More About Hip Hop and Liberian Dance

The four key elements of hip hop include: djing, beatboxing, graffiti and rap, but let’s not forget the element of hip-hop that keeps us moving — DANCE!

Now, although there is no definite answer of where dance started, you can trace some of the most popular American hip – hop dance moves all the way to Africa.

The art of dance is spread widely across  Africa but types/styles of dance depend on the different regions and tribes. Some of the most traditional and common used Liberian dances include the following

Kru Dance: popular in the southeast of Liberia (not specified)
Vai Dance: popular in Grand Cape Mount and Bomi
Kpelle Dance: popular in most of central Liberia
Bassa Dance: popular in Monrovia, the capital

There’s just something about matching the rhythm of your body to the beat of a drum that allows many Liberian natives to use this expression to tell stories of tradition and culture.

In a conversation with one of the most highly acclaimed West African dance experts, Naomi Diouf, shared her views on the “values of traditional African dance study, including: it requires complex thinking, multi-tasking, the study of anatomy and physiology; it provides structure and organization which circles back to real life lessons for any teen engaged in arts and academics…

She stated that dance is a form of storytelling and in her words, “ It is both an idealized version of that culture and reflects reality”

Here we have a video entitled “ traditional Liberian dance” done in Canada, however , multiple comments below the video suggests that the dance being performed is not traditional. It is evident that oftentimes African dance styles are tweakd or even modified to fit in different cultures.

This is an example of traditional Liberian dance. Between this video and the last one we can attest to the similarities, much like how American hip hop dances can be shown to stem from various African heritage and culture.

Samuel Sonnyboy Tubman : Liberian Rapper “Scientific”

Scientific was born in Bong County, Liberia but he grew up in Ghana in a refugee camp due to the first and second civil wars happening in his hometown. Like your average school kid, the young rapper once aspired to be a doctor but it was not until high school that Scientific found passion and purpose in hip-hop. He became infatuated with artists like Nas and Biggie Smalls, so much so that he wrote down their lyrics and memorized them. He believed that if he studied them close enough he could figure out what it takes to become a rapper of high rank, essentially they set the standard for the work he was looking to produce in his rap career.

At the brink of his artistry, Scientific’s first success as a rapper was in high school where he won best lyricist in a rap competition. Shortly after that he held titles like best street rapper and Africa’s best rapper.

It was only a matter of time before Scientific rose to fame. He has been consistently growing in his career and has won countless awards. By the time of 2016, the rapper had claimed his third LMA ( Liberia Music Award) for best hip hop artists. The rap artist went from aspiring to be like Nas, to dropping hit singles, to opening shows for multiple notable hip hop icons like Jay-Z, Fat Joe, Akon and other artists who performed in Ghana, and is still producing work for his Liberian fan base and fan base around the world.

Taking a look at where the rap artist is now, according to one of Scientific’s latest hits, he ‘ain’t got time this year’.The song provides insight to some of the struggles the rapper has had to face growing up in Africa and suggests that he has prevailed through the all things he has been exposed to, “ This life taught me a lesson, 0 to 100, it’s a blessing”.