THE HIP-LIFE SAGA: AN ANECDOTE OF AN ENDANGERED MUSICAL GENRE

  • 2020-01-02

The rap revolution began in Ghana early 1980 and by the year 2000, GH rap functioned effectively as a genre. The uprising began in English, but after the introduction of hip-life in the 90’s, hip-hop lost recognition. Only a few emcees survived the fall, many faded into extinction. A new era was born, and it was hip- life.  Veteran rapper, Reggie Rockstone is credited as the originator of the genre, however, others hold divergent views on the origination of Hip-life. Others suggest the origins of Ghanaian rap music started with performers such as K.K. Kabobo and Gyedu Blay Ambolley, particularly when Ambolley dropped his first record, "Simigwado” a semi-rap in Fante-style highlife in 1973.

The hip-life invasion was fierce and the competition was tight. There was Lord Kenya, lifeline family, Nananom, Joe Frazier, Akyeame, Tit Tac, Abrewa Nana, The Native Funk Lords, KG & The Prime Minister, Bub Bak, Keteke, and many others. Hip-life took a different direction when Hammer of the Last Two entered the game; when Obrafour dropped his debut album “Pae Muka”, he shut down the entire country.  Then emerged Tinny, Okomfo Kwadei, Obuor, and Castro the Destroyer. 

Hip-life musicians like the late Terry Bonchaka, Samini (formerly known as Batman), Yogi Doggy, Bandana (now Shatta Wale), Sonni Balli and Mad Fish added a touch of ragga to their music to create a new vibe, until Sarkodie, Edem, Guru, Okyeame Kwame, El, and others brought back the rap revolution.  

Today, many hip-life musicians, predominantly, the rappers have switched to hip-hop, Afro-pop and dancehall music to gain international recognition. Currently, in Ghana, a fearless invasion has begun, and this time, whether you rap in local dialect or English, you can cleverly carve a niche to promote your brand. Nevertheless, critics describe Hip life joints floating in the system as “fast food” music with poor lyrical contents, and that raises concerns if the genre can survive the test of time.