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.
In the 1990s Maree Sheehan was one of a small number of Māori women who used Māori instrumentation to create their own special flavour of dance music, hip hop and R'n'B. The video for this highly percussive R’n’B track from 1995 features performances by kapa haka group Te Ao Hurihanga. The stylish monochrome clip was partially shot on Auckland's One Tree Hill, before it lost its famous tree. Josh Frizzell, who directed this, had recently helmed one of the most played Kiwi music videos of 1994 — System Virtue, for Māori singer Emma Paki.
Rappers Upper Hutt Posse were the first New Zealand hip hop act to release a record (and one of the most radical). This reflection on troubles at home and abroad brings out a more reflective side. Against news footage of the Springbok Tour, Bastion Point and a host of international trouble spots, the sweet soul vocals of Teremoana Rapley and Acid Dread (aka Steve Rameka) float in and out of the raggamuffin toasting of MC Wiya (Matt Hapeta) and Dean Hapeta’s less than cheery weather forecast. This music video was one of the first to be funded by NZ on Air.
With 'Turn from the Rain', The Veils added their name to the prestigious list of bands who have recorded at London's famed Abbey Road Studios — a list which includes The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Radiohead. According to frontman Finn Andrews “The room there is so musty and still … you want any sound you make to be worth disturbing the grand silence for.” The idea of making a video at Abbey Road arrived at 2am in a Hackney flat; the performances were shot on 16mm film, an appropriately retro touch considering the venue. The recordings were later released on The Abbey Road EP.
An early example of Kiwi rap music, 'No Flint No Flame' was recorded for the first time while Urban Disturbance were still known as Leaders of Style. Lead by MC, beat maker, and future international radio star Zane Lowe, the crew are backed on this remake by firebreathers, who often come terrifyingly close to DJ Rob Salmon. In 2015 Lowe was part of the writing and producing team nominated for Best Album at the Grammy Awards (for Sam Smith's In the Lonely Hour) — a far cry from the Pasifika Streets he raps about here, 23 years earlier.
After his hard-hitting debut single 'Stand Up' and the hit remix of 'Not Many', Scribe took a gentler approach on the third single from his five times platinum debut album. Rolling clouds open the music video, which trades bombastic beats and ominous synth tones for gentler piano. The chart-topping hook, originally written for Che Fu, was sung by Scribe himself after encouragement from collaborator P-Money. Photos from Scribe’s childhood appear on screen while he raps about the struggle to realise his potential, before glimpses of 'making of' footage from previous videos.
“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.
As smooth and laid-back as the song, this Josh Frizzell-directed music video takes inspiration from the geometric designs of album covers from 1960s label Blue Note Records. The track is from saxophonist Nathan Haines’ debut Shift Left (then New Zealand’s best-selling jazz album). Here Haines is a precocious 22, bespectacled, with his hair cropped unusually short. Sani Sagala (aka Dei Hamo) turns up to add a rap overlay to the song's ‘acid jazz’ influenced sax grooves. Frizzell also directed videos for Emma Paki (System Virtue) and Urban Disturbance (Static).
This unlikely ode to loose pants from Christchurch hip hop duo Dark Tower reached number 29 in the charts in 2000. “I like my pants baggy, baggy, baggy, baggy, baggy / cuffs a draggin' with the crutch a saggin’.” The southern Pākekā pride on show presented a funk rap alternative to the dominant ‘urban Pasifika’ influence in NZ hip hop, and won a cult following. The video, directed by David Stubbs (Reservoir Hill) riffs off the found footage concept of (then) hit horror film Blair Witch Project; it was nominated for Best Video at 2000 NZ Music Video Awards.