New Zealand hip hop
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New Zealand hip hop derives from the wider hip hop cultural movement originating amongst African Americans in the United States. Like the parent movement, New Zealand hip hop consists of four parts: rapping, DJing, graffiti art and breakdancing. The first element of hip hop to reach New Zealand was breakdancing, which gained notoriety after the release of the 1979 movie The Warriors. The first hip hop hit single, "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang, became a hit in New Zealand when it was released there in 1980, a year after it was released in the United States. By the middle of the 1980s, breakdancing and graffiti art were established in urban areas like Wellington and Christchurch. By the early 1990s hip hop became a part of mainstream New Zealand culture.
By the late 1980s strong Hiphop music scenes had developed in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch with dozens of bands and rappers performing. A New Zealand Hiphop DJ Competition was held in Auckland in 1989, with DJ Ned Roy winning.
Hiphop music is very popular amongst Māori and Pacific Islanders, who have also been the majority of rappers, although many of the early crews were of Pākehā (white New Zealanders) and other ethnic groups, many of whom have enjoyed commercial and critical success. Some of the first Hiphop musicians to achieve recognition combined American styles with Māori language and traditional songs. For example, Dalvanius Prime's 1984 "Poi E" incorporated Hiphop dance elements into its music video and was the first time locals viewed Hiphop culture associated with a local recording, it became a hit, and was entirely in Māori. Upper Hutt Posse likewise combined Hiphop and Māori culture in their 1988 single "E Tu", which is recognised as New Zealand's first pure Hiphop single. A bootleg recording of their song "Hardcore Hiphop" reached number 1 on Christchurch student radio in February, 1988, and is most likely the first rap song to reach the number one position on any chart (it was not on the official NZ Charts). Some rappers, such as the members of Upper Hutt Posse, became known for politicized lyrics in support of tino rangatiratanga (Māori sovereignty).
Another popular Māori group which incorporated Hiphop music were Moana and the Moahunters, who won a New Zealand Music Industry award for best Māori recording in 1992, speaking out against the perceived racism they see against the Māori people in New Zealand. They cite the rarity of airtime on national radio for Māori music and the exclusion from the mainstream music industry as reflective of the wider societal problem. The awarded song is called "AEIOU (Akona Te Reo)", and translates as "Learn the Language". Its release was directed primarily at Māori youth who do not speak Māori. The song has been viewed as a plea by Moana and the Moahunters to encourage the Māori people to learn more about their culture and their traditional language. The majority of the lyrics are in English. Also, the vocals are sung and is not a Hiphop song in the true sense.
Early Hiphop releases in New Zealand include the collection Ak89 - In Love With These Rhymes, compiled by Simon Laan and released by Auckland radio bFm in 1989 (on cassette only), and a variety of releases by Southside Records, owned by Murray Cammick. Amongst these were releases by Urban Disturbance featuring a young rapper, Zane Lowe, now a UK radio personality, and MC OJ & Rhythm Slave.
By the late 80`s the South Auckland and West Auckland hip hop scenes were thriving with dozens of young acts, many promoted as part of the Voodoo Rhyme syndicate which featured acts such as the'Semi MC`s, Mc Slam & DJ Jam, Total Effect, Sisters Underground, Enemy Productions (which featured a very young Dei Hamo), Boy C & the BB3 (which later became Three the Hard Way), the Chain Gang and many more. Most of the acts that joined the Voodoo Ryhme Syndicate were discovered mainly through talent contests by Voodoo Ryhme Syndicate founder, a young DJ Andy Vann. The Voodoo Rythme Synidicate hosted the Voodoo dance parties to raise funds to record the acts and formed Voodoo vinyl in 1989. Voodoo Vinyls first release in 1989 was Enemy Productions Stop Tagging produced by Voodoo Rhyme sydicate founder Andy Vann. Other notable related releases include Semi MC`s Set Your Body Free & Trust Me, Mc Slam & DJ Jam Prove Me Wrong, all of which achieved Top 40 success in New Zealand.
It was Fuemana's brother, Pauly, who, as OMC with Alan Jansson, took the urban Pacific sound into the world's charts with the multi-million selling "How Bizarre", in 1995–97. It remains the biggest selling song ever recorded in New Zealand.
In Wellington, K.O.S.-163, more commonly known as Kosmo, turned up the Hiphop scene during the 1980s. Back from a visit from Los Angeles, California, Kosmo introduced a new type of dance called popping that he had mastered there. Aware of their accents and other 'foreign' markers, Samoan youth in California used dancing and hip hop to assert themselves. This is because young Samoans in multicultural neighborhoods earned status and respect through mastering physical activities like dance and sports. Nearly three decades of Samoan involvement in street dance and rap music has influenced the scene in other cities such as Wellington. With two other New Zealanders, Kosmo started the hip hop group called "The Mau". The name represents Samoan independence. Samoans are a very proud group of people, so this name is very fitting. Samoans do not like to follow other cultures and believe that having their own unique identity is very important. The Samoans wanted to break free from dominant culture and assert their own culture. This hip hop group represented this Samoan pride.
The first major New Zealand commercial Hiphop hit was "Hip Hop Holiday" by 3 The Hard Way, featuring the vocal stylings of Bobbylon (from the seminal 1990's Reggae/Punk band the Hallelujah Picassos). Released by Deepgrooves Entertainment and distributed by Festival Records, it replayed the song "Dreadlock Holiday" by 10CC and went to number one for several weeks in 1994 and was also an Australian hit. The song proved to be the beginning of a series of local hip hop chart hits over the next decade. They returned nine years later with another number one, "It's On (Move to This)".
Despite the style's burgeoning popularity, many New Zealanders hated Hiphop, and some radio stations implemented a so-called "no rap, no crap" policy. Upper Hutt Posse's DJ, DLT, also influenced the local scene in Auckland, including Joint Force, Che Fu and Dam Native. DLT also began the influential radio show True Skool Hip Hop Show, which joined Wellington's Wednesday Night Jam in promoting hip hop. Although not the first radio in Auckland to play local hip hop (Simon Grigg & Nick D'Angelo had long been championing it on bFm) it was the first dedicated show.
New Zealand has a population of just 4 million people, but its artists have created a stir in the hip hop world. Che Fu is one of New Zealand's most successful hip hop artists. He began his career at high school with a group of friends and they eventually formed the Low Down Dirty Blues Band, which went on to be the legendary Supergroove. Their first album, Traction sold triple platinum and went on to win countless awards. Che Fu's fame continued through the 90s with his involvement with DLT in the number one hit song Chains in 1996, and in 2002 he won album of the year in the New Zealand music awards.
In the 1990s and the beginning of the 21st century, Maori and Polynesian hip hop musicians grew steadily more popular, resulting in a style called Urban Pasifika. However artists from this period were from a variety of cultures and included Che Fu, Nesian Mystik and Scribe, who became the first to top both the single and album charts at the same time in 2004, and also the most famous acts associated with the biggest record producer in the field, P-Money and Savage who in 2009 became the first New Zealand hip hop artist in history to have a commercial single achieve platinum certification status in the United States for selling in excess of one million units, with his single "Swing" (a remix in 2008 was released featuring American rapper Soulja Boy), which had already been released in Australia and New Zealand in 2005, and featured in the 2007 United States film Knocked Up. Most of these artists are signed with Dawn Raid Entertainment, a Polynesian-run record label based in Manukau. Dawn Raid briefly went out of business early in 2007 after financial problems resulting from expensive production of several albums. However, investors were found and the label was resurrected.
The years 2004-5 are often seen as a high-water mark for the popularity of Hiphop music in New Zealand and book on the subject (Hip Hop Music In Aotearoa) even won a prize at the national book awards. However, there continue to be artists that breakthrough from this scene into the NZ mainstream. One example is Smashproof, whose 2009 single "Brother" sat at the top of the NZ charts for a longer period than any other local single before it.
APRA Silver Scroll Award
The annual APRA Silver Scroll Awards in New Zealand is a prestigious honour for New Zealand songwriters. In 1999, King Kapisi became the first hip hop artist to receive the Silver Scroll Award for his single Reverse Resistance. In 2002, Che Fu (and Godfrey de Grut) won for Misty Frequencies, Nesian Mystik in 2004 with their single For the People, and in 2004, Scribe and P-Money won with their huge hit Not Many.
Breakdancing first came to New Zealand via TV, Movies and American Samoa through Western Samoa in the early 1980s. One can see the influence of Samoan culture in New Zealand's appropriation of breakdancing specifically through language. The term "bopping," for example, comes from a Samoan pronunciation of popping, one of the elements in breakdance, where a dancer will move in a stilted fashion, isolating their limbs robotically. After its initial period of popularity, breakdancing fell out of fashion for most of the 1990s. Late in that decade it underwent a revival, and breakdancing stages can be found at events such as the Aotearoa Hip-Hop Summit.
The nearly three decades of Samoan involvement in street dance and rap music in California has significantly impacted Samoan cultural production in other places where Samoans have settled, including New Zealand. The dancing in New Zealand is heavily influenced by American dances.
One reason break dancing became popular was that many youth saw it as a way of being recognized or a channel of identity. Maori youth that had little chance of being recognized for accomplishments in school or sport found break dancing as a new way to achieve recognition. Early on, New Zealand even sponsored a national break dancing competition for young Maori and Pacific Islanders. This helped many young breakers to realize their potential by giving them a nation audience.
Many of the Maori and Pacific Island youth found alternative possibilities to organize their daily lives. Images of street dance arriving via imported American media - such as the movies Flashdance or Beat Street granted a legitimacy to their efforts. This gave a boost of confidence for both Maori and the children of recent immigrants, and the American street dance forms such as popping, locking and breaking created a friendly environment for the Maori and Pacific Islander youth in order to fashion their own styles and codes.
As elsewhere, New Zealand graffiti art takes two forms: bombing (usually large scale and multi-coloured, using paint and generally requiring some artistic skill) and tagging (stylised writing of the tagger's 'tag' name). Both are fairly underground, although some bombers have achieved some positive recognition. In terms of style both are very similar to overseas models, although a Māori or Pacific influence can sometimes be detected. DLT is a Maori graffiti artist.
- Mitchell, Tony. "Kia Kaha! (Be Strong!): Māori and Pacific Islander Hip-hop in Aotearoa-New Zealand." In Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, ed. Tony Mitchell, 280-305. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.
- Henderson, April K. “Dancing Between Islands: Hip Hop and the Samoan Diaspora.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. by Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 180-199. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 200
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- Henderson, April K. “Dancing Between Islands: Hip Hop and the Samoan Diaspora.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. by Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 186-187. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 200
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- Kopytko, Tania. "Breakdance as an Identity Marker in New Zealand." Yearbook for Traditional Music Vol. 18 (1986): 21-28.
- Henderson, April K. “Dancing Between Islands: Hip Hop and the Samoan Diaspora.” In The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. by Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 180-199. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, pg 183
- Kopytko, Tania "Breakdance as an Identity Marker in New Zealand"pp. 21-28
- Dancing Between Islands: Hip Hop and the Samoan Diaspora. April K. Henderson, p.192-194.
- The Next An Impression of Hip Hop Expression A web-based resource that looks at hip hop as a global movement, with a particular focus on Aotearoa NZ and indigenous hip hop.