Born in the United Kingdom to Ghanaian parents, Reginald Yaw Asante Ossei was living in New York in the late 1980s during what’s often considered hip hop’s golden age—of Public Enemy, Eric B. & Rakim, and De La Soul and a marked turn toward Afrocentrism. In the mid-1990s Ossei moved to Ghana and began rapping in his native Twi dialect under the moniker Reggie Rockstone. His rapping style blended highlife music (an indigenous staple which borrowed from jazz, Congolese rumba and swing) with rap, incorporating lyrics that drew on traditional Ghanaian fables. He called this new music “hiplife”—a name he claimed his father coined. In 2015 Rockstone told the New York Times “The blueprint of hip-hop is African.” While Rockstone is considered the godfather of hiplife, today it’s much more than entertainment—it tackles subjects like politics and has become a voice for societal reform.
Photo credit: Reggie Rockstone/Instagram