The history of Hiplife cannot be written without noting some names. For the most part, Reggie Rockstone has been mentioned as the grand papa of Hiplife but some names deserve credit and mentionHiplife is a fusion of hiphop and highlife; Ghana’s premier indigenous dance music. For a hiplife track to hold its own it needs two elements:
- A sample from highlife which must ride a solid thumping beat.
- It needs a rap or rhyme delivered over the sample in Twi, Ga, Ewe, Hausa or in Pidgin English and the rhyme must be fluid and full of clever metaphors.
Now in 1993 there was a group managed by Panji Anoff named ‘talking drums’ made up of Kweku T and partner Abeiku Ribeiro, they released their very first hiplife track in 93, a twi rap song titled ‘Aden’ but by then the term HIPLIFE had not been coined.
It wasn’t until 3 years later in 1996 that Reggie Rockstone and then co-starter of Vibe FM Michael Cook coined the term Hiplife with Reggie polishing and dropping a twi rap track called ‘Tsoo Boi’, it caught on like wild fire.
But after Kweku T, Abeiku, Reggie and Nananom as well as Akyeame blazed the trail, the hiplife phenomenon really caught on with soldiers Obrafuor entering in 98, TicTac in 99 and Lord Kenya, NFL, Buk Bak, Nkasei, VIP, TH4kwagges and the 1st lady of hiplife Mzbel propagating it’s message and ideals resulting in it being a chief source of employment for many youth.
The reckoning that Reggie often seeks glorification to the neglect of other pioneers is at the heart of the recent hiplife storm. For years Reggie in interviews paints the picture of coining the hiplife term without referencing even Mike Cook with whom the name was birthed. Another let down is the non-mention of the input Kweku T and Abeiku offered in the early days to what is now hailed as hiplife.
It is appropriate to also mention record houses Kassa Records, Black Label, Home Base, Kays Frequency, Super Kass, Noize Management, Slip Music, Abib Records, Soul Records, Precise Music, Goodies Music, Agiecoat Music, Frimprince and Lisarf.
It is worthy to note that in all of the argument, the one true bar of hiplife by which all other hiplifers continue to be measured is the Executioner also known as Obrafuor. It is little wonder that current heavyweights Edem, Manifest and Sarkodie point to Mike Kwabena Elliot Darko as the one who so intrigued them to pursue music.
The verdict is also out there as to whom the larger public associates with hiplife. When hiplife started taking root and corporate groups sought ambassadors to represent their brands one could recall the Obrafuor-Tic Tac Ashfoamer campagin which fetched both guys 10 million cedis each in 2001, BukBak was used for the u-touch mobile promo, Obour did promo work for Pepsi. Abrewanana and Obrafuor did work for the Kasapeko brand, Reggie did endorsement for Guinness stout whiles Nescafe enrolled VIP, KK Fosu, Tinny and Batman for the Nescafe crème ad as did Samini for the MTN ambassadorial deal.
Although not the most prolific and one who has made the most money from the game, 49 year old Reginald Osei has chalked some successes such as recording with Beanie Man on the The King meets the King track.
Again Reggie is perhaps the one who got his videos shown on Channel O the earliest before other Ghanaian acts followed. There were also the World Music Network deal, varied international music festival appearances as well as making appearances on billboard magazine.
Rockstone however has not sold close to BukBak’s Sika Kokoo album even when he released his first 3 albums plus his Plan Ben single.
It is worthy to note that the Specefon Legend of 2003 did not release any album from 1999 to 2003 and often had long spells where he was musically inactive. This might also explain why other cats have more albums than he does.
Reggie Rockstone certainly cannot lay claim to inventing rap that is a battle for Gyedu Blay Ambulley and his peers to wage. What Reggie can co-lay claim to, is coining the term hiplife for a music which involves using rap either in indigenous languages or English to communicate over a highlife inspired or sampled beat.
Today Kweku Tutu earns his bread on a South African radio station whiles other pioneers have passed on or veered into other fields. Thankfully we still have Obrafuor, Barima Sydney, Obour, Okyeame Kwame and Reggie himself still supplying us our music doses.