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.”

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”.

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.  

Bucky Raw Shows Us What Trapco is All About in “Pump Tire”

In one of his singles from 2017, Liberian Trapco artist Bucky Raw incorporates both Liberian colloquial and American references in “Pump Tire”. Pump tire is known as a form of punishment in Liberia where one squats up and down repeatedly until they have learned their lesson through the pain experienced. Using a bumping hip hop beat, Bucky Raw tells anyone that is broke or fronting on him to “pump tire”, as he brags about his flow and status in Trapco, using women and the hustle for money as a reference.

His chorus tells those who are broke and “gbele” to “pump tire” as they cant even afford to buy something as small as a pepper. Girls who “take money for free” and show off with the money that is not theirs can also “pump tire”. These are all common terms in Liberian colloquial. He then uses American slang in his hook by repeatedly saying “you hear me”, a phrase used after a statement to ensure the audience is paying attention to what he has to say. Continue reading “Bucky Raw Shows Us What Trapco is All About in “Pump Tire””

Hipco Artist Christoph stays true to his native liberian dialect

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Christoph, Liberia’s upcoming hipco (Liberian hip-hop) artist is gaining popularity with his crisp style and hot verses. Aside from his attractive looks and charismatic personality, he has made great contributions to the Liberian hip-hop community. He stays true to his identity by rapping in koloqua (Liberia’s Local dialect) so that his people can understand his music. Continue reading “Hipco Artist Christoph stays true to his native liberian dialect”

Christoph Remains Chill as a “Gbanna Man”

Many African artists travel overseas to places such as the United States and Europe to expand their careers and, sometimes, to live a better life. Some artists return back to their home countries to with new ideals and a new outlook on other cultures to implement into their own music. Liberian rap artist Christoph the Change uses both West African slang and African American Vernacular English in his 2016 song “Gbanna Man”.

The name of the song itself uses West African slang and is repeated through out the song. The term, Gbanna, is a West African term that simply means marijuana. In West Africa, marijuana is considered taboo by many and others believe the use of it is a western culture thing that African youth is trying to copy. Gbanna is used as a decoy for the actual term.

Christoph uses African American slang in his song alongside the West African slang. In the song, he says:

I ain’t no player baby/

I’m a cool guy/


Chillin’ in the crib/

Me and all my men/

In another verse, he says:

You know I gotta spit it raw/

No rubber/

She say that I should hit it raw/

The use of “ain’t”, “spit”, and “chillin'” are common phrases in African American slang. It can be assumed that Christoph has awareness of western slang and its appropriate usage. In my opinion, the use of both African American Vernacular English and West African slang in “Gbanna Man” emphasizes the taboo of marijuana in West Africa, and how it’s labeled as a part of western culture.

Overall, the song was executed perfectly. I definitely enjoyed the song, and I look forward to hearing more of Christoph the Change’s music.

Liberian’s American Based Artist Stays True to the Diaspora

Liberia’s well known hip hop artists Mdot, migrated to the United States when he was just four years old. Although he left his native country at a young age, he uses his platform in Philadelphia to recount the horrifying nature of the Liberian civil war.

In a sense, Mdot serves as a voice for those who struggled during the conflict and afterward. He mainly raps in standard English, rather than  koloqua(liberia’s local patois), so both Liberians and Americans are able to enjoy his music. His sepia colored memory of the continent and his experiences in America helps to shape his lyrical purpose. Mdot’s themes about Liberia, his impoverished environment in Philadelphia, and the daily struggle of being black in America, creates highly relatable lyrics that resonates with a wide audience. Continue reading “Liberian’s American Based Artist Stays True to the Diaspora”

Diaspora Rappers

Diaspora based artists like K’Naan, Blitz the Ambassador, M3nsa, Wale, and French Montana, and Tabi Bonney have been covered heavily in this blog. There are several other first and second generation African MCs around the world who have not been covered as much in this blog. As students in the Hip Hop and Social Change in Africa course this semester are discussing Diaspora based artists, here are some of the artists those students are looking at. In the coming week students will be putting up posts on these and other African MCs that are based outside of the continent. Continue reading “Diaspora Rappers”

Liberian Femcee Diamond Chanel Rebels Against Gender Norms

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It is not a great surprise that there aren’t many Liberian Femcees with a platform as compared to their male counterparts; after all hip hop is male a dominated genre. Many Liberian female rappers fear not being taken seriously or being seen as “valid” in the eyes of male emcees. The sad reality of this is correlated to the stereotypes about women that society perpetuates.  

In almost every culture, women are ether oversexualized and treated as sex objects, or they are forced into a shell that prevents them from being sexual beings in the same way that men are. Unfortunately, women who rebel against these gender norms are heavily ostracized. Continue reading “Liberian Femcee Diamond Chanel Rebels Against Gender Norms”

Diamond Chanel Weds The Rap Game in “Bachelor Life”

According to society, women and men have different roles and expectations they are to live their lives by. Many women, for example, are expected to marry a man and have kids while the man is the provider for the family. Seems normal, right? Continue reading “Diamond Chanel Weds The Rap Game in “Bachelor Life””