Aesthetics and Aspiration
We are listening to bling music,
which thumps and talks about hip
and hop, gold and going places.
Th ere is no past, everything is sampled.
binyavanga wainaina, One Day
I Will Write about Th is Place
Don’t Go Th ere
For several years, Nescafé, an affi liate of Nestlé Corporation in Ghana,
sponsored a series of regional competitions for amateur hiplife musi-
cians. Aspiring musicians performed while music industry judges as-
sessed their star potential.1 In mid- 2004 each of the nation’s ten regions
held preliminary competitions; the winners went to the national nals
in Ghana’s capital, Accra. Reggie Rockstone, considered by many to be
the originator of hiplife music, was mentoring a young group of rap art-
ists called the Mobile Boys and entered them in the competition.
Th e Mobile Boys— Grey, Kochoko, Nkonyaa, and Bedsheet— all in
their twenties, have stories that are common to a generation of disenfran-
chised youths in Ghana and across the continent. Th ey refl ect patterns
of rural- to- urban migration of youths seeking work and inspiration,
success, and plea sure in the city just as those before them have. Th ey
take small jobs and hustle, and rely on friends for support and lodging.
Grey (Th omas Antwi) explains, “I couldn’t nish school because my
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