Hip hop act Upper Hutt Posse is led by Dean Hapeta (aka Te Kupu and D Word), a poet and orator influenced by black American thinkers like Malcolm X. The group set out to fight racial injustice through music. Hapeta's radicalism quickly made him and the Posse into tabloid targets. Their bilingual single ‘E Tu’ became Aotearoa’s first local rap release in 1988. Acclaimed debut album Against the Flow was released on Southside the next year. Their music has incorporated elements of soul, funk and raggamuffin toasting. Members have included Darryl (DLT) Thompson, Teremoana Rapley and Emma Paki.
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.
"E tu stand proud, kia kaha say it loud", Dean Hapeta's lyrics typify the socio-political messages in NZ's early rap music. The four elements of hip hop: breakdancing, graffiti, DJ-ing and rap are examined through interviews with key players in the hip hop scene (including King Kapisi, Che Fu, Upper Hutt Posse). A recurring theme in the Sima Urale-directed documentary is that local hip hop artists are less interested in the "girls, booze and bling" school of hip hop, and more interested in using their art to make a political statement.
This edition of Prime TV’s history of New Zealand television looks at 50 years of entertainment. The smorgasbord of music, comedy and variety shows ranges from 60s pop stars to Popstars, from the anarchy of Blerta to the anarchy of Telethon, from Radio with Pictures to Dancing with the Stars. Music television moves from C’mon and country, to punk and hip hop videos. Comedy follows the formative Fred Dagg and Billy T, through to Eating Media Lunch and 7 Days. A roll call of New Zealand entertainers muse on seeing Kiwis laugh, sing and shimmy on the small screen.
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.
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).
This seven-part documentary series chronicled the history of modern Māori music, from the turn of the century and Rotorua tourist concert parties, through to the showband era (Howard Morrison Quartet, Māori Volcanics, Māori Hi-Five) and reggae and hip hop. The programme ranged from ‘Ten Guitars’ to Tui Teka, from Guide Rangi doing poi to The Patea Māori Club, from opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa to Upper Hutt Posse, Ardijah, Herbs and Moana and the Moa Hunters. The acclaimed 1990 series was directed by Tainui Stephens (My Party Song, The New Zealand Wars).
Samoan-born MC Feelstyle has long been lauded amongst Aotearoa's hip hop elite for his ability to craft music in both his native Samoan and English. The rapper earned a place in the history books, under the name RIQ, when he edged out Upper Hutt Posse to win the country's first ever MC battle in 1987. He's been in demand since, working closely with a list of Kiwi music's who's who and dominating the 2005 Pacific Music Awards with debut album Break It To Pieces.