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.
Upper Hutt Posse were the first group to release a hip hop record in New Zealand, with their politically charged breakthrough 1988 single 'E Tu'. On this single from 1992, they make something of a return to their reggae roots. By now the group had expanded from the original four-piece, and included Teremoana Rapley — also part of Moana and the Moahunters — on additional vocals. The song would later appear on the soundtrack of Once Were Warriors, with Posse members Dean and Matt Hapeta (aka D-Word and MC Wiya) making cameo appearances in the film.
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.
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.
In the decades between the Sinatras' version of 'Somethin' Stupid' (1967) and 2009's 'Empire State of Mind', someone had the bright idea of pairing two Kiwi singers, and kitting them out in matching green and black. Fresh from two consecutive number one singles, ex Upper Hutt record factory worker Jon Stevens takes lead vocals on this breakup duet, which sees the magical arrival of Sharon O'Neill, 50 seconds in. The result got to number five on the local charts. This clip featured on after school show Tracy '80.
This was the first music video funded by New Zealand on Air. The song is a colourful plea for Māori youth to preserve their culture by learning the reo — it also doubles as a handy guide to Māori pronunciation. Director Kerry Brown created vibrant animated backgrounds to match the song’s hip-hop beats. The cameo appearances include Moana Maniapoto’s father, MC OJ and the Rhythm Slave, Mika and various crew members. The Moahunters were Mina Ripia (who went on to her own act Wai) and Teremoana Rapley (from Upper Hutt Posse, who went on to manage King Kapisi).
Upper Hutt-born singer Jon Stevens pulled off the remarkable feat of having consecutive number ones on the New Zealand Top 40 with his first two singles. 'Montego Bay' was the second (taking over from 'Jezebel' in January 1980). It was a cover of a one-off 1970 hit for American Bobby Bloom, written for the second largest city in Jamaica. The cut-out palm trees of the studio set were as close as Stevens and band got to the Caribbean. 'Montego Bay' stayed at the top of the chart for two weeks and was voted 'Single of the Year' at the New Zealand Music Awards.