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E.L. Crowns Himself The 'Best African Rapper' On His New Mixtape

Ghana's E.L. proclaims himself 'Best African Rapper' on his new 'B.A.R.' mixtape.


Over the weekend Ghanaian rapper E.L. released his new project ambitiously titled The B.A.R. "Best African Rapper" mixtape via soundcloud. “My momma raised the B.A.R. the best African rapper yep my momma raised the bar when she had me,” proclaims E.L. on the tape's opener. He plays with the clever acronym throughout his latest offering, even referring to himself as the “Bar Man.” In this post-azonto era, the GH music scene is still searching for an authentic sound– and E.L., along with a few others he refers to on the mixtape, are showing that the Ghanaian audience is ready for some GH hip-hop and lyricism, or “puns, punchlines and metaphors,” as he puts it. With guest slots from a host of rappers, including Dex Kwasi, M.anifest and Sarkodie, the mixtape has thus far been well received by Ghanaians on social media.

On B.A.R. E.L. flexes his hip-hop knowledge and experiments with a spectrum of movements in rap music, yet with a little Ghana-boy twist– though it does still make us wonder "what is the GH Rap sound?" The title track, which also serves as the opening number, sets the tone for the mixtape with a chorus that recalls a grittier version of Nas' more playful "Made You Look." Whereas a scratch chorus on "Bar Man" draws inspiration from 90s hip-hop, "Spoil Der" looks to the current "turn-up" trap sound. The mixtape isn't without its weaknesses though. One such low on the tape is a "Locally Acquired Foreign Accent" (LAFA) fueled rant about how they “gon’ come for it all” on the outro of "Bar Man." Additionally, though E.L. may claim to have "never spitted a phony bar" in his life, some of the guest verses on his latest effort don't quite match that standard.

Nevertheless, B.A.R. is proof that E.L. has asserted himself once more. As a producer in his own right, his beat selection remains on point. With a team of BBnZ producers on hand, including Slimbo and MikeMillzOnEm, the beats bang hard as the sound varies from rock-inspired riffs, scratch choruses, piano riffs and hard-hitting drums. “Work,” “Boorle,” “My Guy,” “Over” are all highlights. Though perhaps the most noteworthy moment comes from "American Passport," in which E.L. undoubtedly lays out his loyalties, speaking his mind on how in spite of his love for Ghana he “feigns for American things” and has a desire to be “yankee-fied.” This is of course a very real subject matter in GH that some listeners could easily relate to. If his accent and use of foreign slang had any new listeners confused about his origin, "American Passport" leaves no doubts.

With a second studio album on the horizon, E.L. is already developing a diversified catalogue– it was, after all, only a few months back that he released crowdpleaser Songs For Girls 2: The Crazy Love Mixtape on Valentine’s Day. Only time can tell whether the "Best African Rapper" claim was a prophetic declaration or just another instance of hip-hop braggadocio. What is certain, however, is the fact that E.L. is in a lane of his own.

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Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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