Late in August this year, MC Quakez and MC Shakez were given the opportunity to pass through Charlie Sloth’s BBC 1Xtra show to promote their single ‘Balance’ via Sloth’s legendary ‘Fire In The Booth’ segment. Unfortunately, Quakez wasn’t able to deliver on his freestyle, struggling to catch the beat and unable to get his bars off without error. Charlie was forced to cut the session short, sending Quakez and Shakez out to recollect and come back for a second take, unwittingly making an opening for a future star by the name of Big Shaq to step in.
Shaq was hanging out by the studio because threatening to send for triple-threat Roll Safe, who’d allegedly stolen his leather jacket. When he was given the opportunity of entering the booth however, he denied the rumours, instead channeling his aggression through an electric freestyle over sinister drill production. In his second verse, Shaq would attack the mic with an arsenal of gunfire sounds, which ended up becoming the hottest meme of the next few weeks: “The ting goes skrrahh, pap pap, ka-ka-ka...”
Michael Dapaah, the South London comedian behind Quakez and Shaq, wasn’t prepared for just how successful the sketch would be. The freestyle would later be released by Island Records under the name ‘Man’s Not Hot’ and has attracted attention from both sides of the pond. In the months that followed, everyone from Jeremy Corbyn and Liam Gallagher to US hip-hop heavyweights like Drake and DJ Khaled would make reference to the track.
It would achieve chart success, peaking at number 11 on the UK charts and even infiltrating the US Billboard Hot 100 at 64, and even caught the attention of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal who enlisted Toronto rapper ShaqIsDope to respond with a bizarre diss track. It’s safe to say that the past few months have been a whirlwind for Dapaah. When we meet him, he’s backstage at Manchester’s M.E.N Arena where he’s preparing to make a surprise appearance for BBC 1Xtra Live, which is celebrating the station’s 15th anniversary this year. The performance will be broadcast live to tens of thousands around the country, not to mention the 13,400 people currently packing out the venue. Dapaah doesn’t seem phased, as he laughs and jokes with his team. He might not have been used to performing in front of audiences like this a few months ago, but he’s been forced to learn quickly.
Just before his transformation into Big Shaq, we caught five minutes with Michael Dapaah to discuss his mindset entering the booth, adjusting to the success that’s followed and his love for rap culture…
What are you most proud of about your success this year?
The journey. It’s been a hard one, but it’s nice to see your following and everything build up. So that’s what I’m most proud of, and what I’m most grateful for as well.
What was your mindset when you were going into that ‘Fire In The Booth’?
It was mad because it was something that was on my vision board to do. So when we were going in there, it’s surreal bro. When things start to happen you just think ‘Yo, this is mad!’ I think because this was on my vision board to do and it actually happened, I was just like, ‘Do you know what, I just have to go and give this thing my best shot.’ Because you only get one shot!
I didn’t even know that you get to do takes in their. But we didn't get to, because I went in there as a performer, just one whole take. Some people go in there and do four or five takes just to get it right. But I wanted it to be like a sketch almost, where you get to see both of the characters. So I went in there with just one shot and gave it everything.
You’ve mentioned your vision board a couple of times now. Could you tell us about that?
You are what you think, and you become what you see as well. So my vision board is a thing of faith. Because I’m a man of faith. You’ve always got to have a vision for what you want to do in your life or for whatever you’re trying to achieve. So I got these pictures of the things that I wanted to do and I stuck them all over the board, and literally said my prayers over it and then just started doing my work over it. Then boom, one thing after another and then we’re here today and I’m sitting with you!