Takun J is a Liberian hipco icon, as well as the country’s Gender Based Violence Reduction Ambassador. He has taken on many of the biggest issues facing Liberia throughout his career, and his two latest tracks are no exception. In honor of those new releases, here is a short rundown on hipco, a Liberian genre inspired by hip-hop and noted for its politically fueled rapping.
“Justice,” one of the two newest Takun J tracks, has a particularly alarming backstory. Two years ago, Takun J was assaulted by Liberian politician Edwin Snowe, after Snowe nearly collided with Takun J’s car. The former Speaker of the House of Representatives may have been upset about Takun J’s long record of rapping against corruption, as Snowe has been repeatedly investigated for bribery and misappropriation. In the track, Takun J raps, “Lawmakers, they are the lawbreakers… So where is the justice?”
Takun J’s other new track, “They Lie to Us,” attacks Liberia’s politicians for their failure to lead the country through the Ebola outbreak.
Going back to 2013, Takun J participated in one of the country’s most popular tracks of the time, “Pot Not Boiling (Remix),” which also features Xpolay, Luckay Buckay, JD Donzo and Bentman Tha Don. The song’s message is direct from the chorus: “Everybody pot boiling, my pot can’t boil.” Even for famous hipco artists in Liberia, it can be difficult to make a living, as there is no government funding for the arts and music is often pirated without any profit making it to the artists. For more on the Liberian music industry and the effect of “Pot Not Boiling (Remix),” check out this excellent article by Takun J’s manager Nora Rahimian.
To go back to the early years of hipco, here’s a classic Takun J track called “Who Make You Cry,” featuring Queen V.
In “Song for Hawa,” Takun J powerfully tackles the subject of rape in Liberia. This track led to him being named an anti-rape ambassador and has inspired other Liberian artists to address similar subjects.
In 2012, Nora and Takun J started the Hipco Festival in Monrovia. Here’s a live video from the festival, of Takun J and K-Zee rapping the classic track, “Six Jue.”
Not all hipco is so politically charged. Pitty D’Best makes hipco that is influenced by the popular Ghanaian dance style azonto. Here’s one of his first hits, “Scatter My Head.”
Other hipco artists, like David Mell, have more of an American r&b feel to them.
Perhaps the most interesting hybrid is the gbema-hipco of K-Zee. Gbema is electronically produced traditional music. “Kountry Chicken” keeps a frenetic pace and, in a world full of hip-hop that mimics American artists, this sounds like nothing else.
Thanks to Nora Rahimian for her help with putting this article together!