Aotearoa Hip Hop

Rip it Up editor and hip hop supremo, Philip Bell (DJ Sir-vere) drops his Top 10 selection of Aotearoa hip hop music videos. The clips mark the evolution of an indigenous style, from the politically conscious (Dam Native, King Kapisi) to the internationalists (Scribe, Savage). It includes iconic, award-winning efforts from directors Chris Graham, Jonathan King, and more.

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Behold My Kool Style

Dam Native, Music Video, 1996

Directed by prolific music video maker and now feature film director Jonathan King, this clip won Best Video at the 1996 NZ Music Awards. The sepia-tinged print, colonial photo studio-styled art direction and details (tokotoko and Edwardian suits) are beautifully realised and make for an effective back-drop to the song’s political lyrics. DJ Sir-vere: “an original Aotearoa classic”  

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Scene III

Che Fu, Music Video, 1998

Che Fu goes Kung Fu and travels to a music video version of Chinatown, in this shadowy clip directed by Alicia Williams. The oriental styles suit the mellow groove of the song, right down to the Mao collars. The award-winning singer makes the moves, while harbouring an infatuation for a beautiful DJ whose face is "dancing in my head". 

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Stop, Drop & Roll

Mareko, Music Video, 2003

Prolific music video director Sophie Findlay offers a humourous take on all those army film and TV shows (Full Metal Jacket, Tigerland et al) with the bad-arse drill sergeant and badgered recruits. Commanding Officer Mareko barks orders to the beat to his troops, The Deceptikonz.

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Summer in the Winter

Lost Tribe, Music Video, 1996

A simple but evocative music video shot on the streets of South Auckland, in a mix of both black and white and colour. The video-scapes are industrial and gritty and provide a fitting backdrop to this tale of post-migration PI life in Aotearoa that became a hit single in 1996.

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Think Twice

Aotearoa All Stars, Music Video, 2008

A simple but effective black and white video for this charity single aimed at encouraging young people to ‘Think Twice’ before committing a crime. The line-up of singers and rappers is indeed all-star, and their mass performance footage is intercut with relevant street scenes illustrating the theme. Excellent performances from NZ hip-hop royalty: Che Fu, Scribe, P-Money, Savage and DJ Sir-vere (who initiated the project).

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Brother

Smashproof, Music Video, 2009

'Brother' is a song about Smashproof's South Auckland neighbourhood and how these hip hop stars want it to change - crime and violence are not the only options. It's an urgent message, delivered via a simple but powerful drive-by concept by director Chris Graham.   The clip made it into mainstream news media for a scene bluntly inspired by a high profile incident where a businessman stabbed a young tagger. Features raspy-voiced singer-songwriter Gin Wigmore as chorus.  

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Chains

DLT, Music Video, 1996

Amidst a tale of despair in the city a staunch 'no nukes' message is delivered with aplomb by Che Fu in this performance-based promo for the DLT song: "Come test me like a bomb straight from Murda-roa / How comes I got cyclops fish in my water / A Nation of Pacific lambs to the slaughter / Three eyes for my son and an extra foot for my daughter". Helmed by acclaimed music video director Kerry Brown, bold urban-Pacific imagery augments the chart-topping track with the deceptively catchy chorus: "Living in the city ain't so bad ..."

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Not Many (remix)

Scribe, Music Video, 2004

Director Chris Graham toys with the concept of black and white in this performance-based clip. Graham shoots the rappers in colour but makes every ‘colour’ used either black or white: including the hoodies, caps, milk bottles ... and dog. Film speed is tweaked to the beat and the result is monochrome magic. The performances by Scribe himself and his crusading crew of NZ hip hop luminaries (Savage, P-Money, Footsouljahs, etc) are universally strong.

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Screems from da Old Plantation

King Kapisi, Music Video, 2000

"Samoa mo Samoa!" — King Kapisi blends his Samoan roots with hip hop culture in this video shot on Samoa's ring roads. The hip hop music video standby of the drive-by gets revised Pasifika-style, and the fire poi, papase'ea sliding rocks, lavalava, coconuts, and colourful Apia buses make this clip staunchly fa'a Samoa.

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Su'Amalie / Ain't Mad at You

Tha Feelstyle, Music Video, 2004

Shot on location, Chris Graham's gleeful clip could double as a travel promo for beautiful Samoa. In the absence of any special effects at all, the video radiates warmth and sincerity, and aided by remarkably slick editing and a cheeky sense of humour, this creation is a real treat.    "Feelstyle was always very humble and reserved - until I called 'Action!' - at that point the transformation was incredible. His performances were simply magic!" Chris Graham - Feb 09