On his single “Who Da Man?’’, Sarkodie intoned “Ain’t nobody taking my position/ Mama told me not to worry, ‘cos she had a vision/ Obiaa ntumi nquechi (Nobody can quench) my fire am on a mission/ You go trust if you know what I been cooking in the kitchen ah”. For some, this is nothing short of a swaggering vaunted disposition typical of rappers. But, if you’ve been a keen follower of Sarkodie and his musical journey, you will realize that he often lives every lyric he delivers on songs. (We are still waiting for that Ace Hood statue though).
On “Who Da Man?” the “BET Best International Flow” Awardee did put his right foot on the neck of the rap game. His lyrics were punchy, his delivery was spotless and his hunger was very eminent. He rapped with the hunger of an underground artist looking for an opportunity to make a name for himself, a la Nas on “Live At The BBQ”. This is where the line is drawn between Sarkodie and other rappers. The multiple award winning rapper is aware of the steep slope nature of the whole rap scene: how you could slip away to irrelevance if you are too comfortable. Sarkodie, having lived enough to see some of the best rappers suffer this kind of fate is not ready to bow out and be forgotten. If anything, King Sark would want to leave the game like the king he is.
Like Drake, he knows and understands the mechanics of social media. With millions of followers on all his handles, he has mastered how to steal moments away from his competitors without making it too blatant. He sees or reads all the comments or reactions- both the positive and the aching ones directed his way. Like Jay Z, he has also learnt how to control the narrative by addressing critics and criticisms through his music. On both “Who Da Man?” and “Angels and Demons”, Sark laid down the ‘facts”. On the latter, he made his frustrations known to the accusation of him ‘exploiting’ new acts by jumping or featuring them on his songs, thus keeping his name alive. He, however perceived this act as a way of helping them – offering them visibility and leverage than fleecing them.
Last weekend, Sarkodie offered people a glimpse into how powerful he is, in the context of fan base, relevance and above all, influence. On Sunday, not only were 50,000 fans in Tema to witness his concert, he had multitudes joining his ‘Sarkathon’ health walk in Tema on Saturday. The fans aside, how many artists today can have over a dozen of today’s top acts performing on his stage to thousands of people on a night? Sarkodie did that during the maiden edition of his ‘’This Is Tema’’.
And this is where the smartness of Sarkodie and his team comes to bear. Sarkodie came to the realization that he was losing the grassroots support that embraced him, exhibited the highest sense of affection and loyalty to him during his come-up years. Success is conterminous with moving up the scale of life. In Sarkodie’s case, his branding efforts seem to have impacted his relationships with a section of his fan base. His high-end videos and ‘big boy’ posturing, though enuring to his overall benefit as an artist and man with clout – and rightly understandable, some of his fans did not see the vision. In their minds, the unreliability drew a wedge between him and them.
The ‘disconnect’ meant fans shifting allegiance to another artist that is relatable and represents them. That person was Kwesi Arthur, another bona fide of Tema whose journey strikes a chord with that of Sarkodie. Watching the growth of Kwesi Arthur and the love shown to Shatta Wale by the ‘streets’ which once had his back, he realized the need to back paddle to where and how it all got started: aligning himself with the streets by making himself more relatable.
This new approach came by way of collaborations and videos. Sarkodie approached his videos like an alte act as seen in the video for “Legends” featuring the high priest of the Ghanaian “alte” music scene. Sarkodie also began performing at events that he would ordinarily had declined like this year’s “Tidal Rave”, where he even MC’d the show. (He was at Saltpond for a show as well). For those who thought his approach was merely to excite the crowd might have missed the point. Sarkodie was quietly connecting with his core fans, winning over disgruntled fans and finding himself new ones. And, it must be said, it is quiet hard not to love Sarkodie once you have witnessed his performance.
‘’This Is Tema’’ was therefore the last stage of connecting, winning over and establishing his claim as the ONE. Sarkodie, since he emerged on the music scene in 2005 had carried Tema on his back. He has, to quote Kanye West on “Homecoming’’: ”every interview I’ve represented you (reference to Chicago)”, Sarkodie has done same in his lyrics. Similar to the expression of affection in a love relationship, words, sometimes is not enough. Action is imperative. So, with ‘’This Is Tema’’, Sarkodie went beyond representing Tema with his words. He proved it with action.
This feat cannot be discussed in isolation. In an era where some of his colleagues – and some young acts- are staging concerts for fans at the vicinities or neighborhood they were born and bred, Sarkodie realized he has to play according to the ‘new rules’ of the game. His two ‘rivals’ – Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy – have already charted this path where they play free concerts within their respective communities. For Sarkodie to have staged this concert a month from his annual “Rapperholic Concert” is indicative of how much prominence he is giving to being a son of Tema.
The thousands who showed up at Tema over the weekend to participate in the activities leading to the event were not merely fans. They were also proud Tema residents who have waited years for the hero to return home on a triumphant note.
Sarkodie has proven that relevance transcends the music one makes especially in this era. Being able to connect with your fans on a consistent basis, making them feel special and involving them in some of your activities is of utmost importance. Fans, like all living things deserve to be nourished overtime. And that, is what Sarkodie is continually mastering.