From Harlem Projects To Cactus Jack Records: Sheck Wes’ 2018

One single was all it took to turn 20 year old Sheck Wes from a no-name rapper to being signed by Travis Scott, Kanye West, and charting on Billboard. “Mo Bamba”, inspired by the basketball player Wes grew up with, blew up during 2017 and 2018, and currently has over 12 million plays on Soundcloud, over 15 million views on YouTube, 56 million plays on Spotify, and has been name dropped by the likes of Drake.

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On the single, Sheck Wes flows one take of melodic singing combined with aggressive rapping over a dreamy, but harsh instrumental made by producers “takeadaytrip” and “16yrold”. The repetitive and casual flow is the main attraction of the song, with Sheck’s delivery seeming impressively controlled for only having one single out before “Mo Bamba” - “LiveSheckWes DieSheckWes” (despite this, Wes wasn’t a complete stranger to rapping- he joined the rap group MillYorkers at 11 years old, a career path which faded quickly). An off the top, melodic chorus by Sheck about dealing with managers and the fake people around him, combined with simple verses about money makes the song’s energy so universal it’s impossible to not sing along, whether you know the lyrics or not. Though “Mo Bamba” isn’t going to be played on the radio any time soon, the anti-industry team behind the single prove that major labels and radio attention aren’t needed to create an addictive club hit.

Producer team “takeadaytrip” says the whole song was made in roughly 20 minutes, and more content, including a second hook, was going to be added to the track before Wes stopped them. Two days after the song was completed, the track was uploaded to Soundcloud with no label or contract and blew up on its own- no ad campaign or manager needed. By 2018, Sheck Wes had been contacted by Travis Scott and Kanye West, leading to a deal with both G.O.O.D. Music and Cactus Jack Records. Earlier this year, Wes also recorded a “Mo Bamba” music video in the Harlem Projects he still lives in, and by August, Sheck Wes had performed in front of millions alongside Travis Scott. He’s been played by Drake, Virgil Abloh, and Shaquille O’ Neal, and his train of success isn’t slowing down anytime soon. His recent singles “Do That” and “Chippi Chippi” have also seen instant success, and his debut project “Mudboy” is set to release this year.

Wes doesn’t see his train of success slowing down either, as said by Sheck in a Pitchfork interview: “I want to win Nobel Peace Prizes, as many Grammys as I can, Emmys, Golden Globes, VMAs, everything... I want to play in the NBA, I’m dead serious” (Aku). Sheck is adamant to succeed in any way possible, including in his passion to rebuild Touba after studying Islam there in 2016, an education path forced upon him by his mother.

Sheck Wes is evidence that anyone has the possibility in life to succeed, with his pure passion and experiences being the driving force behind his music, music that’s brought him across the world and into fame, music that’s based on pure energy, music that’s pure, music that’s honest. “Honest” will always be the best word to describe Sheck; his work is always purely himself, and the honest energy he puts into his music has resonated through millions across the world.


Adam Denzler