“Rivalry among artistes, and beefing in music is part of show business. That makes the game active and exciting.”
Nobody should echo the above sentiments again! We're gradually inviting America's East Coast-West Coast scenario into our music industry.
A few years ago, we thought artiste rivalry and beefing were actually catalysts to the growth of the game. We thought Ghanaian music could not be plunged into violence because of artiste rivalry but I have jettisoned that notion.
What happened on Saturday, May 18, 2019 at the new Dome at the Accra International Conference Centre has changed my view about all these camps of musicians.
If we sit aloof, someone will die!
When 20th Vodafone Ghana Music Awards turned ‘gun-pulling’ episode
On Saturday, May 18, 2019, Charter House held its 20th edition of the award scheme at the new Dome situated at the premises of the Accra International Conference Centre.
Being the biggest and most anticipated event on the entertainment calendar, it was expected to exude a grandeur, resplendent and quality production deserving of a 20th anniversary.
Being the 20th edition, a lot of people had expected to see an amplified version of the ceremony but that did not happen.
It is sad that after having put in so much to execute the scheme, just a single incident would mar the whole event.
This is what happened.
Stonebwoy was announced winner of the Reggae/Dancehall Artiste of the Year category. Just when he mounted the stage to pick his award with his team, his arch-rival in the music industry, Shatta Wale, also followed up with his entourage.
When the manager of Stonebwoy, Blakk Cedi, tried to prevent them from getting closer, it resulted in a scuffle and Stonebwoy took a gun from one of his team members.
In a press statement, he explained that he did that to defend himself because he had been attacked on several occasions in the past and could not know when and where the next attack would be coming from. He said his wife was stabbed at a previous event and that left him traumatized. He, therefore, felt the need to bolster his security!
What was Shatta Wale doing on the stage?
Seeing Shatta Wale on stage at that moment was quite strange because there has been stiff rivalry between the two, and one wonders what they were going to do on that stage together amidst the tension of the night.
Even though he has explained in a tweet that he was going to congratulate Stonebwoy on stage, some have slammed that reason.
Even if Shatta Wale had good intention for going on the stage, the timing was wrong, especially when he went up the stage with his 'battalions.' That was not the platform to go make peace with a brother.
I remember how Shatta Wale’s management prevented Stonebwoy and Samini from performing at his Reign Concert last year. The reason they gave was that the two had not informed him earlier that they were coming to the programme and to forestall any security issues, the management had to decline to make them perform.
Shatta could simply have waited to congratulate his brother when later he mounted the stage, because he would have won another award or even performed. He still would have had a platform to send out his message, if indeed that was the intention.
Shatta Wale always wants to be in the headlines. Perhaps, he wanted to just create the impression that he had acted maturely by extending a truce to his ‘enemy’ so that he would be all over the media. That, I think was his main preoccupation and the purpose for going on the stage.
Was it necessary for Stonebwoy to have pulled a gun?
I don’t think there is anything wrong to defend oneself with a licensed gun (if only the gun is licensed), when one feels threatened in a situation, but I wonder if it was a situation that required a gun defense.
I don’t know what Stonebwoy saw before he called for a gun upon seeing Shatta Wale and his team mount the stage. Did he feel hounded by Shatta Wale and his people?
“Give me the gun”, he was seen saying when Shatta and his entourage were joining them on stage.
This is not the first time Stonebwoy has pulled a gun at a public place and that draws me closer to the thrust of this piece.
The first time was at the Champs Bar at the Paloma Hotel in Accra when he fired shots upon seeing some staff of his former record label, Zylofon Music, coming to take a car they said belonged to the company, from Stonebwoy.
Not long ago, Stonebwoy said on Hitz FM that if Shatta Wale was in Jamaica, he would have been shot dead by now. He was making reference to all the 'bad things' Shatta had done to him and others in the industry.
From the two instances, there appears a stark proclivity on Stonebwoy’s part to fire shots at his foes if he deems it necessary. And this is scary!
Last year, Shatta Wale was also seen in a video firing shots in the air. Of course, no one should be deceived that only Stonebwoy has guns. All these guys have guns.
Shatta has recently tweeted that when it comes to guns, he has a lot of them and can fire at Stonebwoy at any time.
Now, this is super scary: East Coast-West Coast Scenario beckons
I am not prophesying doom for our music industry but if this wanton 'pulling' of guns at the least provocation does not stop, there may be bad news one day. Someone will be shot dead!
The tension is getting heightened by the day. The formerly perceived showbiz mentality of 'mere beef' is culminating into violence and we are as close to it than ever before.
Do you remember how Tupac and Biggie died? They died through the East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry.
This was a feud between artistes and fans of the East Coast and West Coast hip hop scenes in the United States, especially from 1994 to 1997.
Focal points of the feud were East Coast–based rapper, The Notorious B.I.G. (and his New York–based label, Bad Boy Records), and West Coast–based rapper Tupac Shakur (and Dr. Dre's Los Angeles–based label, Death Row Records, which he was part of), who were both murdered in drive-by shootings.
Orlando Anderson (a.k.a. Baby Lane) is believed to be the person responsible for the murder of Shakur. The person responsible for the murder of The Notorious B.I.G. remains unknown.
Six months after Tupac’s death, on March 9, 1997, The Notorious B.I.G. was killed in a drive-by shooting by an unknown assailant in Los Angeles, California.
This attitude of Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy could trickle down to their fans. I read a tweet of a fan who said, he would shoot Stonebwoy and risk going to jail.
This has gone beyond the artistes. You never know who would be the victim. It could be a media person who has been tagged to belong to either faction, a fan of either party or the artistes themselves.
Charterhouse could have done better with security
That Charter House has contributed immensely to the music industry as far as the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards is concerned is not debatable.
They have consistently organised the awards for 20 years. At least, irrespective of all their challenges, they gave Ghana our version of the Grammys.
However, I think they failed this year with security, especially with regards to how Shatta Wale and his fans got onto the stage and security checks that were made before people got into the auditorium.
For the first time, I did not see a thorough security check at the entrance; anybody could have entered the Dome with weapons. This is particularly scary as the world is on a red alert due to the many instances of suicide bombings and extremist attacks, and also at a time when Ghana began serious conversations about how the phenomenon seems closer than before, with the attacks in Burkina Faso. And we know these extremists like crowded environments. The 2017 Manchester Arena bombing during Ariana Grande's concert comes to mind.
And the police! They looked helpless when the fight was ongoing. That’s a shame. I mean anything could have happened.
It is quite unfortunate that this incident marred that the 20th edition of the awards, which was supposed to have been a milestone in the history of Ghana’s music.
Should Stonebwoy and Shatta Wale be banned for the VGMAs?
I have heard suggestions that Stonebwoy and Shatta Wale be banned from the award scheme for a number of years but I don’t think that would really solve the problem.
I have also heard some say their awards should be revoked. That, to me, is also not necessary.
I rather think it is about time Charterhouse reconsidered the voting system for the VGMAs.
They really need to have a second look at the monetisation of the voting system.
Even though the public has just 30% voting power in most of the categories, a lot of them including Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy really went hard on soliciting votes to win their various categories this year. They had no chances to kill.
They were organising voting parties and supposedly spending as much as GHS 50,000 on voting, at a sitting. It was clear from the get go that nominees who had put in so much were going to be livid if they did not win certain awards.
Tensions were high. Everybody wanted their monies and sweat to pay off.
That is the danger of monetizing such a competitive award scheme. We can calm nerves if we limit votes to one vote per head and also stop the monetisation.
I know this voting system helps the headline sponsors, Vodafone to also get their money but it is not the best for our industry.
There is nothing wrong to support any artiste but it is wrong to think violence against an artiste you do not like.
Our entertainment industry is still struggling to grow. We don’t need violence to grow it.
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."