Having success for a year or two; that’s being hot. We call it hot: that’s being in demand for a short period of tme. Excellence is being able to perform at high level for a long period of time. In a genre of music where it’s almost microwaved and where your career is almost like in dock years right; you last three years in hiphop, it’s fantastic. You last five years, it’s like, wow. It’s amazing. If you last for a decade and beyond, it’s almost unheard of.
Jay Z speaking on Oprah Winfrey’s Masterclass
For the many that keenly followed the legendary radio programme ‘Kasahari Levels’ hosted by Dr. Duncan on Adom FM circa 2006, Sarkodie was one of the few rappers many tipped for success. He had it all: his style was unique (he rapped in a unique accent considered ‘too local’); his lyrics were filled had depth seasoned with humor. He could tongue-twist. He had presence, composure and a strain of palpable hunger for success echoed loudly in his weekly performances.
Fast forward to now; a decade after breaking out with his first freestyle ‘Push’ and his real single ‘Baby’ featuring Mugeez (of R2Bees), Sarkodie has become the king of rap in Ghana, and one of the foremost artists on the African continent. His pile of awards, albums (currently at 5), singles and features and a strong, respected brand bear testimony to this fact. Sarkodie is unarguably the most successful Ghanaian artists ever.
Like vintage wine, Sark keeps evolving and improving. He knows rap, like any other sport requires the participant to continuously work and be in better shape to compete. This evolution and mindset is clearly apparent in how he has survived the game when many of his compatriots, some whom he battled on ‘Kasahare Levels’ have paled in comparison. Most have nosedived into the valley of obscurity. Others couldn’t follow up after their initial success and those who did survive the times barely have a foothold like Sarkodie does due to inconsistency.
Like Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War , Sarkodie keeps making a killing, figuratively speaking. He is like the Prince described by Machiavelli in his classic work As As Niccolo Machiavelli wrote: ‘’One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves’’, Sarkodie possesses the cunning of a fox and the bravery of lion. These qualities have combined effectively to serve him well.
Whenever he has felt his throne threatened, he comes after his ‘enemies’-imaginary or real- with grave force. We all are aware of the ‘godMC – Kanta’ entertaining debacle. If he favours an artist(s), he doesn’t hesitate to show them love, either by endorsing them or jumping on their song. (I know there are many who have issues with this kind of ‘endorsement’ arguing these ‘favours’ benefit Sarkodie than the young artist(s) in the short to long term).
In similar ways as products and companies entrench their brand or attempt to win a larger market share in their area of business operations, Sark continues to stay innovative by finding ways to keep his visibility afloat. And he is doing so in two major ways. The first ‘trick’ of Sarkodie is remixing songs by the new generation of artists such as B4bonah, Kwesi Arthur. He does this by adding a verse to the original and shooting a video as well.
A self-confessed ‘private guy’, Sark has been offering fans a snapshot into his life through his social media pages. He doesn’t only post about his music, videos or concerts like some of his compatriots, Sarkodie makes time to interact with his fans. This invariably has added a layer of visibility to his brand and in the process cultivating new fanbase as well.
Lately, Sarkodie has found another avenue of keeping his name and voice in our ears. This trick comes in the form of freestyle videos. Over the weekend, he released a short video of him freestyle over ‘Jaden Smith’s ‘Icon’ beat. The response from social media was phenomenal, which come to think of it isn’t much of a surprise from an artist who for almost a decade been at the top of his game. In March this year, he released his first freestyle video, where the content was a blend of braggadocios and ever present rags to riches epistles. The reaction was met with great reception. But, before these intermittent releases, Sark had ‘tested’ the waters with clips of him rapping along to songs from artists he describes as ‘his favourite legends’. One of such videos was of him in a hotel room during an European tour rapping to a song from Komfo Kwadei’s album.
Piecing all these developments together, I have come to the conclusion that, Sarkodie’s latest ‘trick’ is influenced by the success that GroundUpChale is chalking with its short videos, some which go viral of some of their artists on the come-up. This strategy has successfully launched or given some of these young acts the opportunity to leverage on this exposure, Mention can be mad of artists like Kofi Mole, Twitch and of course, BET nominee Kwesi Arthur.
Sarkodie, even after scoring such huge success in his long career still entertains the hunger of a young artist desperately looking for a break by exploring all available avenues that could aid their success. In simple terms, he is a superstar who doesn’t consider himself as such. He steps to the mic with the same hunger, composure and dedication he was oozing during his days as a freestyle rapper on ‘Kasahare Levels’ a decade ago.
Sarkodie hands meaning expression ‘you don’t stop running when those chasing you haven’t stopped’. The hip hop game is like a pendulum where fortunes of artist swings from one end to the other. Considering his career thus far, Sarkodie seems to be holding the pendulum from swinging any farther. He controls its swing.