Pulse Music editor David Mawuli explains the reasons behind the dancehall giant’s controversial BET snubbing
Only one Ghanaian musician made the cut for a gong that enjoys reverence in these parts.
The 29-year-old was nominated alongside four Nigerian heavyweights Wizkid, Tekno, Mr Eazi and Davido, as well as South African superstars AKA, Nasty and Babes Wodumo.
Unsurprisingly, a debate emerged and raged on social media over Stonebwoy’s nomination. Unsurprisingly, because the artiste, real name Livingstone Etse Satekla, has for the last few years been involved in a tense rivalry with Dancehall ‘bad boy’ Shatta Wale.
Many believe that Wale deserved the nod as he had been arguably Ghana’s biggest hit maker in the year under review. Indeed, the 32-year-old has been the busiest Ghanaian artiste for the past three years.
Aside his numerous concerts at home, he shut down the O2 Arena in London in August 2016 with a sold out concert dubbed “Shatta Wale Live in London”.
In fact, last year, he called the shots in the industry with his consistent level of relevance, dined and wined with influential people, remaining a constant presence in the public’s consciousness, be it with controversy or with smash hits. The use of one of his songs during the election campaigned also upped his relevance last year.
It would not be far-fetched to argue that he released more hits than any artiste in the country during the year under review. He amassed more YouTube video views than any local competitor, even topping the popular video-streaming site’s trends list. He continued to push boundaries, and it wasn’t surprising that he became - and still is - Ghana’s highest paid artiste, per his concert charges.
Off the back of these achievements, it seemed a no-brainer that he would be the Ghanaian frontrunner for the coveted BET nomination. But alas, the list (released on Monday, May 15) saw him snubbed.
So let’s tackle the obvious question: Why did he miss out?
The answer? Pay attention. It’s in Wale’s sounds, his business strategies, his brand, his very persona.
Let’s dive into the details, shall we?
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Shatta Wale rose to prominence on the strength of his ghetto appeal and he has milked this affiliation with the masses.
But one of the biggest issues with Wale and his management team is their failure to adapt to new trends.
His appearance, character and speech depicts his attachment to negative features of ghetto life is hurting his brand.
It is a known and undeniable fact that the ghetto and its youth has been the backbone of his successful concerts and record sales, but he can maintain his loyalty to them without compromising his chances of rising.
The damage Wale has been doing to his own brand in the name of remaining faithful to all that is wrong with ‘ghettoness’ is worrying. His dressing is nothing to write home about. He appears on stage and in public with the careless abandon.
He finds way too much time for Facebook Live sessions that continue to soil his reputation. He is either in the studio smoking uncountable rolls of cannabis and cigarettes, or selfie-ing rude expletives to his ‘haters’ and rivals.
Aside that, his followers - dubbed ‘SM (Shatta Movement) Family’ - have earned the unenviable reputation of being vagabonds, because of their unruly behaviour on social media. And, instead of their ‘leader’ to exert a positive influence on them in a bid to alter this perception, he sits on social media to incite them.
These things are seriously denting his brand and he needs to act proactively if he has plans on taking his craft to the next level.
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Shatta Wale is a good producer – no doubt – but NOT a good mixer. There is a critical difference that is - albeit latently - killing his sound.
Over the years, he has produced scores of local hits, but the success of these hits have papered over the cracks of his deficient mixing.
It won’t be surprising if this sounds odd; you have to be really attentive to notice.
Indeed, those who pay attention to detail would notice that one of the Ghana music industry’s biggest problems is the quality of the sound of the songs produced.
Most producers sacrifice meticulousness in their haste to get paid, or probably due to impatient artists pressuring them to finish their work. In the end, the mediocrity is laid bare in the output.
In 2016, Kanye West delayed the release of his album, "The Life of Pablo" because of one track. He went back into the studio with Chance the Rapper to finetune "Waves", which went on to become one of the album’s biggest hits.
West sought satisfaction. Perfection. And that meant patience. That is why he has 21 Grammys in his trophy cabinet.
If Shatta Wale had been in West’s position, I can bet he would have released the album with that one track’s finishing still compromised. It is thus no surprise his sounds are always gnarled, muffled and inaudible.
He should sit up and spend time mixing with other experts before he releases, otherwise those with the fine ear (the expert panels) who see beyond the mere entertainment that drive his projects will continue to throw his songs into the garbage bin.
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Apart from Wale’s poor sounds, he is noticeably thrift when it comes to spending on music videos. Visuals play an important role in the career of every successful artiste in the modern-era. Publish a poorly produced video, and it is your brand and image that will suffer.
Wale believes he is from the ghetto so it must reflect in his videos, but he does so while forgetting his status as a colossal brand. He has consistently failed to upgrade his visuals, and if this continues, international media houses will keep thinking twice about giving him a push.
There is nothing wrong with trying to rope ghetto themes into his videos, but it must be done tastefully and artfully. That is not to say he is not trying his best, but personally, I would still rate videos from his nemesis Stonebwoy and rising dancehall sensation AK Songstress higher than his.
They say there’s “no such thing as bad publicity”.
It is one of showbiz’s biggest clichés. But it is also a myth.
Do you think any good brand or firm would associate itself with a musician with an endless series of scandals? Do you think brands who have one way or the other engaged Wale in business are happy to see him plunging into the depths of controversy day in day out?
For the past three years, Wale’s negative press has far outweighed the positives. From the protracted war of words with Charterhouse and industry colleagues to chaos in his SM camp and the dabbling in juju, Shatta never seems to be far from trouble.
The brand Shatta Wale has become synonymous with controversy and contempt.
No one is forcing him to be someone he is not, but the fact is that there is a limit to inflammatory behaviour, and he can’t be pushing the boundaries of societal rules and moral norms without consequences.
It’s high time he took a hard look at his addiction to negativity.
This is the biggest problem Shatta Wale faces.
I remember running a poll among the people Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Cote d’Ivoire to find out which Ghanaian musicians were making waves in their countries.
To my surprise, most people who participated claimed they had heard the name ‘Shatta Wale’ but had never heard any of his records.
Getting international hits is about promotion and distribution. I don’t remember the last time Shatta Wale and his team travelled - even to the neighbouring Togo - to run promotion for his songs.
He is always in his comfort zone, preferring to stay stationed in Accra, basking in the false regality his fans have conferred on him. He has become, as we love to say in Ghana, a ‘Local Champion’.
Wale claims he is the richest Ghanaian musician around but he hardly travels to distribute his songs.
Instead of splashing his cash on Range Rovers and mansions, he could be reaching out to other countries, establishing links with media houses, DJs and presenters, pushing his music along those viable lines.
Try as hard as Shatta may feign nonchalance on social media amid his troubles, it is important for him and his team to use the BET snub as a wakeup call.
The ghetto aura will not live long, Shatta. Wise up!