Creative people are a sensitive bunch. A slight hint of criticism, whether born out of fairness or malice, of their work is regarded as an attack. Whiles some would ignore the criticism others may come for your neck, even fighting you for sharing a ‘negative’ opinion. There are others who would reach out and explain to you why your views are wrong, offering you a better perspective of their work.
In the era of social media and trolls, it is easy for people to have a troll party over something which they consider awful. Such trolls are often fierce, uncharitable and repugnant with the potential of depressing the creative person. Some are able to ride the trolls, sometimes joining the ‘troll-fest’. One person who has ridden the trolls, turning them to his advantage is Afro-EDM artiste Okunta Kinte.
The first time I saw the singer (I now know as) Okunta Kinte was at AccradotAlt’s 2016 Sabolai Radio event at Jamestown. Okunta was introduced to the sparse crowd present and did about four songs. Clad in his African print with a bandana around his head, many, like myself found his performance strange, unimpressive and ridiculous. Only a handful were urging him on-the few standing in front of the stage- and I couldn’t tell if it was genuine love they were showing or they were being sarcastic.
Following the controversy and subsequent release of his major single Melanin Girls, the reaction on twitter was more condemnatory than celebratory. Okunta Kinte virtually opened himself to ridicule as twitter roasted him for days. The criticism was toward his style of singing than the lyrics and the minimalistic instrumentations. The falsetto singing coupled with the style he chose to hit his notes set of the troll alarms.
Elsewhere, Okunta should have been mad and gone after everyone who came criticizing. He rather, took things in his stride, joined the troll train and had fun with the whole situation whiles trending on twitter. What the trolls did was spread the reach of ‘Melanin Girls’ and by extension, the name Okunta Kinte. His song lead to a featured article on BBC website. As the trolls seemed to be subsiding, Okunta Kinte decided to, in a snap video, cover Rihanna’s global ragga tinge hit ‘Work’. The criticism this time, included caricature memes of Okunta Kinte. If that was a strategy to keep his name afloat, it worked once again.
In an interview on INNERviews (Red Room) about the backlash his attempted cover song had drawn and the many criticisms before that, Okunta was indifferent. His answer was simple and straight forward:
I’m insecure about a lot of things, right, as a person. But I’m not insecure about my ability to sing. I know I have a relatively good voice… There were some few brave ones (fans) who said they actually loved the cover (of Work) and didn’t find it funny.
And then you have the ‘y3 wo krom’ people who said, nah that was a terrible cover. What we are doing is that, the more Okuntakinte just keeps on appearing. I was trending for about 21 hours which I didn’t expect’
In line with projecting the other shades of his artistic talents, Okunta started his ‘flower or garden modelling campaign’ where he kept flooding his social media pages with some impressive still images of himself in a garden adorned with flowers. That also had people responding in both good and negative ways.
But, despite these mounting criticism of his every move-both in or outside the studio, one man had his eyes on the bigger picture. In a tweet which seemed born out of frustration, he predicted a very lustrous future for Okunta Kinte. That man is his manager, Kafui Sokpe[@mistameister] who also manages and guided the success of afro-pop singer Mr. Eazi.
— Mr Meister (@mistameister) February 25, 2016
A couple of months ago, we woke up to the news that Okunta Kinte had inked a deal with global music publishing company Sony ATV; Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC is an American music publishing company owned by Sony that has a long list of successful artistes on its roll. Okunta Kinte has finally made it. Okunta has ridden on the trolls to something huge. He has turned the negative publicity into a very profitable one, proving again that, there’s nothing like bad publicity. It depends on how you play the game.
— ØKUNTAKINTE (@OKUNTAKINTE) June 20, 2016
We live in an era where record labels sign artistes based not entirely on talents but also public reach or influence; something different to what pertained many decades ago. That is, record labels, like any profit seeking business would take on board an artiste they think has already the following, exposure and knows how to interact with fans rather than one that has only the talent. An artiste with talent is great but its only one attraction of the total package. Having a presence on social media-where every move of yours is discussed- is an advantage.
For Okunta Kinte, perhaps the reasons for getting signed to Sony ATV might be many with his presence of social media being a considered factor. Perhaps that was one of the primary reasons. Whatever be the case, one thing still remains that, Okunta Kinte seized and built upon the widely received, widely mocked reviews of Melanin Girls and is gradually becoming the afro-punk artiste around.
In Okunta, Phineas T. Barnum’s quote that there is ‘No such thing as negative/bad publicity’ holds true. Let me add that it depends on what your end game is. For now, Okuntakinte is riding the waves towards his ultimate destination.
BY: @swayekidd and @MannyFBC