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Music of Thursday, 9 July 2015


The evolution of Hiplife music in Ghana

Special thanks go to the musical prodigy, Adomaa whose ‘Evolution of GH Music’ mashup has inspired me to write an article on ´The Evolution of Hiplife Music.

I´m also indebted to the following websites which served as credible sources of accurate facts about Hiplife music: Wikipedia, Ghana Web, Modern Ghana, Tubidy, YouTube, etc.

And let me express my gratitude to Reggie Rockstone who facilitated the pre-promotion of "The Evolution of Hiplife Music´´ article on Twitter.

Hiplife is a Ghanaian genre of music being a perfect combination of Hiphop and Highlife in the mid-1990s.

Reginald Osei who is known in music circles as Reggie Rockstone is touted as the originator of the art of Hiplife while others too hold divergent views on the origination of Hiplife.

But the bottom line is that Reggie Rockstone came down to Ghana after a brief sojourn in Europe to pioneer the Hiplife movement in 1994.

However, some credit goes to Gyadu-Blay Ambolley and K. K. Kabobo who are all Highlife musicians who laid the foundation for the development of Ghanaian Hiphop which was later branded as Hiplife.

Also, it is somehow difficult to differentiate between Hiplife and Hiphop since no accurate standards have been set for the classification of Hiplife songs.

But my extensive research on the typical nature of Hiplife shows that a true Hiplife song composes of rap-styled lyrics in our native language on Highlife rhythms, i.e. traditionally danceable tunes with storytelling, teaching and humour.

This is one of the best definitions of Hiplife music which is proven in the following typical Hiplife tracks: "Edua Nebu´´ by Nkasei and Reggie Rockstone, "Ma Sana Aba" by Akyeame and even ´´African Rapper Number One" by MI and Mr. Flavour.

Let me also emphasise that Hiplife music is the preserve of the Ghanaian people and the face of Ghana music today to a large extent. Moreover, the contribution of Reggie Rockstone´s Hiplife music to the progress of Ghana is of enormous proportions in diverse ways.

Considering our Ghanaian culture, Reggie Rockstone diluted the western style of rap music with the Akan culture in order to safeguard our Ghanaian identity against westernisation through Hiphop.

And Hiplife music has employed millions of Ghanaians directly and indirectly since its inception in 1994; contributing significantly to the GDP of Ghana over the years.

Also, Hiplife music is one of the few Ghanaian innovations binding the vast majority of our people together.

Indeed, Hiplife is truly Ghanaian and mentioning the name ´´Hiplife´´ as a genre of music anywhere in the world sparks curiosity. Again, there have been funny debates over the sustenance of Hiplife music over the years since 1994.

Some people now claim that Reggie Rockstone´s Hiplife has withered out in Ghana's music industry due to a new wave of so called Hiphop artistes in our country.

That is a great lie because Hiplife music appears to be in transition since contemporary Ghanaian rappers have found much interest in real Hiphop today.

However, their lyrics especially are Hiplife inspired but on Hiphop instrumentals.

Let us remember that your language, lyrics, flow, message and beats can never be compared to that of Jay Z´s especially. Therefore, I have outlined four eras of Hiplife music since 1994 till date.

Reggie Rockstone Era (1994-1999)

Reggie Rockstone pioneered the Hiplife movement in 1994 and started popularising it in the subsequent years. Reggie as the godfather of Hiplife was well-known for glitz, glam and swagger as a Hiplife artiste.

He was Hiplife´s pacesetter by recording the first Hiplife album "Makaa Maka" in 1997 with "Choo Boi" being one of the hit singles.

Also, Reggie Rockstone won a KORA Award in 2004 for Best African Video and has performed before 50,000 crowds in Ghana with Shaggy.

Do you remember "Chukku Chakka" by Reggie Rockstone and Beenie Man in 2006? However, advocates of Hiplife music in the Reggie Rockstone Era (1994-1999) include Zapp Mallet, Mike Cooke, Abraham Ohene Djan, Coal House, X-Doe, VIP, Joe Fraizer, Eddy Blay, KASSA Records etc.

Obrafour Era (1999-2007)

Michael Elliot Kwabena Okyere Darko a.k.a Obrafour is a rapper extraordinaire who entered the Hiplife game with the best Hiplife album ever "Pae Mu Ka" produced by the evergreen and legendary record producer, Hammer of the Last Two.

Obrafour with his irresistible style of music became the god of Hiplife music in the early 2000s, and his popularisation of Hiplife transcended what Reggie Rockstone did earlier.

He had enigmatic expressions in poetic form which literally eduatined the masses at that time.

Even though there was intense rivalry in Hiplife music during the Obrafour Era (1999-2007), Obrafour managed to soar above the stiff competition with his musical prowess.

Unfortunately, he failed to win GMAs´ Artiste of the Year in his hay days which was won by Hiplife contenders such as Lord Kenya (2000/2001), Kontihene (2002/2003).Other sources say Kojo Antwi won this same award that year and Obour (2004/2005) all in his era.

Also, Obrafour was the darling of Hiplife music in those days having historic hits like Pae Mu Ka, Yaanom, Kwame Nkrumah, Asem Sebe, Odo, Ntete Pa etc. That is why he has several GMAs to his credit in various categories.

And as a revolutionary rapper, he launched the Hiplife Education and Literacy Project (HELP) to help the needy in society and to fight against societal indiscipline as well which had support from the then Vice President.

Let us not forget that Hammer of the Last Two music group was the person behind Obrafour´s success under that record label.

Okyeame Kwame Era (2007-2010)

Okyeame Kwame is the lyricists´ lyricist in Hiplife whose lyricism as an African rapper is simply unparalleled.

He is one of the early Hiplife artistes but he bounced back after the Obrafour Era (1999-2007) with his legendary skills to redefine Hiplife music in the late 2000s.

No wonder he is always in the top five lists of the best Ghanaian rappers of all time. Also, Okyeame Kwame is an artistic rapper who focuses on being deep lyrically while entertaining the public as well.

A perfect example of this fact is his "Woso" hit single which gained massive airplay on radio and constant telecast on TV. That is why he swept enviable awards at the 2008/2009 GMAs including the coveted Artiste of the Year award. Moreover, he is a fashionista, social activist and entrepreneur which signify the "Versatile Brand" he is credited with.

That is, he demonstrates Pan-Africanism in his lifestyle; speaks and acts for the vulnerable in society; and has flourishing businesses. And the Okyeame Kwame Era (2007-2010) had distinguished Hiplifers like Samini, Kwaw Kesse, Richie, Ball J, JMJ, Laxio etc.

Lastly, if you want to study Hiplife music, the best person to learn from is the Rap Doctor, Okyeame Kwame.

Sarkodie Era (2010 till date)

The acclaimed Ghana rap god, international Hiplife star, and rap hot cake who is Sarkodie is the undisputed redefinition of Hiplife music.

In fact, he leads the perceived transition of Hiplife since more of Hiphop elements are attached to his style of music today. I recount reading somewhere that Hammer of the Last Two described Sarkodie as the rapper who could freestyle off head within few minutes with sweet rhymes mixed with musical logic. Indeed, Sarkodie can now be defined as the most successful Hiplife artiste whose brand value is too strong to fade away soon.

He has also change the face of Hiplife with his music by making Hiplife an internationally established brand.

So is Sarkodie a Hiphop artiste or a Hiplife artiste? Well, he was groomed by Hammer under the Last Two record label to become a typical Hiplife star, but he is now a contemporary Hiplife artiste which we refer to as a Hiphop artiste. T

his is because Hiplife refers to Ghanaian-made Hiphop as per the Hiplife philosophy. Again, Sarkodie´s "Adonai Remix" with Castro D´Destroyer clearly defines contemporary Hiplife considering all the elements of this great song.

And in all sincerity, Sarkodie deserves all the honours he has acquired in rap music over the years because he does some musical magic which is mind-boggling! However, "Obidiponbidi" is associated with the likes of Guru, EL, D-Black, R2bees, M.anifest, Edem, Killbeatz, Magnom, Sehie, Jayso etc in this Sarkodie Era. But he continues to dictate contemporary Hiplife with his entrepreneurial dynamism.

Watch Adomaa's evolution of ghanaian music below: