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Fear Is What Keeps Shatta Wale Awake

By turning his fears into success, the self-acclaimed dancehall king has become a bully within the music industry.

If there is any experience a person would learn when stranded on an island or in the wilderness, it is sharpening their survival instincts. You have to battle against harsh conditions mostly unforeseeable in other to survive. And should you make it out or escape that trap, your attitude and outlook on life, about people and the world changes instantly. The haunting experiences of the past dictate how you move in the present. Paranoia, distrust become the axis on which your world spins. This is what defines Shatta Wale.

For those familiar with the story of Shatta Wale, the lonely years is one that cannot be forgotten or downplayed as far as his career is concerned. That experience is what continued to define the antics of Shatta Wale presently. The lonely years lasted the periods 2004 to 2011/12. 2013, however was the year Shatta Wale truly announced himself to a wider audience in the aftermath of his VGMA loss. The display of crass unprofessionalism against Charter House, and more specifically Kaakie when he lost a category to the dancehall artiste revealed an entitled man. In his mind, he should have won that category.

Pictures taken from his twitter page

That episode of madness was a destiny changer for the self-acclaimed dancehall king. The whole Ghana Music Awards conversation that year focused on his distasteful behaviour. Radio stations started playlisting his songs. His fans became very loud. Social media provided Shatta with another avenue to continue with his insults and disses. These events fueled his larger-than-life image.

The enigma that is Shatta Wale is beyond comprehension. That is, one can not entirely make sense of how Shatta Wale has become one of the three most important artistes of our time despite his many ‘flaws’; something that goes against the rules of corporate showbiz. Let me elaborate on this further. Often times, A-List artists who seek to build their brands beyond the ‘streets’ and attract corporate partnerships deliberately vary their personality to suit the corporate standards. Such posturing means eschewing certain reckless behaviours. Shatta Wale, however, does not fit this rule.

Shatta Wale makes nonsense of the above. He is the epitome of ‘what you see is what you get’. Mr. Charles Mensah, or Shatta has not changed who he is: blunt, comical, insufferable, disrespectful, loudmouth. Despite these flaws, Shatta Wale continues to thrive musically and within the corporate world; based on brand endorsements. He doesn’t have to go to a brand for support. It’s often the other way round.

The ‘’I live free’’ character trait of the “Melissa” hitmaker can also be seen in other artistes like Naira Marley in Nigeria and South Africa’s Cassper Nyovest. These guys are disrupters of systems or what is/has been considered industry norms. Their entrance in music kick-started a certain ‘revolution’ in their respective home nations. Naira Marley has proven you cannot be cowed or cancelled by anyone. Cassper proved to independent artistes they can stage elaborate concerts out of their own resources without any corporate support.

A cursory look at him and his success story thus far reveals how the decade long drought impacted his mindset which is often reflected in his actions. Shatta Wale’s mindset is in equal parallel with that of a mobster. (Note: this is not to say Shatta Wale is any of the above. The reference has to do with his mentality or attitude).

The career of Shatta Wale has been dotted by incidents and controversies; two things that he thrives on. He is also aware that his position as a leading name in music coupled with the importance of social media means any actions of his would make the front-page news. Whether for good or bad, we’ve seen that play out through his reaction to his ban by Charter House after his despicable reaction towards Kaakie.

None of these incidents bring out his ‘gangster’ mentality than his beef with Samini and Stonebwoy. Here, Shatta Wale knew the power and influence of these two stalwarts and for him to knock them off the perch, music alone wouldn’t be enough. Samini is a veteran with a well-known legacy which won’t be erased by diss songs, especially when Samini was responding in equal measure with even better records. So, Shatta chose another approach: posting videos of him making wild allegations and insinuations against Samini on social media. This did not only create viral moments for him, he also knew Samini would not respond to the comments via the same approach. And that was how he pipped his rival to the curb.

That strategy was again revisited at the height of his beef with Stonebwoy and Sarkodie. Unlike the Samimi situation, Shatta employed both social media and traditional radio interviews to attack his opponents. Every radio interview found him throwing aspersions against the two top artists in the country. Similar to the Samini situation, he knew Sarkodie would not respond because of his ‘corporate’ image. The best he would do is to share his opinion through a well-composed tweet or on a song; advice style.

The “Ayoo” hitmaker is not afraid to embrace the tag of a villain here. He knows who he is and is alright. His bluntness, wits and self-confidence are tools he has adopted as security against slipping down the rabbit hole the second time. And if you scrutinize most of his ‘issues’ with his fellow competitors, it boils down to them not finessing their positions to make more money. Again, like a gangster, every move he makes should result in him making money. So, hearing him criticize Samini for not taking advantage of the attention their beef generated showed Samini in a light that was not in his world.

For any gangster to have impact, he needs a great team around him. In the case of Shatta Wale, it is the members of his Shatta Movement who do the hatchet job for him. Very present online, these fans are always ready to back and amplify any of his antics. In the eyes of the fans, Shatta is infallible. Anything he does is justifiable. The behaviour of his fans over the years has evolved into a toxic one, where competitors keep a safe distance, afraid to catch a bullet from Shatta Wale and his fans. (Kwaku Smoke will bear witness).

For some, the behaviour of Shatta Wale leaves much to be desired, whereas others consider it the flaws of maverick artist thus the latitude accorded him to continue with his antics. But, beneath the veneer of being the ‘oddball’ of the music industry lies a very personal tragedy, one Charles Mensah would not want to ever experience: the fear of failure and spilling away into irrelevance. That fear is his jet fuel to his success. He has already tasted the harsh realities of being forgotten. And he is not ready and willing to go back there again.

If there is any truth to show business, it is the fact that the industry is a fleeting one. You can come crashing down real hard and music fans would move on to the next hot thing; name-dropping you for either nostalgic purposes or as a life lesson.

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