Documenting Hipco

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Since 2000, the sound of hipco music has improved greatly with quality songs being released in and out of Liberia. Hipco, which grew from the crumbling ghettos and slum communities of Monrovia and its environs, has defied the odds to remain the popular music genre in Liberia, and serving as the medium through which rappers speak against societal ills, including injustice and corruption.

Against this background, legendary hipco rapper Prakash Bestman has worked behind the scenes to produce the first ever documentary on the birth of hipco music.

The documentary titled “Hipco Nation” focuses on music producers and artists and the roles they played in shaping the sound, including how they did it with little resources.

LIB Life caught up with Prakash Bestman to talk about the documentary, and some relatively unknowns about the maestro…

LIB Life: For the sake of your fans, can you please tell us where you grew up? How was life at that time?

PB: I was raised by my dad. My mom and dad separated when I was about four. We lived not too far from the then National Culture Center, Kendeja. It was not easy being raised by a single dad who was sometimes jobless. However, it was fun.

My dad taught me lot of things. He taught me that being a man was not easy, so whatever I choose to do, I should do it to the best of my ability.

Apart from going to school as a kid, I used to play sports, spent a lot of time on the beach swimming, fishing and climbing coconut trees as well as spending countless hours at the culture center watching the Kendeja all-star band or the culture troop practice.

LIB Life: Why have you not released any singles of late? How are you balancing life and work, like the making of this documentary?

PB: I was working on my album, which will be out this year. Expect to have a non-stop flow of music coming from me this year. Frankly speaking, life has not been easy. I had to close down my studio to the public in order to be in the position to work on my album and the documentary. During this period, I forgo lot of personal activities just to have this documentary done.

LIB Life: What was the motivation for the documentary?

PB: Well, I was motivated to do this documentary because I want to bring to life the past story of hipco and how the artists and producers fought to make it well accepted among Liberians.

In my life, I’m passionate about two things, music and Liberia; therefore I was also motivated to do this documentary to visually highlight the socio-economic importance of arts and culture, the hurdles and opportunities as well. I’m just using the power of visuals as a spotlight for awareness and reflection.

LIB Life: What impact do you think this documentary will make and how?

PB: I hope it helps to raise the level of awareness on the reservoir of talents, the importance of arts and culture, and its socio-economic benefits. And also, that it becomes more of an enlightenment for all parties involved.

LIB Life: When you first started this documentary, what was the response from the artists, producers and all those who appeared in the project?

PB: Well a majority of the folks that I’ve approached have been very receptive and supportive. Though there were few doubters at first, the overall response from the producers and artists have been very supportive.

LIB Life: How long did it take to put the documentary together? Why the name Hipco Nation?

PB: I have been working on the film for more than a year now. We just finished the first episode called “Liberian Hit Producers” and the second one will be completed soon before the whole documentary is released.

I choose the name Hipco Nation because I have come to realize that hipco has become more than just music. It is a voice of the youth of Liberia. It’s a medium through which their dreams and aspirations, thoughts and emotions are expressed.

LIB Life: Over the last few years, the songs from Liberian artists have improved greatly…where do you see the industry in the next few years?

PB: In the next few years, I see the industry ‘bump’ and profiting artists and all those who work in the industry. However, this can only be done when we believe and invest in our own. We must empower Liberians.

No amount of outside help can help us, unless we learn to value and hold our own.

LIB Life: Who sponsored the documentary?

PB: The film was mostly sponsored by Vera Woodson, a very good friend of mine.

LIB Life: When will the documentary be released? Anything you want to add? And thanks for the interview.

PB: We are planning a launch of the film and folks will also be able to get it on our local market and our website as well. I’m just thankful to God and my family for life.

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