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Hip-Hop Fridays: Accra's "Hip-Life"

Hip-life has become massively popular in the capital, pioneered by Ghanaian-born, US-raised rapper Reggie Rockstone.

Some even see Ghana as the spiritual home of hip-hop, and the new sound as that of the country reclaiming its music.

"The source of hip-hop is an African tradition, an ancient African tradition of freestyling, which is spontaneous poetry to a rhythmic pattern," Pangie Anno, who runs the oldest music studio in Ghana, told BBC World Service's Masterpiece programme.

"This is an African tradition which is thousands of years old.

"You can say American hip-hop is an evolution of an African tradition."

Reclaiming hip-hop

Hip-hop as it is widely known developed in North America, primarily in New York, beginning in the late 1970s.

The type of music that grew out of it has now made global superstars of the likes of Dr Dre, Puff Daddy, and Snoop Dogg.

But a member of the Accra hip-hop group VIP described how Ghanaians had reclaimed and remade hip-hop in their own style - dubbed "hip-life" - in the last few years.
"We used to do a lot of things like foreign artists, we'd play songs by them and stuff like that," he said.

"We weren't being ourselves back then. But now it feels like we're all coming back home."

"We take some of the old in-touch, high life music, and make sure we make good use of it and do our own things in an African way."

Reggie Rockstone, regarded by many Ghanaians as "the godfather of hip-life," agreed that there had been a "revolution" in Accra and type of music being made and played there.

"I came home, and in the clubs all the kids were listening to rap from New York, or LA - Snoop, Busta Rhymes, all of them - but not necessarily understanding what they're saying," he said.

"There were some other negatives - the way they threw the word 'bitch' around, and the F-word.

"This is how they see their brothers in the Diaspora, because they watch the movies and the videos and they think this is how it is."

Much quantity, little quality

Rockstone, who was born in Britain but developed his music in the US before returning to Accra, said he had been successful because he was perceived as American but rapped in the local dialect - most often in Asante Twi.

"The music I make here, if I played to some of my peoples in New York or London they would think it was corny," he added.
"It's very ring-a-ting-ting music... but they like that, and who am I to tell them to change?

"Africans celebrate life and music. They don't want to hear songs that make them sad and play the war gangster."

However, he added that this "revolution" in Ghanaian hip-hop was yet to produce much worth listening to.

"Everything that happened in the South Bronx with hip-hop is what's happening here, except we don't have any guns," he said, describing Accra's hip-life music as "Really high on quantity, low on quality."

"The music they are making is only for Ghanaians. I've got a big problem with that," he argued.

"The kid in the hood here, listening to Busta Rhymes - doesn't know what he was saying, but he was digging him - the same thing should happen the other way."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2003/11/04 15:58:21 GMT


Friday, November 7, 2003

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