In the early 90's, a new musical trend named Hiplife emerged on the scene in Ghana and took the whole nation by storm.
Hiplife is a fusion of African-American Hiphop and Ghanaian Highlife music. The portmanteau word, Hiplife was derived from the two words, Hiphop and Highlife. The "Hip" from Hiphop and the "Life" from Highlife.
Myriad of youngsters around that time jumped on this bandwagon and helped promote it. It faced vehement opposition from Highlife proponents during its beginning but the Hiplife soldiers were able to weather the storm.
Reggie Rockstone: The cocky dusky dreadlocks bloke is the pillar behind Hiplife. Reggie Rockstone came down for the 1994 PANAFEST and was supposed to go back to New York, but fell in love with the musical vibe in Ghana at the time and decided to prolong his stay. Prior to his arrival, he was a member of a Hiphop group in the UK called 'Party A La Maison' (which later became PLZ - Parables, Linguistics and Zlang). Although some few individuals had been doing rap before his arrival, he was the one who gave it better traction. He is touted as the originator and the one who coined the word, Hiplife. Talking about Hiplife without mentioning Reggie Rockstone is like drawing the African map without Madagascar.Reginald Yaw Asante Ossei better known as Reggie Rockstone is known for popular songs like 'Keep Your Eyes On The Road', 'Eye Mo De Anaa', 'Me De Be Bom' and 'Night Life In Accra'.
Freddie Funkstone: The name of this dude may not really ring a bell in the Ghana music industry but he was there at the genesis of Hiplife in the mid 90's. He was a UK-based Sierra-Leonean rapper who used to be part of a youth group called Parables, Linguistics and Zlang (PLZ) with Reggie Rockstone in the UK. He jetted into Ghana with Reggie Rockstone and also became so much in love with the musical ambience in the country at that time. Freddie and Reggie were like Siamese Twins back in the day and recorded couple of tracks together. Freddie is now domiciled in Tokyo Japan as a stockbroker.
TALKING DRUM: The group cannot be forgotten when it comes to those who laid the foundation for rap music in Ghana. Kwaku T of Big Brother Africa fame and his Ghana International School (GIS) mate, Abeeku Ribeiro (aka Da Witch Docta) were the members of this pioneering Ghanaian rap group. They were under the tutelage of renowned Ghanaian music producer, Panji Anoff. Talking Drum were relatively known for tracks like 'Akwaaba' and 'Aden', both recorded in the late Mac Tontoh's house in 1993 by his engineer Mike Swai. The group broke up when Abeeku relocated to the USA.
NFL: The group had Jake Aryee (aka Jake The Snake), Tinnie Quaye (not Tinny Aletse), Cecil Perswa and Eddy Blay as members. Cavelli, Wusala, Sidney Barima and Ded Buddy (Qweci) were also part of NFL but left the group at its nascent stage. The group's acronym, NFL initially stood for 'Notorious For Life' but had to be changed to 'Native Funk Lords' later on. They played a pioneering role when it comes to pidgin English rap style in Ghana. They made waves with tunes like 'Pilolo', 'Kolomashi', 'Yen Ka Bom' and 'Vote For Me'.
NANANOM: They were also on board the Hiplife train back in the day. T'was a male-female group made up of Sidney Barima, Omahene Pozo and a damsel called Jyoti Chandler. Their debut album, 'Nana Kasa' was a massive hit. However, Omahene Pozo went solo after the release of the aforementioned album, leaving Sidney and Jyoti. Few years later, Jyoti relocated to Germany making Sidney the sole survivor from the group. Nananom is remembered for popular songs such as 'Wo Kyere Wo Hu', 'Wone Hwan' and 'Alright'.
BUK BAK: The trio of Buk Bak were exponents of Hiplife. They were few of the Hiplife groups that sang and rapped in Ga when Twi music absolutely dominated the airwaves in Ghana. The members were Prince Bright, Ronney Coaches (deceased) and Isaac Shoetan (aka Papa Shotto). The trio erupted into the Ghana music industry with the hit song, 'Komi Ke Kena' in 1998. According to the grapevine, Shoetan was ditched by his Hiplife posse and later left the shores of Ghana for greener pastures abroad. After the release of their hit 'Gonja Barracks' album in circa 2007, the remaining two members, Bright and Ronnie disbanded to pursue solo careers in music. With the help of music producer Jay Q, the duo reconciled in 2012 and released a comeback album, 'Kolom' which was a hit. An irremediable tragedy hit the group in 2013 when the ineluctable phenomenon; death, laid its icy hands on Ronnie Coaches.
VIP (VISION IN PROGRESS): The Nima-based group was one of the forerunners of Hiplife. VIP was discovered in the mid 90's by seasoned Ghanaian TV personality, Blakofe. It was a rap quintet which comprised Friction, Promzy, Lazzy (now Zeal), Bone and Prodigal. It also had a non-human member called Chicago (a dog owned by Friction). The dog could be heard snarling on the intro tracks to their CD's back in the day. In the early 2000's, the founder of the group Friction left to pursue a solo career in music and so did Bone. Promzy also left a few years ago. VIP, which has been rebranded as VVIP (Very Very Important Personalities), now has Zeal, Prodigal and Reggie Rockstone (the Hiplife originator) as members.
CY LOVER: He was also active during the early days of Hiplife. Although he had no hit songs back in the day, he featured on a lot of Hiplife songs, which made him somewhat popular especially among Hiplife lovers. He endeared himself to Hiplife music lovers with his rap on songs like 'Night Life In Accra' by Reggie Rockstone and Obrafour's 'Agoro Na Aso' and 'Pae Mu Ka'.
SASS SQUAD: These Takoradi-based guys were exclusively known for their distinguished Fante and Nzema rap style. The group had Atsu Koliko, Sane Dog, Shortman (Shorty) and Scooby Selah now called Fiifi Selah as members. The group's first name, SASS was derived from their names viz. Scooby, Atsu, Shortman and Sane (S.A.S.S.). Their popular tunes were 'Serwa', 'Odo Pa' and 'Bubi' featuring Gyedu Blay Ambolley. They split due to artistic differences but Shortman and Sane Dog later laid claim to the name Sass Squad and released some hit tunes. Atsu Koliko and Scooby Selah moved on to form another Hiplife group.
TH4 KWAGES: This was a breakaway group from Sass Squad, put together by Atsu Koliko and Scooby Selah. Olasty Bingo (deceased) and Papa Flava were later brought on board as members. Some of TH4 Kwages' famous songs were 'Taxi Driver', 'Wongye', 'Meye Aware' and 'Nana Esi'.
LORD LUST: He was another Hiplife soldier back in the day. He rapped predominantly and impeccably in French owing to his 16 year sojourn in France. Though his tracks were not popular in Ghana, he was known for doing the French rap on Reggie Rockstone's popular track, 'Mapouka'.
LIFELINE FAMILY: This then under eighteen group was really active in Hiplife. The members were T-Blaze, Ruwl, Ice I, Shepherd, Ray, Leslie, Lorgorzor Junior and Shyne. These young guys were the ones who composed the popular Ghanaian song, 'Wo Sisi Yewo Ya'. They later split into solo artistes. T-Blaze released a couple of tracks which were hits. Lorgorzor Junior delved into Dancehall music and became known musically as Yoggi Doggi. Shyne also dropped his moniker and reincarnated as M3nsa(Mensa), who's now part of FOKN Bois, with Wanlov Da Kubolor.
T-BLAZE: He came back strongly as a solo rapper after the split of Lifeline Family. He released hits such as 'Secretary' and 'Feeling Ne Ye Deep', both produced by the legendary U-Berts.
LORD KENYA: He was affectionately called Rap Heavyweight Champion. He had chart-topping songs like 'Medo', 'Sikabaa', 'Driver', to mention a few. His flow was distinct and was loved by music lovers and connoisseurs alike for his rap prowess and stagecraft. The hyperactive rapper is now an evangelist winning souls for Christ.
NANA KING: He was a rapper cum music producer who helped launched music careers of lots of aspiring music acts back. His recording studio at Dansoman in Accra was like a sanctuary for most up-and-coming artistes those days. Some of his proteges were Ex-Doe, Abiola Wapet MC, Jay Dee, Sonni Balli, Batman (now Samini), et cetera. Nana King's tune, 'Champion' made waves in the late 1990's. He now resides in the USA with his family and is still into music.
G-LIFE: G-Life (Generation Life), formed by Nana King was a four men crew made up of Sonni Balli, Nash Dog, Lil Steve and Abiola Wapet MC. After the release of their first album, Lil Steve and Nash Dog claimed they were cheated out of the proceeds and left the group. Abiola Wapet MC and Sonni Balli took over the G-Life group and churned out songs such as 'Wati W'ani Ayira', 'Kotoho' and 'Koma Menko'.
OBRAFOUR: The Rap Sofor, as he's affectionately called came into the music scene with the help of Hammer of the Last 2. His unique style of rapping made him stand tall among his peers. The short dreadlocks rapper was peerless and feared by his colleagues in the rap game. He has a wide repertoire of hit tracks like 'Yaanom', 'Kwame Nkrumah', 'Maame', 'Who Born You By Mistake', 'Okukuseku', 'Odo', 'Oye Hene', et al.
AKYEAME: Okyeame Kwame (Da Rap Docta) and Okyeame Quophi were the duo of Akyeame. The group's name, Akyeame is plural for 'The Linguist'. The two Kumasi guys were known for incorporating traditional Akan music and Hiphop. Known songs by Akyeame were 'Mesan Aba' featuring Nana Quame and Yoggi Doggi, 'Menko Meda', et al. The duo parted ways some years ago due to irreconcilable differences.
EXDOE & CHICAGO: The then budding rappers teamed up and came out with a song called 'Daavi Mede Kuku'. The track became instant hit and skyrocketed them both into the limelight. However, there were some feuds over the rewards and ownership of the song which resulted in a bad blood. According to the grapevine, Chicago actually wrote all the verses even though the song was Ex-Doe's. The two became foes for many years but have now called a truce.
KETEKE: This group started out with the name, Royal Neighbours in 1996. The group was made up of three males and an African-American lady who later travelled back to the USA. The name of the group was changed to Keteke in 1999. Tracks such as 'Chioo-Chioo' and 'Alele' were the group's hit tunes back in the day.
TIC TAC: Real name Nana Kwaku Duah, Tic Tac started with a group called Natty Strangers in 1998but went solo after the group became defunct. Tic Tac got his breakthrough when he featured on 'Mesan Aba' by Slim Busterr. He went on to release his own tune, 'Philomena' which shot his music career a notch higher and made him a household name. Tic Tac performed on almost every musical platform, in spite of the fact that he was busily writing his final WASSCE examinations in Labone Secondary School at that time. Other known songs by Tic Tac are 'Masom', 'Wope', 'Fefe Ne Fe', 'Kangaroo' and 'Mmaa Formula'.
AKATAKYIE: This group comprised two siblings, Prince Kwabena Budu Asumaning (Kobby Culture) and Ebenezer Kwasi Okyere Asumaning (King Pharoah). The group's maiden track, 'Odo Esisi Me' released in 1999 was well-received by music lovers. They also have hits like 'Ghana Mmaa', 'Agoo', 'Sinsima' and 'Sie Sie Obaa No' featuring Okyeame Kwame.
NKASEI: Isaac Mensah alias Naa Kay and Kwame Godlove Yeboah Prah aka Shy met at a rap festival in Nima in 1995 to form Kente Clan which later was changed to Nkasei when they signed on to Abbib Records. Before forming Nkasei with Shy as, Naa Kay was in a rap group called Asem Aba with Promzy of VIP of fame. Their first album was 'Bisa'. 'Eko Ma Mu', played in the indigenous traditional Adowa style was the most popular song on that album. It was the song that brought Nkasei to prominence. Their last album was the controversial, 'Tuobodom'. The duo now live abroad.
DEEBA: He was one of the youngsters under the guidance of Hammer of the Last 2 back in the day. His hit tracks, 'Deeba' and 'Ahuofe Hemaa' were well-received in Ghana.
BAZAAR: He was one of the rappers who used to slur on songs like the American rappers back in the day. His sweet, fast flowing profound English rap was a delight to listen to. He featured on well-known songs such as 'Who Born You By Mistake' by Obrafour and 'Deeba Ho' by Deeba. Bazaar is now based in the USA doing music under his new musical name, Blitz The Ambassador.
SONY ACHIBA: This "India-phile" brought a new verve and music styles into Hiplife. Emmanuel J.B Danquah is his real name, but Sony Achiba was his claim to fame. He released his 'Hipdia' album (a fusion of Hiplife and Indian music) in the early 2000's. This unique style of music caught up with the whole nation and launched him to stardom. Sony Achiba will forever be remembered for tunes like 'Nipa Boniayefour', 'Damera Wo Yare' and 'Sony M’aba'.
JAY DEE: He was known for unique baritone and styling himself after the late 2Pac. His mannerism and gesticulation were just like that of 2Pac. Some people even wonder if it was the late 2pac who has reincarnated in Ghana. His popular songs are 'Alampan' and 'Who Kill Mida'.
Other artistes who played vital roles in the Hiplife movement are Chief G & The Tribe, Paracetamol, Taboo, Dansoman Connection, Da Multy Krew, Mahoney P, The Ancestors, Nature & Agony, Akasakyerema, Joe Fraizer, Funky Functure, Kaseem, Obour, Okomfo Kwadee, KG & PM, Terry Bonchaka (the late), among others.
Somewhere along the line, a Dancehall version of Hiplife, named Raglife (Ragga and Hiplife) also emerged on the music scene. Ghanaian musicians back then like General Marcus, Yoggi Doggi and Root Eye (of TV3 Music Music fame) were the most influential in this new hybrid music genre.
Raglife was basically a Twi version of Jamaica's Dancehall music. It later caught up with artistes like Sonni Balli of G-Life fame, Prickie, Mr Borax, Abrewa Nana, Batman (Samini) and some few others. It was a nice musical blending because Ghanaian musicians weren't necessarily trying to sound like the Jamaican artistes.
It must be put on record that, it wasn't only musicians that were part of the Hiplife movement. Some music producers/sound engineers back then were also active in the music game, producing top-notch Hiplife music for artistes.
Founder of Pidgin Music, Panji Anoff was one of the first Hiplife music producers in Ghana. Rab 'The International' Bakari of KASSA Records fame produced scads of tracks for Reggie Rockstone back in the day. Nana King of Ashanti International was also into music production back in the day.
U-Berts also did some beats for T-Blaze and Lifeline Family. Mark Okuraku-Mantey was another fabulous music producer back then, and not forgetting good old Zapp Mallet who deserves a thumbs up for his beat-making artistry.
Others like Jay Q, Appietus, Hammer of the Last 2, Morris Babyface and his brother Buddy Roro can't be left out of the list of music producers/sound engineers who were heavily involved in Hiplife music.
Owner of the defunct Vibe 91.9FM (now Live 91.9FM), Mike Cooke also helped in promoting Hiplife. His radio station was a medium for free unlimited air-play of Hiplife music during those days.
One person that cannot be left out of the Hiplife equations is seasoned Ghanaian music video director, Abraham Ohene-Djan. The C.E.O. of OM Studios (formerly known as Sifex Digital) also played a part, vis-a-vis music video making in Ghana. He shot some of the early Hiplife music videos for the Hiplifers in the 90's and early 2000's.
All the aforementioned folks really contributed their quota to the development and promotion of Hiplife and deserve a thunderous applause for laying down the foundation for the rap industry of Ghana.
Tsoooooooo boi!! When I say HIP, you say LIFE. HIP!...........