One may ask why I should broach a topic of this kind which for the countless times it has popped up for discussion, seems not to have been resolved to a simple conclusion. Obviously, the hip life and hi life debate isn’t one that has been easy in discussing, and it crops up anytime songs are being categorized for awards.Audio: Odo by R2Bees
As an analyst and one who has a predilection for music, I don’t just enjoy songs I listen to, but also look out for certain ingredients that make or mar a song, or those that affect the song in diverse ways.
I admire music duo R2Bees’ versatility in doing music. They are one of the few musicians who can do almost all genres of music. In fact, I was dumbfounded when I heard their “Odo” song for the first time. This is a song done in a typical Ghanaian hi life vein with archetypal hi life guitar works. The singing dexterity of Mugees is one beyond compare.
However, the song also has a portion of rap done by Paedae. Rap is the basic component of hip hop music and its variants like hip life. In fact, it is that which tells the “hipness” of a song, so that a song done in hi life fused with rap ceases to be called hi life. It was on this that Reggie Rockstone, the originator of hip life premised his hip life philosophy.
Proponents of another school of thought have argued that they would determine what genre a type of music is, by merely the instrumentation. To them, whether there is “singing” or “rap” is not their problem.
I personally, would want to use both the instrumentation and lyrical form as determinants of what genre of music a song passes for. The percentage of the singing or rap in a particular song and the basic instrumentation should determine which genre it should be. R2Bees “Odo” is simply hi life. This is because the song contains more of hi life singing on hi life instrumentation and has few lines of rap.
Definitely if Papa Yankson does a hi life song with Sarkodie and the latter does some 10 lines of rap, constituting about 10% of the entire song, it doesn’t make it hip life. The fact that Daddy Lumba and Okyeame Kwame did a remix of ‘Enhyew’ (not sure of the apt title though) doesn’t make that song hip life. This is because the rap constitutes a meager portion of the entire song.
Whether we like it or not, this song will gain nomination in next year’s Ghana Music Awards, and I know this controversy will crop up among the committee members. For those who are already saying R2Bees “Odo” would have to compete with Asem and Kwabena Kwabena’s “Bye Bye”, rethink your posture. Asem’s song contains more rap than singing, so it is a quintessence of hip life. “Odo” on the other hand, has few lines of rap, so it is hi life.
The mere fact that a song done on hi life instrumentation has been tinged with few bars of rap doesn’t make it hip life. Whoever will be on the categorization committee of Ghana Music Awards next year should dare not put the two songs under one category. Kwabena Kwabena's "Bye Bye" hiplife while R2Bees' "Odo" is hi life.
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