“Unlike Siamese twins who are joined at the hip, we’re joined at the hip-hop…” This 1992 single was the opening track from MC OJ and Rhythm Slave’s What Can We Say? album, released on Murray Cammick’s Southside Records. The duo rap that “we won’t stop until we get enough”, and the hyperactive black and white video captures the youthful energy of the then teenage pair. There’s Converse trainers, turntables, breakdancing, a sinuous silhouette, a ballerina, a hip hop wedding, a massive pillow fight — and some giant trousers that MC and OJ jointly inhabit.
Shot in sepia tones with barely a level camera angle on offer, the video for 3 The Hard Way’s single has classic hip hop video written all over it. A cruise around Auckland in the back of a convertible culminates in a guest verse from Bobbylon of Hallelujah Picassos. Back at home, a rugby-loving audience assembles for the song’s second half. The unforgettable hook is inspired by 10cc hit 'Dreadlock Holiday', which proved lucrative for the English band when there were issues around clearing the rights. This was one of the earliest NZ On Air-funded videos for a song that reached number one.
Arriving in the first decade of Kiwi hip hop, this track edged into the top 20 of the Kiwi singles chart. The performance-based video was shot on the streets of South Auckland, in a mix of both black and white and colour. Lost Souls was made up of two Samoans, a Niuean, a Tongan and a Cook Islander. Two years after recording this tale of post-migration PI life in Aotearoa, Lost Tribe rapper Brotha D (Danny Leaosavai'i) co-founded legendary hip hop label Dawn Raid, with Andy Murnane.
Scribe's first single ‘Stand Up’ conquered the charts, paired as a double A-side with soon to be signature tune ‘Not Many’. But where ‘Not Many’ is a statement of personal intent, ‘Stand Up’ flies the flag for Kiwi hip hop: the video features many of the fellow musicians namechecked in the song. Shot in a basement below Auckland's Real Groovy Records in black and white (except for the ‘Not Many’ sections), Chris Graham's NZ Music Award-winning video offers an energetic, confrontational performance from Scribe, who took another five NZ Music Awards in the same year.
Director Chris Graham delivers five minutes of cars, comedy and eye candy in this slick who's who of the 2003 Kiwi scene. Featuring DJ Sir-Vere, VJ Jane Yee, ex sports star Matthew Ridge and Paul Holmes (well actually he was a no show — but his understudy made an appearance), the clip succeeded in planting a relatively unknown hip hop artist squarely on the front page. The result was the biggest selling Kiwi single of the year (it went platinum, and spent five weeks at number one). Named Best Video at the 2005 NZ Music Awards, it cost at least $50,000 to make.
More than 20 years on, 'Treaty' remains as infectious as it does relevant, mixing haka, hip hop and funk to present a message on Māori sovereignty. Channelling the colours of the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, the video creates a fitting backdrop for lyrics delivered via the stirring vocals of Moana and the Moahunters, verses by rapper Bennett Pomana (Upper Hutt Posse, Dam Native), and elements of traditional performance. According to director Ross Cunningham, the set design was inspired by Ralph Hotere illustrations from a book of Hone Tuwhare poems.
Chart-topper 'Brother' is about Smashproof's South Auckland neighbourhood, and how the hip hop trio want it to change — crime and violence are not the only options. It's an urgent message, delivered via a powerful, Tui award-winning drive-by video from music video 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. Singer-songwriter Gin Wigmore features during the chorus. 'Brother' broke local chart records, after spending eleven weeks at number one.
Bass meets brass in this 2014 collaboration between Australian house DJ and producer Timmy Trumpet, and Kiwi rapper Savage. Having previously tasted international chart success with his single 'Swing', Savage contributes vocals and lyrics to Trumpet's track. The result topped the charts in New Zealand — it won Highest Selling Single at the 2015 NZ Music Awards — made it to three in Australia, and won attention in Europe. The video is a sweaty record of the song being performed live at Adelaide’s HQ nightclub, with strobes flashing over the pumping throngs.
The video for the highest selling Kiwi song of both 2016 and 2017 was shot on a mobile phone in Fiji. Featuring beaches, pools, and partying, Don’t Worry Bout It was filmed by Auckland musician Kings while he was in Fiji for a music festival. Kings wanted to create an instrumental track with a summer feel, but added lyrics after watching his daughter run around a park without a care in the world. As of December 2017, 'Don’t Worry Bout It' held the record for the longest number of weeks (33) as the week's biggest-selling Kiwi single; it had been streamed on Spotify over six million times.
This militant debut from rappers Upper Hutt Posse marked New Zealand’s first hip hop record. Dean Hapeta announces himself with a history lesson proudly namechecking the great Māori warrior chiefs of the 19th Century — Hōne Heke, Te Rauparaha, Te Kooti — and their Māori Battalion successors. ‘E Tu’ is also a personal manifesto, with promises to preach the truth but not to brag or wear gold chains. Hapeta's down the barrel delivery carries a degree of confrontation rarely seen from New Zealand musicians up to that point.