On the bright side, Nima’s own hip life music group V.I.P. has agreed to perform. The event itself is going to rock, now we just have to get the funds.
Posts Tagged ‘hip life’
Yeahh…don’t know quite how that happened (and I’m not gonna leave the YouTube link, sorry guys). Reggie gave Saskia’s number to Tic Tac, another hip life artist. Tic Tac asked Saskia to be in his video and bring along her friends. Come Tuesday, there we were at Rockstone’s Office getting ready for filming (/waiting three hours for Tic Tac and the other artist Eze to show up).
They had a pretty slutty scene with a red car, but I didn’t do that part. Saskia and I just did a couple dancing scenes that mostly took place in the Office. They begged Saskia to dance by the car. She refused but finally agreed to dance behind it. Some of the things the other girls in the video had to do, or thought they were supposed to do, were disgusting. Gyrating against the car, against the rappers; wearing belly shirts and tiny skirts. They told me and Saskia that we didn’t have to do that. The final product of the video doesn’t look that bad though, they didn’t use the worst clips.
The whole thing was pretty low budget. I just wore the clothes and makeup I showed up in. I didn’t even realize when I was about to go on set, and they hardly gave us any instruction. Now I know that a lot of the girls in hip-hop videos probably feel awkward while they’re dancing in front of the camera, because honestly, the whole thing is really silly. It doesn’t feel at all in person how it looks on screen. Saskia and I had no idea what we were doing most of the time, but it didn’t really matter; the final product looks professional.
I feel a little bad for participating in a video that is so clearly sexist and materialistic. At first I was confused by the lyrics, “Materialism, materialism/shouldn’t be the reason for the killing.” I asked Eze, “If materialism is bad, why the big red car? Why do you flash a wad of bills?”
“We are against the materialism of the robber.”
“But you’re materialistic in the video, aren’t you?”
“My materialism is okay. I have earned the money honestly.”
I frowned. “But don’t the lyrics say materialism is bad?”
“No, no, killing and robbing are bad, but money is good. We are saying, you want to have money like us, not like the robber.”
“Don’t you feel bad advocating materialism?” I said. “I mean, I know American rap videos are totally materialistic too, but in America we mostly at least pretend that materialism is wrong, even if we actually are materialistic.”
“As long as you arrive at the money legally, it is okay, it is good,” he said. “You should not steal or kill to get money, you should earn it honestly. Like me, by rapping.”
I nodded and gave up.
The whole ordeal was tiring, but at times great and a little out of this world.
For instance, Eze showing up in a bright green suit and personally delivering us rice for dinner.
Or our new friend Cassie, who had a whole closet full of makeup, heels, and tight clothes stuffed into her bag that she couldn’t wait to share, and who said we had to come visit her in Tema. She commented me on Facebook later, “Let’s stay in touch, always.”
Or a man named Green who tried to convince me to study the Bible with him on Sunday (I’m Jewish) and asked why I wasn’t wearing a short dress like the other girls.
Or the two main girls from the video, Leona and Natasha, who could not get enough of me and Saskia. They would touch our hair, ask about America and Europe, and say, “Come here, baby.” When Leona would try to talk to me, Natasha would say to her, “You’re stealing my new best friend, baby.” For the scene on the couch with the bad guy, Leona and Natasha were given blue twenty-cedi notes to rub down their dresses – which they tried their best to keep, but I don’t think they succeeded.
Saskia and I weren’t in the best mood by the time we left at 4:30 in the morning – and that was leaving early; the others stayed til 7. But it was certainly an experience, I can tell you that.
Saskia and I were leaning against the wooden fence outside the Office one Friday night. She looked over to the benches and said, “Hey, I think that’s the guy from the Mobile Boys. In Jesse’s video, you know?”
“Oh my God, we have to say hi to him!” I had read about him in African Masculinities, I had discussed him in class. And he was right here in front of me in Ghana.
“No, no,” Saskia said.
“Come on.” I slid off the fence and pulled her arm. She followed. We went up to him and said, “Hey, are you from the Mobile Boys?” He said he was, and invited us to sit down with him. His name was Kochoko. We talked with him about hip life, Jesse’s video, and life in Accra. Turns out it’s a lot harder to be a hip life artist than you’d realize. It’s hard to get a record label, hard to trust other people, and very hard to make money. Most people don’t have computers and even fewer have Internet, so it’s not like they download songs off iTunes. The albums they buy are bootlegged, and no one buys concert tickets.
Kochoko was telling us about a concert on TV the had to do the next night for free, just to promote himself and get the word out about his upcoming album. Before we knew it, he had asked us to dance with him on TV. The next night we were onstage at TV Africa. We had no idea what we were doing – I mean no idea – but the audience didn’t notice. They were excited just to see us dancing.
“Obruni, dance!” called a lady in the front row of the audience. They smiled and clapped along with us.
At the end of the show, one of the announcers said, “I don’t know what was up with those white girls or what they were doing here. Do you think they even understood the words? But that was great, can we give them a hand?”
Saskia and I had already been to Reggie Rockstone’s club, the Office, a couple of times together. Reggie hadn’t been there either time though. On Sunday, he texted Saskia saying he was there and we should come. We showed up…and it was completely empty except for him. He was sitting outside on one of the wooden benches. He had on a slick pinstriped suit and sunglasses that complemented his dreadlocks. The Office was locked. Saskia and I looked at each other.
He didn’t want us to come to his club, per se. It turned out he needed us to stay up with him so that he could make a TV interview at 5:30 in the morning without falling asleep. We joined him on the bench as he ate waakye (hot rice and beans) and told us stories. We talked about love, marriage, religion, hip life, and his ex-wife who threw a toaster on him.
And then it started. I was wearing a black-and-white striped dress from H&M that wasn’t all that long, and I could feel the bugs devouring my legs. I tried swatting at them, but what could I do? I didn’t have on pants. The club was locked.
The hours ticked by. The car that Reggie had asked to wait for us turned off its lights with a snort. The sun came up. We headed over to Metro TV. After keeping us waiting, they informed us they wanted Reggie for 7 am. He was pissed. He hadn’t slept all night, and there was no way he could stay up until 7. So we left. Amidst the drama, no one looked down at my legs. But when we dropped Reggie off at his house, he looked down into the cab and saw…my legs, covered in hundreds of bright red spots.
“You got leprosy, girl?”
I laughed ruefully and said, “Just mosquito bites.”
The cab driver took us home. Saskia and I slept all afternoon. We went to the hospital that night, and I wore pants for a week and a half.
So, I paid dearly for an all-nighter with Reggie Rockstone. But I think it was maybe worth it.
When I was in Accra, my boss Kelvin let me work pretty much on my own schedule. One of my weeks was umm…more focused on hip life culture than on the JAC, you might say.
Hip life, which I mentioned in my last post, is a popular type of music in Ghana that combines traditional African high life and contemporary hip-hop. Artists rap in their local languages over African melodies mixed with hip-hop beats. If you hear a song by a Ghanaian artist on the radio, it’s probably hip life. Haverford prof Jesse Shipley is well known for his documentary Living the Hip Life, which I watched in Ruti Talmor’s African Masculinities class.
I was actually a little disappointed by hip life when I got to Ghana. What I read about it by Jesse and learned in my African Masculinities class was that the artists were forging a space for themselves, reclaiming their voices against the older generation. They generated a new form of expression and had real political influence. They swayed elections and were hired for important ad campaigns. From what I saw of hip life though, it was pretty much like American rap. It focused on money, cars, and girls, just with some Ghanaian words and beats. Don’t get me wrong, I love (love) Ghanaian music. When a car would go by blasting music, people in the street would spontaneously start dancing because the rhythms are so wonderful. It’s just that, most of the music was as ordinary as everything else. I think perhaps earlier hip life lyrics were more political, but as the style got more mainstream, so did the words.
Anyway, Jesse knows a lot of big hip life artists. One of his best friends is Reggie Rockstone, the “Godfather of hip life,” who started it all back in the 90s. Reggie is a legend in Ghana. He’s as famous as it gets. And of course, my friend Saskia who worked with Jesse knew him too, and Reggie thought she was just the greatest. He would text her at all hours of the night, but it was always an adventure to meet up with him. Read on…