I’ve put off writing this article for weeks now for three reasons. First of all, the elections were primordial for Tino and I and we spent a lot of time producing content for that purpose. Secondly, I wanted the novelty of Stanley’s latest release to wear off. I thought perhaps my sails had caught the wind of that song too soon and I would not feel the song so much after a few weeks. But as it turns out, it is a bit of an ear-worm.
Finally, and no doubt the main reason, I have never really liked writing about Stanley Enow. People’s opinions of him are usually quite polarizing. Sentiments are strong on both ends of the spectrum of opinions; on one side you are met with “his music is shit,” and on the other side you are met with “you are jealous of his hustle.” People put on these lenses whenever they see an article about him and I really hate for my words to be lost in translation over squabbles which originate from an audience that misconstrues my intentions.
So here I am throwing myself to the pack of wolves once more. Ei get as ei go get to be. Man wey no understand, da one na ei mbange. Make ei crack am anyhow wey ei like.
No one would deny that Stanley Enow gave a huge breath of fresh air to urban music. I tend to think this freshness was felt more in the Cameroonian audience than anywhere else. But however you see it, Hein Pere came like a thief in the night and shattered the glass ceiling that seemed to have been holding back rap music and just generally urban music in Cameroon for a long time.
The success was phenomenal and he was catapulted to spheres that he surely only dreamt about; one of which was a high-profile endorsement with GUINNESS. An endorsement which made perfect sense given the whole story behind the Made of Black campaign as well as the target market. S.E was the perfect fit.
But that’s also where, I think, things went a little awry. I refuse to be amongst those who say that “le succès lui ai monte à la tête” because I am not in his day-to-day entourage. But we began to see a different Stanley from thereon. It became more about Stanley Enow the brand than Stanley Enow the musician. We began to see less of the product and saw more of the hype. It was PR after PR after PR. Appearances at shows, magazine interviews, handshakes with footballers and politicians and just about everything that would make him look influential. Good PR move by his management but…
Marketing 101 will tell you that you can advertise and hype up a product all you want, but if the core product itself does not meet the demand of the market, people will not be fooled after a while. And that’s where our favourite Bayangi boy suffered. The music became more about the PR than actual good music/product.
Stanley Enow is not a prolific rapper. This is one of the few times I’ll tell someone to argue with their ancestors if they don’t agree. I love his voice and how he lays it on some songs. The song he did with Gasha (Black I am) is an example. But when it comes down to writing actual lyrics that make you squirm with excitement, S.E is hardly rubbing shoulders with his peers in the industry. I want to believe that the big mistake he made at that point was labeling himself as strictly a rapper. He didn’t want to water it down to anything else.
I remember reading a Salatiel interview and the Alpha Better boss said he had proposed to Stanley Enow to feature on “Fap Kolo” but Stanley Enow had turned him down on the grounds that it was not a rap record. But the irony is that rappers like M.I Abaga who is one of the most talented rappers in Africa also does not have that strong mainstream appeal. For the simple reason that doing strict hip-hop in Africa is very hard. You have to have a hardcore fanbase and a good revenue stream. Now on the other hand look at rappers like Mink’s and Olamide… you see where I am headed, right?
Anyway, to get back to Stanely Enow, the core product was forgotten and the packaged product was promoted. To his credit, he did work with some Cameroonian musicians like Dynastie Le Tigre and Montess. But the Stanley at the dawn of his career was chasing ghosts in South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria. AKA, Sarkodie, Ice Prince, all high-profile rappers were those he chose to work with. And the result was reminiscent of a Nas line in a song written during a famous feud in the early 2000s. If you know, you know.
Then, afterward, it was with the Davidos and the Mr Eazis. Songs which fell rather flat, both at home and abroad even if one has to use YouTube views as the sole benchmark.
I particularly loved the song “Yours” featuring Ice Prince but it was hard not to see how much S.E was overshadowed in almost every way in that song save for that beautiful jumper he wore in the video. One look at the comment section and you could read a good number of people cynically say “Ice Prince, this song should be yours,” a pun on the chorus of the song.
And while all that was going on, what was happening back home?
We saw the rise of Salatiel, Daphne, Locko, Blanche Bailly, Tenor, Mink’s, Mr Leo et j’en passe. Daphne today, again using YouTube views, is likely our most marketable Cameroonian urban musician. And while ‘Calée’ which was released 18 months ago has 9 million views, Caramel ft Davido which was released exactly a year ago hasn’t gotten 600K views. Even Shamak who did the ‘Hein Pere’ video has serious competition from the likes of Adah Akenji and Dr Nkeng.
And so here we are. It is safe to say most of these people are bigger today than he is. Yes, he is still the one taking pics at TIDAL offices, with Janet Jackson, Busta Rhymes, and on the BET Awards red carpet. But if we have to compare what impact Mr. Leo has had over the last two years to what Stanley has done musically, we began to see the Great Rift valley.
But it also during these last two years that we have seen Stanley Enow doing a pupa to imago. A conversion, it would seem, from rap to afropop. Follow Me, Caramel, Casanova, Adore You have been released in the past 2 years and are definitely afropop songs.
But they are kneeling in penitence for the exact same original sin; none has a Cameroonian featuring.
And then BOOM! “My way” is released.
Almost everyone around me agrees that this is Stanley Enow’s first real hit since ‘Hein Pere’. And the numbers do not lie. A little over 500K views in one month. I think it could have done even better if it was not released in the wake of the elections.
And I strongly believe that the secret to the success of that song is in the line-up. Tzy and Locko are a fatal weapon. Locko, in particular, was brilliant. Ironically it was the song that featured Locko on the album “Soldier Like my Papa” that was the most-praised. It may be premature to say but it seems the one thing that was lacking for Stanley Enow to bloom was right here at home was local features.
My praises, although they may not look like it, are rather effusive.
Those who know me personally will tell you that I have been a strong critic of his lyrics. But if this is the path that he is thinking of walking then I am certain that he has begun to throw his seeds on the fertile ground and not in the thorn bush in South Africa, nor on the footpath in Nigeria, nor on the rocky soil in Ghana. If you know, you know.
So has Stanley Enow finally found his way? Well, I will tell you it’s too early to say. I can’t look at “My Way” and make a definite conclusion. I’ll save that for posterity.
But one thing I know for sure is that I like this new Stanley Enow. I never thought I would say that after I heard “Tumbu Boss.” But here I am, 4 years later saying it. The man who made jump up and down to ‘Hein Pere’ in the club, is making me vibe to ‘My Way’ in a car ride on my way back home.
Stanley Enow remains one of the most recognizable faces of Cameroon’s urban music. And it will only do the industry a lot of good if he works with established musicians while bringing up others through his label.
He seems to be finding his way. Comme quoi l’herbe n’est pas toujours vert chez le voisin au Nigeria.
I wish him the best…