Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month: Shocka’s Story
28 Jun 2022
Shocka has had a tumultuous time in the music industry. After breaking onto the scene at a young age, his career fell apart when his group were dropped from their record label, causing the artist to suffer a breakdown that has led to an ongoing battle with his mental health. We spoke to Shocka about his experiences and the brighter future ahead of him.
Tell me about your musical journey. When did you start making music?
I’ve been making music for ages, bro. I probably started when I was like 14 but then it started getting serious around 2008 when I joined Marvell. I wasn’t even a part of it at the time but then two members left and I got the opportunity and that was it for me. We toured with Chip, we toured with Diversity, we did some amazing things between 2008 and 2010. So yeah, I’ve been doing this for a while.
What do you think of that era?
I think that was the golden era if I say so myself. When I think now about that era, it wasn’t about the names because everyone really cared about the music and also there were so many different personalities in that era. I feel like now everyone’s trying to copy what everyone else is doing so we don’t get to see the different characters in the scene. Looking back you had Dizzee, you had Wiley, even the new generation coming through with P Money, Chipmunk, Double S. That definitely was the golden age. Definitely.
As a young artist, what was it like touring with Skepta and Chip?
Every artist wants to have that experience of travelling the world and playing their music. To have that experience so early, I don’t think I appreciated it the way I appreciate it now. The first day of Chip’s tour was in Yeovil. I didn’t even know where Yeovil was! But we ended up selling out all over the country and as a young artist to get to see these new places is amazing. It was the same with Skepta’s tour as well. I’ve just come off tour now and you really have to appreciate the opportunity to perform every single night in different cities and towns.
After that you came into a difficult spell in your career. What happened exactly?
We got dropped from our label. Marvell had signed to Risky Roadz and we were about to release our new single. The label had spent a lot of money on the campaign with a music video, posters, radio and everything but the song didn’t chart and they decided to drop us. That was kind of the start of my battle with depression and what eventually ended up with me getting sectioned.
Can you describe the feeling of that time in your life?
I’d definitely see it as kind of like a spiral, because one bad thing after another happened, just back to back to back. After we got dropped from the label it was definitely a big shift in my life. Things just start drying up, you stop getting booked. You start to notice the difference between Ubers and Addison Lee’s everywhere and getting everything paid for. I think looking back, we experienced all of that stuff too early. It was just a big shock, and for the other members of Marvell, they could go off and do their solo stuff but I was kidding of banking on it to take off. So that’s why all of this started, really.
What was the decision like to get sectioned?
I came home to my Mum and I was screaming and shouting uncontrollably. My Mum was trying to calm me down, but my Uncle was in the house and he’s a doctor in Nigeria and he decided to call an ambulance. The ambulance took me away and I was in the hospital for seven days.
What was that experience like for you?
Terrifying. It was kind of shocking, and it was scary seeing patients in that way. It was scary but it was so also necessary. It was scary in the sense of like I’ve never been in those kind of surroundings before but it was necessary in the sense of I needed to see that because it opened me up to a whole different path that I never knew I needed to go down. My whole music style changed, my whole perspective changed. There’s no way I could just jump back into the frenzy and just talk about girls and clothes and happy days again. There’s no way because I wasn’t the same person. It was impossible.
What did they diagnose you with?
I got diagnosed with manic depression the first time, and then the last three times I’ve been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
How do you find living with that? Do you find it difficult day to day or does it just flare up occasionally?
I think certain things are triggering. Someone can say some things that might trigger me or even just certain words can do it. But I think my friends make it extremely easy to live with. I don’t have friends that constantly stare at me in a weird way or constantly ask me ‘Are you alright?’ and things like that. I think that’s good because it stops me from feeling alienated and keeps things cool.
How does living with schizophrenia effect your music and creative process?
It hasn’t really affected anything except maybe my imagination. That might have become even more wacky than it has been, and it’s allowed my imagination was run loose. By my grace It was always wild, but it’s very wild. There’s no restrictions at all. My perspective is so broad based. You can imagine what I’ve seen in different parts of the world and I’ve seen how I’ve seen human beings behave and see all those behavioural aspects. When I say aspects like that I mean that I’ve seen calm, I’ve seen happy, I’ve woken up in the middle of the night to see nurses holding someone down in hospital. I just can’t explain it, it’s wild.
Do you feel as if you’re not an exception in the music industry?
I definitely feel like an exception. I feel that way because other people don’t share their stories and histories. There’s so many other people I’ve spoken to who have their own diagnosis and their own stories, but no one is sharing it. I’m not just saying that either, I’ve spoken to so many people and even some big artists who have been diagnosed or even been sectioned but you just don’t hear about it.
What makes you want to open up about your story?
I do it for the kid like me who could use this information at a young age. I never knew anyone or even seen anyone that had been sectioned. You don’t see artists talk about these topics. I want to talk about how they felt when they got dropped from their record label. I never heard these things. I mean, these things happen every single day. I’ve heard so many horror stories now. At that time, I never had any of that. So I’m just doing this for that kid, that kid at home.
I saw your TED talk, how was that experience for you?
That was amazing. That felt like a celebration. After everything that has happened to me, I had a TED talk at the end of it and I got to share my story in front of people how I overcame all of that. I didn’t realise at the time how big of a deal it was. If you see the way I walk out I had no care in the world because I had no idea. Afterwards when I saw Bill Gates’ TED talk I was glad that I didn’t know. I feel like everything happens for a reason and everything was meant to be. It was organic.
And your music at the moment seems to be full of positivity. Is that a conscious decision for you?
Yes, definitely. Everything I learn comes through music, and music is the best place for people to learn. It’s so easy, and it’s a great tool to learn new things. The subconscious is based on repetition. And music is repetition, so if you are religiously singing the same song over and over again, especially if it’s a good one you will learn from it. Like my song, ‘Self Love’ I feel like if people listened to it on repeat, that message of positivity and love could change their belief systems. I want my music to be a place of positivity and understanding.
Finally, how are you feeling at the moment mentally? Are you doing alright?
I feel good. I’ve been sectioned four times now in a short space of time and I feel like some people in this situation go the opposite way, and every time they have a breakdown they get worse and worse. For me though, I feel like I’m getting better and better, which is how it’s meant to work, you know? You’re supposed to go to the hospital to get better and I’m feeling great right now.
That’s good to hear. Good luck with everything in the future.
Shocka’s story is an inspiring tale of perseverance and acceptance. While the road to recovery for the artist should be celebrated, it is important to note that while he may feel like an exception, there are many other artists who are not getting enough support for their mental health from within the music industry. Going forward this is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed in order to prevent more people from facing the same struggles that Shocka has had to overcome.