Hipco | Liberian Hip Hop

From Emergent Africa Sun Jan 13 2013, 13:39:00

Jess Engebretson writing in Guernica:

'Rabbie' via Al Jazeera

At the heart of Liberia's music scene today is hipco, the country's take on American hip-hop. Hipco combines traditional rap rhythms with samples of street noise and synthy background loops. Artists record themselves in homemade studios, and producers mix tracks on fifteen-year-old software. The music they create is, from a technical standpoint, lousy--the vocals made muddy by cheap microphones, the volume swinging erratically from one phrase to the next. Yet Liberians recognize this music as theirs. Hipco is peppered with references to current events and shout-outs to specific places--Broad Street, Blue Lake, Saniquellie. Crucially, it's rooted in Liberian English--a slangy patois that can be incomprehensible to visitors but that's shared by Liberia's sixteen tribes. To understand this music, you don't need to speak standard English. You don't need to be literate to listen. Hipco is street music, the soundtrack to the daily hustle. It's as egalitarian as art gets.

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