Living the hiplife Celebrity and entrepreneurship in Ghanaian popular music

Jesse Weaver Shipley

Book - 2013

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Durham and London : Duke University Press 2013.
Physical Description
xiii, 329 p., [8] p. of plates: ill.; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references ( p. [303]-316) and index.
Main Author
Jesse Weaver Shipley (-)
  • Soul to soul : value transformations and disjunctures of diaspora in urban Ghana
  • Hip-hop comes to Ghana : state privatization and an aesthetics of control
  • Re-birth of hip : Afro-cosmopolitanism and masculinity in Accra's new speech community
  • The executioner's words : genre, respect, and linguistic value
  • Scent of bodies : parody as circulation
  • Gendering value for a female hiplife star : moral violence as performance technology
  • Number one Mango Street : celebrity labor and digital production as musical value
  • Ghana@50 in the Bronx : sonic nationalism and new diasporic disjunctures
  • Rockstone's office : entrepreneurship and the debt of celebrity.
Review by Library Journal Reviews

Filmmaker Shipley (anthropology, Haverford Coll.) released an eponymous documentary in 2007 in which he described the growing power and influence of the mixture of Ghanaian highlife music and American hip-hop that is hiplife. His book both updates and adds greater depth to the understanding the film provided of a social and cultural movement that combines speech, storytelling, and vision and offers a path to social mobility and societal change. Following the career of hiplife originator Reggie Rockstone, Shipley weaves a tale of struggle, success, and the effects of social, political, and commercial pressures on arts. VERDICT Shipley's book doesn't shake its academic tone, but he has written with passionate involvement and balances his study with firsthand interviews. The globalization of hip-hop should be no surprise, and this exploration of its reach and how it can be remade provides a fascinating example of the localization and renewal of the form.—Bill Baars, Lake Oswego P.L., OR [Page 106]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

An ethnographer, sociolinguist, filmmaker of Living the Hiplife, and Haverford College anthropologist, Shipley offers up a heady mix of political, business, and music history, of entrepreneurship and converging genres, intermixed with reportage and personal contacts as he explores the junction of celebrity, commerce, and politics in contemporary Ghana. As he assesses the impact of hiplife music—a transglobal genre developing as the musicians move between Accra, London, and New York—upon Ghanaian social and cultural life, he poses a central question: "How does an artist as entrepreneur convert musical labor into fame and economic value?" Musicians receiving particular attention include Reggie Rockstone, Rab Bakari, Gyedu Blay Ambolley, Obrafour, Mensa Ansah, and Mzbel, a rare female performer in this overwhelmingly male genre. Shipley cautions the reader early on that the book "is not a history of hiplife nor does it attempt to comprehensively catalog artists, songs, and stylistic differences." While his considerations of seminal figures and specific texts assist the general reader, absent tonal familiarity it is impossible to hear it, and that's a bar to listening to Shipley. However, scholars of contemporary African culture and aficionados of hiplife will find enlightenment. (Feb.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

This ethnography of hiplife, a popular Ghanaian music genre combining hip-hop with highlife music, shows how young hiplife artists in Ghana and its diaspora use the music to gain social status, wealth, and respectability.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Hiplife is a popular music genre in Ghana that mixes hip-hop beatmaking and rap with highlife music, proverbial speech, and Akan storytelling. In the 1990s, young Ghanaian musicians were drawn to hip-hop's dual ethos of black masculine empowerment and capitalist success. They made their underground sound mainstream by infusing carefree bravado with traditional respectful oratory and familiar Ghanaian rhythms. Living the Hiplife is an ethnographic account of hiplife in Ghana and its diaspora, based on extensive research among artists and audiences in Accra, Ghana's capital city; New York; and London. Jesse Weaver Shipley examines the production, consumption, and circulation of hiplife music, culture, and fashion in relation to broader cultural and political shifts in neoliberalizing Ghana.Shipley shows how young hiplife musicians produce and transform different kinds of value&;aesthetic, moral, linguistic, economic&;using music to gain social status and wealth, and to become respectable public figures. In this entrepreneurial age, youth use celebrity as a form of currency, aligning music-making with self-making and aesthetic pleasure with business success. Registering both the globalization of electronic, digital media and the changing nature of African diasporic relations to Africa, hiplife links collective Pan-Africanist visions with individualist aspiration, highlighting the potential and limits of social mobility for African youth.The author has also directed a film entitled Living the Hiplife and with two DJs produced mixtapes that feature the music in the book available for free download.