At Ele A, rap is again a question of style
Listening to the newly released EP of 2022 Ticino rapper Ele A takes you on a journey through the time machine, an old-school hip-hop destination from the ’90s. His merit is in making all this sound “fresh” and it gives the impression of facing a girl who is aware of it “do his thing in the house” in an original way, without the vintage dust.
To immerse yourself in his world, just watch the video on YouTube globe: There is Ele A in her neighborhood, within the walls of the house, in the yard, with her grandparents, her friends, her brother. Kind of a hip-hop family portrait that’s also an identity manifesto.
«I just wanted to present my globe, my identities, my experiences and my daily life to the world, which is also the concept of the whole EP globe. It is a small ecosystem that is represented in a natural way: I have spent much of my life in Besso, a district of Lugano where my maternal grandparents live».
It’s not Biggie’s or Nas’ New York City blocks – a more than explicit hint in his rap – and while “Besso is a super quiet place that used to be a little drug market in the past,” Ele A is more interested in the urban architecture. «I’m not interested in creating an imaginary ghetto, it would be a fake». Certainly there is a fascination with an old-school hip-hop world, especially musically: «I have jazz and classical basics (Eleonora played the cello for a few years, note d. Red.) and the fact that old-school rap sampled iconic tracks with this vibe brought me closer to the genre». And then “the authenticity, the hunger you feel when you hear this music, really hit me”.
I ask her how different it is for her from the reality of trap, drill and other more contemporary sounds: «I don’t want to go too far, but it seems to me that there used to be more respect for the truth while now lies are more common . In 90’s rap you had to be real, today the fact of saying bullshit is eliminated, all that matters is that they sound good ».
Listening to its smooth, flowing flow, it once said, super cool than Nas and Biggie, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and Digable Planets spring to mind: “I discovered A Tribe Called Quest late because they were mentioned by one of my absolute favorites Favorites, Mac Miller. One track that really turned me on is 93 To infinity From souls of evil. That’s what I want my music to sound like.”
She tells me that even the aesthetic of those years – which she didn’t live because she wasn’t born yet – is making a comeback, and the ’90s video clips are still her favorites, eh The sky is the limit by Notorious BIG because they are “stylish, timeless, classics”. It’s weird having an adjective like classy – very Gen X – in the mouth of a twenty-year-old girl, but it seems just about right to describe her way of making music. I’m curious how much the place where it comes from has to do with all this, because I have memories of a very lively hip-hop scene in Italian-speaking Switzerland in the 90s, among writers, DJs, breakdance too Thanks to the unifying force of ganja, whose cultivation and sale was legal in Switzerland from 1996 to 2003, favoring a kind of cannetta tourism from all over northern Italy, with all the cultural connections and contamination that followed.
«They told me that there was a good hip-hop movement in Lugano at the time and immediately after that there was a void. I’ve lived years of musical nothingness and am now starting to rediscover my area’s rap past Lugano Rmx by MetroStars. As for ganja, hip-hop goes very well with this substance, there’s a culture of chilling, of doing things a certain way, even freestyle, and groups like Metro Stars bitterly talk about closing cafes.
In record deals Ele A says one should beware the six-figure promises of the record industry, not money and fame, but trust in immortality and follow: “I’m talking about things that happened to me, I’ve seen friends and acquaintances sign record deals have and stay screwed. I’m not saying that labels suck, but you have to be sure of your goals and weigh everything carefully.”
She is currently evaluating plan A and plan B for her future. What B, which he already puts aside, is a sound engineering degree: “If something isn’t concrete and doesn’t immediately apply to my wishes, such as a degree, I find it difficult to follow it”. Plan A makes music, and if I say so, a lot – including Lovegang in the interview for the digital cover of Rolling Stone – calling her the next big thing in Italian rap, she is embarrassed but makes it clear that she likes her: «I get a lot of messages but I still can’t understand it, it’s all very abstract. But it’s an honor to have Lovegang talk about me, or to have Madame share a piece of me.”
Ele A connects the Roman farce with the idealization of a past that has not been lived, not only musically, for example when he mentions the Nokia 3310 in the lyrics of the song: «There are times when I use it as a detox, only calls and messages, but when it If I had my way, I would only use that». Here are more cool points to add to those to come, because — as Speaker Deemo rapped in 1992, ten years before Ele A was born — hip hop is always matter of style.