Liberian hip-hop used for anti-corruption purposes

imagesIn 2012, Liberian activist/author Robtel Neajai Pailey published Gbagba, a children’s book that sparked a national dialogue on corruption. The book has been assigned to Liberian schoolchildren, and seeks to help rectify the state’s systemic corruption problems. The book is under review by several ministries of education in neighboring countries. This February, Pailey released the book’s sequel, Jaadeh! Both books have been adapted into hip-hop songs by hipco artist Takun J. The songs, titled “Gbagba is Corruption” and “Jaadeh is Integrity,” plead for Liberians to maintain their honor and integrity by saying no to corrupt practices.

“Gbagba is Corruption” was released in 2016, and was made possible, along with its accompanying music video, by a grant from the Open Society Initiative of West Africa. The video begins with Takun J handing out copies of Gbagba to a crowd of Liberian children. Takun J immediately breaks out into the song’s chorus, which urges the children to “say no to corruption, and you’ll be alright.” The rest of the song’s content is Takun J rapping over video clips of a young boy and girl engaging in corruption. He raps quickly, over an ubeat rhythm, a common characteristic of hipco music.

“Jaadeh is Integrity” includes a female accompaniment for the chorus, an artist named Ella Mankon Pailey. She sings that “The only way we [Liberians] can live is through jaadeh,” and “corruption and gbagba we can’t accept. Although the beat is slower than that of “Gbagba is Corruption,” Takun J maintains his speedy rhyme delivery. The video, also made possible by a grant from the Open Society Initiative of West Africa, pictures Takun J on a beach, alternating with Ella Mankon Pailey twirling around in colorful Liberian clothing.

Hipco music is commonly used as a political tool, disseminated to Liberians in the Colloqua language, a mixture of local languages and English. Hipco has been used as a means of national reconciliation following Liberia’s civil wars. Takun J is the self-proclaimed and Vice News endorsed “King of Hipco.”

Polar Opposites: Breaking down the differences between two Liberian music videos

Christoph the Change and Bucky Raw

Two Liberian hip-hop videos, released within two months of each other, portray strikingly different themes of Liberian life. The first is by Christoph the Change, whose video accompaniment to his song, “Call Me Your Pa,” displays a flashy, luxurious side of an upper class life in Liberia. On the contrary, the music video to “Woomii” by Bucky Raw incorporates African tribal imagery, portrays poverty, and shows general egalitarianism. This blog post will juxtapose the two videos, and analyze their differences.

Cristoph the Change and Bucky Raw are both prominent Liberian hip-hop artists. Additionally, both men make trapco style hip-hop. They squared off recently, engaging in a longstanding feud accompanied by diss tracks. This feud makes this analysis more significant, as both proclaim themselves to be the kings of trapco. So how do their videos compare?

The “Call Me Your Pa” video begins in front of a large brick house, with several individuals in the shot speaking on cell phones. The scene changes to Christoph the Change alternating between lounging on a white SUV parked in an intersection, and a room with his entourage drinking Ciroc. He brandishes a wad of American dollars throughout the video. His lyrics are a self promotion, declaring that “he gave birth to the game,” and to “call me your pa.” The video is an homage to that of many southern American trap artists, who brandish their gold chains, and flaunt wealth with their followers.

Bucky Raw’s “Woomii” video is the polar opposite. The setting changes between a desolate warehouse, to a room full of barrels, to Bucky Raw running through a slum accompanied by a crowd of Liberians. Bucky Raw is dressed modestly, donning a white t-shirt with the word “Raw” plastered across the front. Unlike Christoph the Change, Bucky Raw is looking to make a relatable song, while the former presents a fantasy lifestyle for the majority of Liberians.