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Hip Hop in Africa

This week in New York and around the United States hip-hop stars and fans celebrated the genre’s fiftieth anniversary with a series of events. It culminated in a major day-long live show featuring performances by the who’s who of America’s last true original artform. The first breakout commercial hits of American hip-hop, like Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight and Grandmaster Flash’s The Message, made their way to the airwaves in African cities like Lagos and Nairobi in the early 1980s. Many of the pioneering artists and promoters of African hip-hop in the early days recognized rhythmic oral traditions of their own cultures. In Ghana, Reggie Rockstone pioneered a sound he called hiplife which was a blend of hip-hop and Ghana’s traditional highlife. He went on to have a string of local hits. In Kenya, hip-hop gave young local artists the confidence and energy to create some of today’s biggest artists and personalities, says Buddha Blaze, a veteran hip-hop promoter and producer in Nairobi.