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Living the Hiplife: Celebrity and Entrepreneurship in Ghanaian Popular Music [Kindle Edition]

Jesse Weaver Shipley

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"Living the Hiplife is about young hiplife musicians in Ghana trying to make good while making do. The musicians are at once artists, entrepreneurs, and hustlers. Jesse Weaver Shipley's ethnography of these artists and their listeners presents their ways of laboring as forms of struggle under neoliberal conditions. I am particularly struck by his identification of the skills of electronic mediation as crucial to good musicianship, good cultural brokerage, good hustling, and good entrepreneurship." - Louise Meintjes, author of Sound of Africa! Making Music Zulu in a South African Studio "African music, in its newest and most innovative forms, is changing our cultural and political worldview, and Jesse Weaver Shipley is in the know! The all-too-important voices that comprise the tidal wave of creativity throughout Africa, and especially in Ghana, will be the most significant voices of the future. Therefore this book is more than a look at the recent past and the present; it is a blueprint. Living the Hiplife is a necessary analysis of African word, sound, and power." - M-1, of Dead Prez "Jesse Weaver Shipley has written a highly compelling account of hiplife in Ghana. Historically and ethnographically rich, it demonstrates how this musical form has affected ideas of Ghanaian identity. Not only does hiplife celebrate entrepreneurship among African youth situated in the 'shadows' of the global order. It also provides them with a language of mobile signs 'geared toward capitalist accumulation and consumption.' Based on a broad range of theoretical sources, Shipley's writing is lively, his insights memorable. This is a book that anyone interested in Africa, anyone interested in contemporary cultural production, will want to read." - John Comaroff, Harvard University and the American Bar Foundation "Shipley's book doesn't shake its academic tone, but he 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, February 25th 2013 "Shipley tells the story of the music in an authoritative, eloquent and entertaining fashion. He makes the point early in the book that many consider African music to have been 'contaminated' by commercial and American influences. However he counter-argues that hip-hop is intrinsically African and part of a natural progression. After all, highlife itself is a hybrid that incorporates jazz, gospel, soul, funk and Ghanaian traditional folklore music... Shipley does not claim this to be a history of hiplife. It is an academic study and as such it is inevitably prone to lengthy passages of anthropological, social and ethnological theory, However, the scholarly passages are hung around lengthy, eminently readable sections that will appeal to anyone who might enjoy modern Afircan music styles, and not necessarily those with a hip-hop bias. Even if you have no particular interest or liking for hiplife, this is an absorbing and very informative book." - Songlines, July 2013


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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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 5.0 von 5 Sternen  3 Rezensionen
2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Readable, interesting cultural history 23. Februar 2013
Von Anne Balay - Veröffentlicht auf
This book tells an interesting story about Hip Hop in Ghana. Though it's scholarly and well-researched, it's also fun to read, and full of stories and first-person experience. I recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about how music has shaped, and is shaped by, post-colonial Africa.
5.0 von 5 Sternen A must read. 3. März 2013
Von Pya Verrett - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
These are real people with complex lives in Accra (the capital city of Ghana), trying to turn something they love into a viable living. They find connections to the lyrics and sound of NYC mc's but also formulate their aspirations in relation to the successes of the big names in American hip hop. They face challenges of gender, class, and mobility specific to the Ghanaian context. Shipley has lived with the artists, radio hosts, dj's, beatmakers, and producers of extraordinary talent in many cases, sometimes with little formal education, sometimes very well educated, sometimes parochial, mostly cosmopolitan. You find yourself pulling for the characters in Shipley's book, Reggie Rockstone, MzBel, M3nsa, and others, the most sympathetic of whom is, in some way, the city that they are all moving through.
5.0 von 5 Sternen Global Culture 3. März 2013
Von loveshistory - Veröffentlicht auf
Living the Hiplife invites a new understanding of the Global. It shows how major local icons achieve global reach with their art forms through the channels of emigration and diaspora. It's also an offbeat contribution to economic history, showing young African entrepreneurs operating in (1) informal economies, (2) the growing semi-formal economy of electronic self-promotion and sales, and (3) formal economic mechanisms of records labels, promoters, etc. There's something for specialists in cultural anthropology, undergrads, and anyone interest in the back-story of contemporary culture.
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