never be more than Obuu Mo… Now all those niggaz who said I was sick in the head now call me for features).
The mixtape opens with a Jay Z ‘U Don’t Know‘sampled (with Bobby Byrd vocals) Intro. EL boast about the mixtape (if they give me 30k for a show in a couple of years they gon’ make it a mill/ The BAR II tape is far too great. It’s far too late for niggaz to stop it. It’s a hostile takeover). Mid way into the song, the beat switches to trap where EL continues his braggadocios claims (I’m I the only one dropping some real shit out here anymore?)
Every King needs constituents (people) and as a norm upon coronation, they must show appreciation to the people. On this Young Fly produced Wosop, EL shouts his fans in the major cities, hoods and townships across Ghana. Wosop definitely has become an anthem.
Kings are expected to make laws or improve on older ones. He lives up to this by handing out his 10 Commandments to rappers wishing to blow up. Considering how long it took EL to be successful, it’s only right that he shares some ‘insiders’ knowledge (Get a style nobody see before…Know say originality e no bi choice ebi your job). He goes further to reveal a bitter truth about present day music industry (I had to sell out before I started selling) an allusion to how one must go against his beliefs at times.
One can also deduce this to mean that one has to follow the ‘crowd’ to blow up and use this new found acceptance or leverage to pursue the style or belief the artiste holds dear. EL started out putting Azonto music and after establishing a strong fan base, pursued what his core fans know him for-hip hop with his B.A.R series.
After those Commandments, EL gets all political, touching on some ills in Ghana on his The State of the Nation Address. For many, this might come as shocking or surprising considering it’s the first time he has sounded unapologetically political. (Read the video review here).
The art of sampling is a tough job. Producers who successfully pull it off deserve commendation. Nii, King of Accra on the lyrically brutal Inside Out (sampled Phil Collins), PeeWeezle’s The Cross (sampled a Roberta Flack’s Gone Away), Here We Are by Mike Millz (Disney soundtrack for She’s Called Anastasia) and the Intro where EL borrowed Jay Z’s Just Blaze and You Don’t Know all were done brilliantly.
‘They still can’t find the rapper who go match the bars I write. Ebi like I go be the BAR for life. Only the strong survive. Give me a week I’ll be immortalized with bright lights spread across the sky. I proved myself to the fans in my lyrics as well as my critics. Remain true to yourself and admit it. I’m literally out of your league. The most valuable player, rap Lebron, man if you see a layup it’s EL’ – Inside Out
The featured guests on this mixtape did not disappoint. Pappy Kojo and Joey B on the Drum Roll produced All Black -undoubtedly the leading single of BAR II- added bite to the uncharitable forewarning (chale make a nigga come try me, next day Imma be in All Black-mourning mood).
Some used the opportunity to ‘sell’ themselves. The likes of Recognized Ali (Greenfield) showed why he is one to watch as he kept it good on the DMX’s Ruff Ryders Anthem esque Switch It Up (Ruff Ryders Anthem a hug inspiration to EL’s rap career).
If there is one track on BAR II which felt like a disappointment, it was 16 Bars featuring JaySO. The title would definitely arouse the interest of any fan of rap music. Plus with the caliber of the two emcees, one would have expected more. Truth be told, a few creative bars were dropped in there but on whole the track was not too impressive for such a title. Work II, was it even necessary to make the final cut? Honestly, No.
Trap heads will have Oh Lord, Authentic, We No Dey Hear, Pop Champagne and Unity to keep them bouncing and wilding out. The Cross featuring Gemini and We No Dey Hear with Kojo-Cue and Lil Shaker continues tale of EL’s rise (as started on Saa Na Eti3 on Bar I, which also featured Lil Shaker). The two songs also recount a story of how EL ‘saved’ some of these rising rappers as Kojo-Cue clearly stated (…told Jazzy I dey beg make e pull some strings make I work with EL).
Unity, which features over 21 top GH hip hop acts, akin to a crowning moment for a king by ‘elders’ in the hip hop game closes the mixtape. Who does that for an Outro? It’s crazy chaley.
BAR II showcases an EL who decided to go all out to rap, switching up styles and showcasing his hip hop credentials to critics who questioned his hip hop credentials or thought he had traded his hip hop influence for hiplife (azonto). If critics had doubt about why ELorm Adablah labels himself the ‘Best African Rapper’, BAR II is the answer.
by IBRA M (@swayekidd)