Hipco is hip hop sung in colloquial English, ie the form of English you hear on the streets of Liberia. Although colloquial English retains a lot of English syntax, it can be a bit daunting at first because it is spoken very fast, many consonants are not pronounced, and a lot of words are borrowed from other local languages. But it has become the language of choice for young rappers. And much like hip hop, hipco has grown into its own culture, with its own lifestyle, dance moves and music. Today hipco often refers to more than just a type of rap, it’s a way of life.
Gbema is the generic term given to electronically-produced traditional music. So it covers a wide range of rhythms, most of them very high paced, reminiscent of Sierra Leonian Bubu or South African Shangaan. It’s also quite common for the rhythms to jump into half or double time.
This music, hipco and gbema, is having a profound impact on Liberia. Much like early day hip hop, hipco is a significant vector of social change, while gbema’s intricate rhythms are relentlessly challenging listeners and dancers. We called the compilation Lone Stars not only because it is the nickname of Liberia, but also because these artists are often left without much of an industry to survive. They are truly alone, with their music, striving to survive in a country still recovering from decades of destructive conflict.
released October 18, 2011
AKW033 -Various Artists - Lone Stars Vol. 1: Hipco & Gbema. Release date: October 18, 2011. Compiled by Chief Boima & Benjamin Lebrave.