Tracing back the origins of hip hop culture in New Zealand, no conversation would be complete without mentioning NZ’s very first hip hop group, Upper Hutt Posse (UHP) — who will be performing this Saturday 23rd June at the YOT Club as part of their album tour – “Declaration Of Resistance.”
Blending the classic boom-bap sound of the old school with socio-political lyrics, their 1988 debut, ‘E Tu’ marked the beginnings of a movement, sending out a message to the people of NZ: “E Tu, Stand Proud, Kia Kaha, Say It Loud.”
“The inspiration that drove us 24 years ago is the same inspiration that drives us today. “ said frontman Dean Hapeta a.k.a. Te Kupu.
Originally formed as a reggae band including members Dean, brother Matt Hapeta (MC Wiya), Darryl Thompson (DLT) and Aaron Thompson (Blue Dread), UHP represented a voice for marginalized people in NZ society.
“Our music isn’t just for oppressed indigenous people, it reaches out to all oppressed people — people who have had enough of a greed-driven society,” said Dean.
Twenty-three years later, UHP are on to their seventh studio album and have expanded their crew, the group performing as anything from a three-piece to nine-piece band.
More recently, Dean was instrumental in filming a six-part documentary, Ngatahi — Know the Links, traveling to twenty different countries, capturing hip hop culture, street art, and activism among indigenous and marginalized people around the world.
“Ngatahi has been a solid project of mine from the year 2000 to 2012, it was my ticket to talk to activists and my way of connecting with people through hip hop culture.” he explains.
UHP’s latest ‘live band’ studio album fuses rap, reggae, funk, soul, rock and even a little punk. Keeping true to their roots, their narratives are a direct response to uprisings and social justice movements around the world like the recent Occupy movements.
Last visiting Raglan in 1990, Dean says “touring around the country, Raglan is a place you have to get to,” putting out that “we’re socio-politically aware than any other band in the country, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know how to party.”