“Brand no be strong enough, if ebi strong, keep quiet e go soon common, I stay mute one-year sef full support” – Sarkodie on “Advice”
When you thought you’ve had enough of Sarkodie, he manages to, for some reason, get you gushing over him again. He appears to have mastered the craft of judging when discontent among people – not his fanatical fan base but the ordinary consumer of good music is high . He comes in to remind you why your sentiments about him being ‘washed’ is ridiculous.
Over the years, the most decorated rapper of our era has blown our minds with his talent- that’s when he really wants to rap- and also, left us yawning at times. But, the latter cannot erase the stellar achievements of Sarkodie.
Staying relevant and on top of his game for over a decade in an uncertain music market like Ghana is a true survivors tale. Sarkodie has aced that. Admiration for him has transcended his musical talent or business acumen. The biggest admiration is the secret to his relevance.
As an elder statesman, his actions, both within the music sphere and outside are often scrutinised. Be it the lyrics in his songs, he jumping on a remix of a hit song, or featuring a ‘hot’ new act on his song, people have opinions to proffer on each one of his moves.
Holding a position of power and influence comes with responsibilities. Sarkodie has been trying, for sometime to step into the role of a social commentator. That is, he does not want to be associated with only his music. He, like many Ghanaians has views on issues to express. His twitter account is, therefore not only reserved for posting music-related topics and engagements with his fans. It’s has become a medium for expressing his views on some issues of national importance.
In recent times, two excellent articles have been written by Hamza Moshood and Nii Kotei, inspired by some tweets shared by Sarkodie. The respective articles critiqued Sarkodie’s blunted political opinions and how such (mis)informed point of view could influence his followers adversely.
Is Sarkodie falling off? Is he becoming a follower rather than a leader, musically speaking? Is he under pressure to make a border breaking record like his 2014 hit single “Adonai”?
One can cite examples for each question posed. Whereas fans have applauded Sarkodie for ‘putting’ young artists on, others are quick to call this type of move as opportunistic rather than altruistic. These divergent views aside, and the conversations that surround each new release, Sarkodie has maintained a very strong, unblemished brand. His fanbase are as fanatical as the first crusaders. He even referenced this on ‘’Advice’’: “Brand no be strong enough, if ebi strong, keep quiet ego soon common, I stay mute one-year sef full support”
‘’Friends To Enemies’’ his latest release reinforces Sarkodie’s ability to get serious when it comes to life based themes. On the song, he talks about the burden of success and its impacts on relationships. The subject is not new: many artists have reflected on it in the past- and new ones would in the future. The nexus between success, friendship and family dynamics has always been a tricky one. It takes some level of insight to navigate this maze. ‘’Friends To Enemies’’ does highlight this.
On the first verse of this Yung L assisted, introspective song, Sarkodie raps about cutting loose a friend who ‘turned into a snitch’ because ‘’I am rich’’. On first listen, one may interpret this as an arrogant talk from a successful rapper. A few lines into it, he illustrates how this friend became envious of his success and turned into an enemy. The old adage that ‘money changes you’ does not apply to Sark as it does apply to the friend he cut loose. Sarkodie is not afflicted by the blindness that comes when success knocks, leading to the blurring of the ‘who is your friend and who is your real friend’ lines.
But, it is on the second verse that Sarkodie reminds us of one of the skill set that has been missing in his songs lately: Storytelling. The verse speaks from the perspective of his mum who feel overly burdened by the success of her son. She narrates instances of how her friends exhibit sense of disbelieve when she is not in a position to financially help them because her son is Sarkodie- a rich artist.
The verse reveals the fuzzy angle between perception and reality. That is, whereas some consider his mum to be swimming in riches due to the fame of her son, she has her own challenges to battle with like being financially broke –and having to call her son for succor. The pressure to look the part in the ‘success world’’ of her son means she can’t even wear the same clothes continuously, she can’t even ask for help from relatives or friends. In the end, she even regrets having a successful son like Sarkodie.
The second verse demonstrates the pressures- psychological, emotional that they have to endure: stretching themselves beyond their means-because ‘society’ won’t accept you saying you are broke. It is usually the case that, when artists talk about their own struggles with success, it is always about the burden that it comes with. An immediate case was that of the American rapper Yung Joc, who disclosed in a 2014 interview, how his appearance on the 2006 Forbes Richer’s Rapper List became his undoing. With a reported $10 Million in earnings that year, he had all manner of people-friends, family, hood buddy’s coming to him for one form of assistance or another.
‘’Friends To Enemies’’ is one of those songs that begs you to spare a moment and reflect on the ‘’other side’’ of one’s success story: the need to keep the mask of joy on even when your world is crumbling.