If I’m not mistaken, Philip Yaw Akoto is the birth name. I am sure the first time I heard him was in the early 2000’s on Radio Universe’s rap show Space Jam. And for those who do not know him; Lil Shaker, is a Ghanaian musician known for rapping, singing and producing beats. He is credited for the choruses on some top GH hits with Edem’s Koene topping the list.
Currently signed to the BBNz Record Label, the quality of his talent can never be underrated. In this article, I will to take you through the musical journey of Lil Shaker strictly from my point of view.
Never been his friend but I guess a familiar face to him because we meet a lot. I started paying particular attention to his career when a mutual friend asked me what I thought about his music.
I’m sure his music journey began before his Senior High School days back at Accra High. Through interviews granted and some other briefings, I gathered that back in Accra High, he was part of a rap group by name “Bum Bum Cha Boys” (not too sure of the name).
He began making beats and recording his songs in his room at Ridge, Accra. Through his exploits in music production, he met JaySo, founder and CEO of the Skillions hip hop group and Skillions Records.
I suppose a reality check hit him following his encounter with the Skillions; that there was no headway for him in the English rap. The Skillions label was an all English rap producing/promoting label. As a smart move, Lil’ Shaker switched to pidgin rap. A decision I honestly applaud.
With strong affiliation to the Skillions after his High School education, Shaker began releasing singles and guest featuring on mixtapes and singles, creating a buzz for himself within the corridors of underground rap scene. He, however, never slept on his beat production skills too.
Around mid-2002, Shaker formed a rap group named Mic Wreckers (M Dobb) with Joey B, Killmatic, Graphic and Kevin Beat as part of its members. The group recorded a mixtape and had already begun promoting some of the singles on the tape when the fortunes of the tape changed. The quality of work on the tape merited their induction into the Skillions. The name of the group was changed to the “New Generation Skillions” with the inclusion of new upcoming acts such as Gemini and to some extent Sarkodie.
The tape became the “New Generation Skillions Mixtape’. Some of the very popular songs of the mixtape included “I No Dey Biz”, “Facebook Girl”.
The New Generation Mixtape re-introduced a wave of rap style into the Ghana music scene. Pidgin had never been delivered in a humorous rap form over hard hip hop beats like that. This was a novelty and indeed generated a lot of interest especially from the youth, specifically high school and tertiary students.
The beats on the mixtape were produced by the group members with Lil Shaker producing the majority. The quality of lyrics and punchlines unleashed on the tape not only showcased these youngsters as talented and funny but the fresh of breath air GH rap needed. The Skillions New Generation Mixtape is a classic in its own right.
Truth be told, the rappers who really caught my attention on the mixtape were Kevin Beats and Gemini. I never paid attention to Lil Shaker’s contribution on the tape till a mutual friend and producer Magnum Beats asked my thoughts on the mixtape and particularly Shaker. My answer was simple – too much of everything was bad.
As a critic, I explained that they could have expressed themselves in simple language. The emphasis on punchlines was unnecessary and would be over the heads of ordinary listeners. All rappers concentrated on delivering of punchlines which got a little too much; like a contest for the best punchline rapper though it was nice.
During his days with Skillions Records, Shaker continued producing beats and worked on songs for names like Kweku T, D-Black, Kwaw Kesse and other big shots. My favourite production of his has, however, been “Da Message” which featured Sarkodie and Kwaw Kesse.
One quality of Shaker is his ability to sense what the music market needs and serving it. Finding success in production/beats making did not see him leaving his rap fans hanging. He dropped “And The Winner Is”, a song which could be described as a harbinger to the 2009 Ghana Music Awards, ‘Pressure Sorr’ and ‘Warm Up’ freestyle for Azonto and hip hop lovers respectively. Humour coupled with complicated rhyming schemes in a pidgin rap form can best describe Shaker’s rap style.
Being focused can be described as one of the virtues of Shaker although one might describe him as headstrong. I was told at a point in time in his career a fellow musician, ASEM did all he could to get him signed on to Lynx Entertainment, which was a to die for Record Label around that time. But he refused.
Still in his Skillion days, Yaw Akoto started what was gradually building up to be an annual birthday treat for his fans. He started on 20th February, 2010 when he dropped his Birthday Mixtape. Arguably the best mixtape ever released in Ghana. Some still confused the tape to be another New Generation Mixtape. It had songs like “Facebook Girl rmx”, “School”, “Ede Pain Me” and “Ghallywood”.
The following year, Shaker on his birthday dropped a video to a song titled “Jackie Appiah”, a follow up on his triumph over colleagues Kevin Beat and Jay Town who repped Mercy Johnson and Yvonne Nelson respectively on the song Ghallywood off his Birthday Mixtape. Shaker explicitly expressed his love for Jackie Appiah in an unimaginable way (although he has started cheating on her with Yvonne Okoro – “My Friend”; any true fan would understand).
For some strange reason and a story to be told another day, the New Generation Skillions broke up with most of its members out chasing other dreams. Only a few remained and were signed to the Skillions Record Label. It was obvious Shaker’s stay at the label was going to be a short.
He went independent for a while with close affiliations to his partner in crime Magnum’s co-runned Blue Paper Entertainment imprint. He released singles like “Den Tymz” and “Amen”. Wished he had stayed.
Surprisingly, Lil Shaker got signed under EL’s BBNz, a move I had been sceptical about. My beef simply is that, apart from the physical looks which are undeniably different, Shaker and EL are very similar in many ways. Both produce beats, sing and rap. I sometimes get bored when people confuse their works, can not blame them though. However, judging from his journey through the industry, you can say Shaker is focused and knows exactly where he is heading.
People often criticise Lil Shaker for not being serious with his music because he puts in a lot of humour in his lyrics. Others say he does not show maturity and would not last in the music industry. But why should he change from something that has brought him this far. Plus he is one of the most versatile artiste this country has ever seen and his is full of surprises.
Philip Yaw Akoto released his maiden album, Captain Hook, last December to a lukewarm reaction. Prior to that, a few singles off the album were released including “Handkerchief” (which featured label mate Kojo Cue), “Kotodwe”, “Madakraa” (which featured EL and Joey B) and “Yellow Sisi” with Pappy Kojo. All the songs continue to make waves on the radio.
Lil Shaker’s move to BBnZ was to herald a big blow out for the singer, rapper, producer and songwriter. Whether this is really the situation presently is open for debate though in my view, the ceiling of fame has not been cracked open yet. Despite this, I remain a true fan. All I can do is to wish him the best of luck. Good luck to your hustle bro. (hope you don’t go against Peter in the sequel of Pan, Captain Hook)