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Living the Hiplife: Celebrity and Entrepreneurship in Ghanaian Popular Music

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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 o 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.


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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 o 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.

41 review for Living the Hiplife: Celebrity and Entrepreneurship in Ghanaian Popular Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Duke Press

    “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. . . . [S]cholars of contemporary African culture and aficionados of hiplife will find enlightenment.”--Publishers Weekly “Jesse Weaver Shipley's Living the Hiplife is a recently released academic work focused on the music and business of Hiplife, a “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. . . . [S]cholars of contemporary African culture and aficionados of hiplife will find enlightenment.”--Publishers Weekly “Jesse Weaver Shipley's Living the Hiplife is a recently released academic work focused on the music and business of Hiplife, a musical genre from Ghana that combines hip hop and highlife. It follows the earlier release of the documentary Living The HipLife and paints a rich portrait of an industry and an aesthetic landscape in which both cassettes and low-end cellphones are primary technologies.”--Clyde Smith, Hypebot “[Shipley] 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, Library Journal

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    Kevin Nimoh

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