Document Type

Book Chapter

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Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield


The adoption of Hip-Hop by the world’s youth is a turning point in the history of youth culture in particular and global public culture in general. The embracing of Hip-Hop in the West African country of Ghana is exemplary of this worldwide transformation. The indigenous Ghanaian version of Hip-Hop is Hip-Life. This Ghanaian musical genre is a combination of Hip-Hop and High-Life. High-Life is also a Ghanaian genre with West African and Afro- Diaspora roots. It emerged in Ghana as part of the anti-colonial struggle in West Africa, and has spawned of many varieties until the emergence of Hip- Life. Hip-Life is therefore viewed as a direct musical descendant of Hip-Hop and High-Life, and is performed and produced mostly by people of Ghanaian heritage. These performers rap in one of many indigenous Ghanaian languages such as Ga, Twi, Hausa, or Ewe, English, Black English (U.S./U.K. Ebonics), Jamaican Patois, and Ghana’s version of the West African English (Creole) locally termed broken or Pidgin English.1

In terms of Hip-Life’s significance to humanity, and the shift in public culture, the leading originator of the genre, Reggie Rockstone says it best, “our people there in America who do not necessarily know what’s going on in Africa; this music here will definitely bridge the gap. This will be the one that conveys the different messages and styles across . . . so we learn about each other; the one world drum, the one world beat.”2 Rockstone’s one world beat brings us to one of the enduring facets of most human societies worldwide, that is religion. Hip-Life artistes also rap about their spirituality, drawing inspiration from the various religions that occupy the Ghana public space. Such religions include traditional Ghanaian religions, Islam, Christianity, and Rastafarianism.

Rhymes by the cosmopolitan Hip-Life legend Reggie Rockstone and his local compatriot Obrafour certainly point to the expression of diverse spiritual and religious notions, as well as a Black spiritual consciousness in Ghanaian Hip-Hop. Such an understanding was not immediately evident to an older Ghanaian generation, when in the 1990s Reggie Rockstone pioneered the Ghanaian Hip-Hop movement, known in Ghana as Hip-Life. Back then, Hip- Life was viewed as an epitome of the gradual creeping of negative foreign values into Ghanaian civil society, with special emphasis on Ghanaian youth. Even though Hip-Life has since then become the soundtrack for harnessing the country’s creative energy for growth and development, and emerged as Ghanaian youth’s “signature worldwide,” some of the old prejudices about moral decadence and loose values still exists.3

Chapter of

Urban God Talk: Constructing a Hip Hop Spirituality


Andre E. Johnson


Copyright © 2013 Rowman & Littlefield. Reproduced by permission. All rights reserved. Please contact the publisher for permission to copy, distribute or reprint.



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