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Jesse W Shipley
61 minutes
English subtitles
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Living the Hiplife

This film is a musical portrait of street life in urban West Africa. It follows the birth of Hiplife music in Accra, Ghana, a mix of various African musical forms and American hip hop. Archival footage and hip hop music videos are remixed with interviews and the daily lives of rap artists. We follow Reggie Rockstone, the Godfather of Hiplife in the founding of the musical movement, as well as the Mobile Boys a group of aspiring rap artists as they try to make it in the music business. With humor and personality these characters move across the political and musical landscape of urban Ghana.

"...thoughtful and visually exciting at the same time. It is a musical documentary that gives a powerful sense of life in contemporary Africa."
- John Akomfrah, Filmmaker

"...cleverly portrays contemporary West African expressive culture. It is especially important because it shows the importance of Pan-Africanism and African Diasporic artistic and political connections to people in Africa."
- Chinua Achebe, Writer

"This film reveals for American and European audiences what is happening in the streets of Africa. It's a really powerful film that documents a vibrant, yet sadly underreported part of the rap world."
- Link Landvik-Larsen, Writer

"LIVING THE HIPLIFE captures the textures of West African music in a visually compelling bricolage. Its vivid characters have ambitions of fame and fortune that are contrasted with archival footage and the geographies of afro-cosmopolitanism."
- Jyoti Mistry, Filmmaker

"Rappers in Accra, Ghana, have fused American hip-hop with a form of Ghanaian music called highlife to create a new genre: hiplife. Living the Hiplife hangs out with several of the rappers, DJs, and producers, capturing their views on hiplife's origins and significance. The film's director, Jesse Weaver Shipley--a professor of African Studies--draws on his scholarly expertise, while also deftly mixing in commentary from University of Ghana professors on the cultural, historical, economic, and political contexts of hiplife. A fascinating, thoughtful, and entertaining study of creative appropriation and cultural cross-fertilization in a globalized world, Living the Hiplife is highly recommended."
- Video Librarian

"Highly recommended. This highly-engaging documentary looks at the development of the Ghanaian popular music know as Hiplifeā€¦the documentary does an admirable job of showcasing the diversity of ideas and talent in the movementā€¦"Living the Hiplife" could be used in classes to discuss topics such as syncretization, popular/youth culture, the globalization of hip hop, Africa's relationship to the Diaspora, and music history in Ghana."
- Martha Kelehan, Binghamton University, Educational Media Reviews Online

  • African Studies Association Annual Meeting, 2007
  • Society for Visual Anthropology Film Festival, 2007

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    Jesse W Shipley
    61 minutes
    English subtitles
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