At 16, Shakir Ryan Forbes was crowned winner of Live and Unsigned’s National Open Mic 2011 ccompetition, an amazing feat when you consider there some 90 hugely talented acts took part. But Shakir, or Shak as he is known (when performing), is a truly worthy winner. Luckily enough I was on the panel to witness Shak perform. A rather mature performance helped this young guy stand out – and not just because he is 6ft 6in!

The brief we were given as judges was simple: pick an act who’s ready to go, in terms of performance and ability, so they can reach the heights of one Hatty Keane, last year’s winner. Indeed, Shak wasn’t just ready to go, he was set to sprint Bolt style! His performance was polished, exuberant, explosive and dynamic.

He was one of the few artists who had formulated an image and significantly seemed comfortable: a helicopter hat, bright red shorts, long white socks and that 6ft 6in frame moving with the agility of a capoeirista. Dare we say, there was a bit of the Wiz Khalifa about him? Dropping bars from a Mac Miller track, he finished ahead of the competition, not only winning the event, but also winning the Flavour Magazine vote.

Before his meeting with the Baby Girl Music crew to formulate his onslaught on the music world, Flavour spends some time with the young and very driven Shak to talk about his win and plans…

What was it like winning, are you still in a state of shock?
When I won it was like, really? There are 90 people here, there are other age groups with older people who have much more experience than me. I was shocked because there was a lot of talent and I just felt honoured to win. It was strange; after I performed it felt good, but other people were like, ‘You did really well, I think you will win,’ but I didn’t know.

So you never thought you’d win?
I was just going there, really. I was quite excited that I was going to perform at the O2, and funnily enough, six months before, my mum made me fill out a goal board. One of the goals was to perform at the O2, so when I got there I just thought, well, I am happy at least I got that far, and I thought that anything else was going to be a bonus.

Before we get to that performance, how are you juggling education and music?
I didn’t really enjoy school, but I much prefer college, where I am doing politics and philosophy because I am interested in it. At school you did not get to choose interesting things, but I am quite political and it is interesting what is going on in the political world right now. I like philosophy because you get to ask mad questions. I started to take music more seriously around the age of 15, but I have always been interested in music.

What helped you to stand out from such a great amount of talent?
Maybe it was the stage performance and the energy that I like to put into my performances. Over each stage and the regionals I have looked at myself and thought that was not good enough. After the regionals I thought that was rubbish, and in the dressing room I was fuming. Over each stage I progressed, and I am not saying it was brilliant, but the performance on the final was the first time I felt better and I knew that I put a lot into it. When you go out on stage there is only one way to go – I was dancing on the stage and it was the most fun I had in ages.

We loved that whole choir thing – explain that to us because it was a great way to ensure you stood out and made quite an impact.
The choir was actually inspired by Dappy’s ‘No Regrets’. When the choir came on, it was different. I did not want to be on the stage straight away; I wanted to build suspense and give people something different to think about – you have to create different layers, and that is what I wanted to do.

And what about that image and choice of song? Very interesting and colourful… tell us your thoughts behind them.
I love to do things that are goofy and I love colourful clothes. I went with the propeller hat because it just felt right. In terms of the choice of track, I went with the Mac Miller track ‘Best Day Ever’. He came to perform here in September and it was amazing – he smashed up the show and the amount of energy he put into that song – it was more about the energy and I always said that if I ever had the chance I would want to perform that song.

Speaking to your family on the day, they were ecstatic.
My mum and dad just kept telling me how proud they were and my brother was also so proud, so it was great to see and I just felt so happy. My brother actually wants to be a dancer and he is really talented – so watch out!

So we know you are going to meet Michael King at BGM to work out a strategy to bring you out. But what plans have you got of your own for the future?
The plan is to start to build a fan base, do a lot of gigs and make dope music. I’m not like, yeah, I want to have an album out; I’m more about progressing and developing my art to a higher standard and, of course, progressing as a rapper.

Follow Shak on Twitter
@shakofficial or visit