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Shatta Wale

Imbued with energy, confidence, and bravado, the music of Ghanaian dancehall artist, actor, and producer Shatta Wale has won multiple awards. He self-released numerous albums, mixtapes, and singles throughout the 2010s including his signature song, 2014's "Dancehall King." This activity caught the attention of Beyoncé, who invited him to guest -- with Major Lazer -- on "Already," a track from her 2019 Grammy-nominated album The Lion King: The Gift, which ultimately enjoyed over 200 million streams. Wale's autobiographical Wonder Boy was issued the same year, followed by Maali in 2023, an uncharacteristically relaxed set that fused his dancehall style with traditional African rhythms. He was born Charles Nii Armah Mensah, Jr. in Accra's Police Hospital, in 1984. Following his parents' divorce, it was his father -- a public figure working in politics, business, and law -- who played the largest part in raising him. While at Seven Great Princes Academy in Dansoman, Wale developed an enthusiasm for the performing arts and was cast in a play which ran at the National Theatre of Ghana. On leaving Winneba Secondary School, he began to make reggae and dancehall music, inspired by regular visits with his father to stay with their U.K.-based Jamaican relatives. He initially used the moniker Doggy before switching to Bandana in time for "Moko Hoo," a 2004 collaboration with Tinny that received a Ghana Music Award nomination. Although that track brought him a level of fame, he was unable to create an effective follow-up single. Subsequently, the music he made over the next decade remained very much part of the underground. In 2014, he successfully re-emerged as Shatta Wale, releasing both the Green Times mixtape and Answers: The Hybrid Album. The latter featured the crackling, in-your-face "Dancehall King," which enjoyed enough exposure that he was named Artist of the Year at the Ghana Music Awards. This sharp and significant change in fortune led to his casting in Selorm Martinson, Jr.'s film Never Say Never, which premiered that September. Keen to consolidate his newfound success, Wale issued no fewer than six long-players in 2015, including four mixtapes: Up a Road, Times & Season, Million Miles, and Magical Year. In 2016, he co-starred alongside Martha Ankomah in Ikechukwu Onyeka's Shattered Lives, before releasing After the Storm, the first album issued on his own Shatta Movement Empire. Produced by Willis Beatz, the bubbling and accessible March 2017 single "Taking Over" was a huge success that saw him collaborate with emerging dancehall artists Captan, Addi Self, and Joint 77, while that October's Cloud 9 EP found him delving into hip-hop. Reflective of his upward trajectory, Avance Media named Shatta Wale 2017's Most Influential Musician on Social Media. The drama-infused single "Ayoo" was named Song of the Year at 2018's inaugural 3Music Awards, just prior to the premiere of Kejetia vs Makola: The Trial of Shatta Wale, a cinematic vehicle that led to his first lead acting role. "My Level" -- a skittering, commercially focused track, and a key part of his canon -- was issued in collaboration with Zylofon Music later that year, just prior to Reign, an accomplished project which hit the Top Ten of Billboard's Top World Albums Chart. In 2019, only a few months before his career-changing Beyoncé cameo, Shatta Wale won eight 3Music Awards, his largest haul at a single ceremony. After 2019's Wonder Boy, an EP, The Manacles of Shatta, arrived in early 2020 before he became the first Ghanaian artist to organize an online concert during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, he teamed up with the Accra hip-hop artist Medikal for the Cross Roads EP. He released the flowing, unhurried Maali in 2023.
© James Wilkinson /TiVo


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