Music has been with humans for hundreds of years and just like every human endeavour, there are bound to feud among the actors. In music circles, the most publicised feuds often tend to be among different artistes.
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Just like everywhere in the world, the Ghanaian music industry has had its fair share of feuds between artistes.
At various stages in the life of our music industry, there has been one form of feud or rivalry between artistes.
These feuds often divide opinions with many arguing for or against depending on their beliefs and experiences.
YEN.com.gh takes a look at artiste feuds, which have come to be known as 'beefs', and their relevance for Ghana's music industry.
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What are 'beefs'' in the musical context?
The term ‘beef’ has been in usage as an intransitive verb since the late 1880s. But according to Tucker (2013) , the termhas evolved to become an American street slang that basically refers to deep hatred for someone or a thing.
It is also used to refer to situations where comeptitors develop friction among themselves, which musicians often do.
In his 2005 thesis titled Bullet on the Charts: Beef, the Media Industry and Rap Music in America, Eli Sweet simplified beefing as a type of rivalry between musicians, most clearly manifested in songs degrading one another.
While the concept has existed for a long time across the world, Sweet posits that the phenomenon of beefing in the music industry attained global prominence when two American rappers Biggie Smalls a.k.a Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur (2pac) engaged in a lyrical feud.
As many music enthusiasts may be aware, the beef between Biggie and 2pac ended with both of them losing their lives at the ages of 24 and 25 respectively.
Beefs in Ghana
While they may not have been called beefs back then, rivalries among music artistes have long existed. The music space has always been comeptitive and artistes have consistently tried to outdo each other to get the most attention.
However, the first form of 'beef', as we know it today, first surfaced in the late 1990s when rap music, stylised as Hiplife, emerged.
It was between Hiplife duo Ex-Doe and Chicago who had fallen out after working as a group to release the Daavi Medekuku song a few years earlier. Both artistes were claiming to own the song and eventually went on to record diss tracks for the other.
From that time, there came the rivalry between Lord Kenya and Obrafour. Theirs was a subtle lyrical war to determine who was the greatest. Obrafour had once used the expression 'rap heavyweight champion' to describe himself while Kenya also laid claim to the title.
After the Obrafour-Lord Kenya beef, there were a few rivalries between artistes which gained national attention.
The Shatta Wale era
Fast forward to the mid 2010s and Shatta Wale enters the fray. Having started his music career 2004 as Bandana, he resurfaced after a 10 year hiatus rebranded as Shatta Wale.
Since 2014, Shatta Wale has become the poster boy for 'beefs' in the Ghanaian music industry. He has 'beefed' the likes of Samini, Stonebwoy, Sarkodie, Kaakie, Charter House, among others.
Shatta Wale basically 'beefed' Samini for the title of 'Dancehall king' after he rebranded and entered the genre.
After 'dethroning' Samini, Shatta Wale got into another fierce rivalry with Stonebwoy who had emerged as one of the biggest forces in the Dancehall genre.
Their beef hit a crescendo at the 2019 Vodanfone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA) when the two nearly engaged in a brawl. The altercation led to the banning of Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy from the awards scheme.
On the side, Shatta Wale was also engaged in a 'beef' with his one-time buddy, Sarkodie, who had to release a diss track titled, Advice, for the former after constant attacks.
In 2019, the music industry witnessed another between rappers Medikal and Strongman which was followed in 2020 the first female beef which involved Eno Barony, Freda Rhymz, and Sista Afia.
Essence of beefs
From the above, it is obvious that beefs have been on the rise in the Ghana music industry in the last decade.
While the gains an artiste may make from a beef is difficult to measure, there is no argument about the fact that is essential.
For Enews.com.gh's editor, Myers Hansen artistes are in the business of drawing attention to their crafts and beefs are one of the ways to get this attention.
"To sustain their careers, artistes need to get conversations about them going and there is no better way than beefs.
"When done right, beefs ensure that the artistes involved become the darlings of the media in the time of the beef and that is what every artiste thrives on," he told YEN.com.gh.
Hansen pointed to the beef of Eno Barony, Sista Afia, and Freda Rhymz to buttress his point saying:
"Eno had always been known to be a very good rapper but it was only after her beef with Sista Afia and Freda Rhymz that she got the much-needed attention.
"It is on the back of that, she went ahead to win the coveted Rap Performance of the Year at the 2021 VGMA ahead of Sarkodie, Medikal, among others."
Sustainability of gains from beefs
Owusu Worae, the head of entertainemnt news at TV3, agrees that beefs are relevant and essential to artistes but believes that does not guarantee a successful career.
Worae pointed out that there is a long list of artistes who have got massive attention from beefs and diss songs but still failed to become relevant while others have never been ontroversial and still remain relevant.
"It is not just about beefing or releasing diss tracks for attention, it is what you do with the attention afterwards that sustains your career.
"Shatta Wale has been able to take advantage of the attention he garners from his beefs and has remain on top for about eight years now. Eno Barony also rode on her beef with Sista Afia to take a rightful place in the male dominated rap scene.
"But not all the people who have engaged in beefs or released diss tracks have benefited this much," he said in an interview with YEN.com.gh.
Are beefs good or bad?
While there is no one sure way for music artistes to achieve success or sustain it, beefing is definitely one of the ways to get them on the road to success.
The attention from beefs, when harnessed very well, could make lowly-placed artiste become a household name and set them up as great artistes.
Beefs also generate excitement for music lovers who engage in banters of their own on the streets.
Notwithstanding, beefs have not always been about lyrical banters and may sometimes degenerate into physical confrontations just like it happened between Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy at the VGMA.
In a nutshell, Myers Hansen posits that one cannot say beefs are necessarily good or bad because it is the end that will tell.
"Artistes should known when to engage in beefing, when to take advantage of it, and when to stop," he said.