new zealand electronic poetry centre



Hip hop in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Dean Hapeta (Te Kupu)

First published in Tony Mitchell and Peter Doyle (eds) Changing Sounds: New Directions and Configurations in Popular Music. IASPM 1999 International Conference Proceedings, Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney, 2000.

Kia ora tätou katoa,
Nö Ngati Huia ahau
Ko Paeroa te maunga
Ko Manawatu te awa
Ko Dean Hapeta taku ingoa
Ki ngä Iwi tangata whenua, he mihi nui ki a koutou, tënä koutouno reira, tënä koutou, tënä koutou, tënä tätou kätoa

I just started there by saying 'greetings and good health to everybody in the house and big greetings, large greetings to the indigenous people of this land here'. Ngaati Huia is my iwi, my people, my tribe, Paeroa is my maunga and Manawatu is my river, maunga is mountain.

I'm just going to kick this off, by showing you all a video, our latest video, from the group which I am involved with, Upper Hutt Posse. I'm the leader, writer, lead vocalist and the name of this video is Tangata Whenua. It's all in Maaori language, which is our native language, the native language of Aotearoa. The song is called Tangata Whenua. Tangata Whenua is indigenous people, literally 'Tangata'/person, 'Whenua'/land. It means 'people of the land'. We brought this out a couple of years ago and there's a little story line in there. Basically, we go out eeling, which is something we have done for a long time. Catching eels was sort of a staple sort of diet of Maaori people, before the Europeans came ... And we find to our horror that our eel has been polluted, poisoned. So we go and see our elder and he performs a karakia which people call a prayer. Well it's kind of like a prayer, but a karakia in a traditional sense is more of a command to the gods (atua), to tell them certain things, like stop blowing the wind and things like that. And he (the atua) swallows the factory which we found that's polluting the river and then we go back and we catch some eels and have a feed and everything's good. Throughout the video you will notice that there is a meeting house, a wharenui, involved there. There's carvings. What we do is we carve depictions of our ancestors and they're spread throughout the video, there's constant reference to them, and that's to say that they are here with us right now. That's a Maaori belief that our ancestors are with us all the time, through wider spiritually. So here, let's hit it.


Ko Papatuanuku toku Whaea, ko te whenua ia - Papatuuaanuku is my mother, the earth
Ko Ranginui toku Matua, kei runga ake ia - Ranginui is my father, he is above
Whakarongo mai ki te mea nui rawa - Listen to the thing it's very important
He take o te Ao - A root of the world
He kaupapa o toku whakapapa - A foundation level of my genealogy
Ko IO MATUA KORE, te matua tuatahi - It is Io-matua-kore, the first parent
E ora ! koutou ! toku Iwi, - Live! you all! my people,
Whaia te wairua o te ahi - Pursue the spirit of the fire
Whakatikangia te kupu, te mahi, - Make correct the words, the work
Whakatahea nga hee o Tauiwi, - Cause the wrongs of Tauiwi (the foreigner) to pass away
Kia rere ai nga hiahia, nga moemoeaa, - So the desires, dreams, can flow
O te hinengaro - Of the hinengaro (conscience)
Kia toko ai hoki te whakaaro moohio - So wise thoughts can rise up also 

Taangata Whenua - Ko Te Pake - Whakapapa - People of the land - The durable lineage 
Taangata Whenua - Ko Te Take Me Te Mana - People of the land - The root and the authority
Taangata Whenua - Ko Te Hana O Te Haa - People of the land - The glow of the breath
Taangata Whenua - Te Ahi Kaa - People of the land - The everburning fire

Ko nga mahi a nga Taangata-kino; - This is the work of the wicked;
Kei te whakararu i te ara tika - Disturbing the correct way
Mau tonu maatou ki te maatauranga. - We hold fast to the knowledge.
Ko nga mahi a te Paakehaa; -This is the work of the Paakehaa;
Kei te whakawhaanui i te teka. - Spreading lies.
Me kite maatou i te pono - We must perceive the truth 
Me te whakamaaramatanga - And the enlightening
Kia whakakorea ai e maatou a raatou mahikino - In order for their evil work to be stopped by us
Kia haanguu ai o raatou arero teka - In order for their lying tongues to be silenced
Ka puritia e maatou te ihi, te wehi, te wana - We hold the power, the fear, the fierce energy
Ka mau tonu, ko te aroha - Continually, we hold the love

(Chorus x 1)

Hei kaitiaki ahau i toku Whaea, - I stand guard for my mother,
Kei taku Tuurangawaewae - At my standing place 
Hei kaitiaki ahau i toku Matua, - I stand guard for my father,
Kaaore raatou e moohio ki te mana - They don't know the inherent strength
E rere ana te toto o aku tuupuna - The blood of my ancestors is flowing
I roto i taku manawa - In my heart
E rere ana te wairua o aku tuupuna - The spirit of my ancestors is flowing 
I roto i te ngaringari nei, i te ngaringari nei, - In this unity song, this unity song,
I te tinana nei, i te waiata nei - This body, this song

I have to say to you that this is a hip hop video, I consider it a hip hop video. It's quite different than the usual hip hop video, but that's just how it is. I should say also, I was arrested on Monday, for Wilful Trespass [in New Zealand]. There's been a struggle going on in our country for the last 200 or so whatever years, Europeans have come and colonised and have no respect for our status as indigenous people, and the knowledge that a lot of these problems that we have with pollution and stuff, if they'd come and see us we could deal with it. So people have been occupying land, to get land back which has been taken by the government. And like a lot of this land was taken by the government and [it was] said [at that time, if it ever wasn't used it was] to be given back, through their law. One of their laws, the Public Works Act, which said they could take land but they had to give it back once it was not used for the purposes in which it was taken. Evidently they've taken the land and never given it back, so Maaori have resorted to the last, well no it's not the last step, but this passive resistance of occupying the lands. So I must say it was the first time I've been arrested in the police cells and I was sort of happy to be there. So I'm looking forward to my court case as well, because I will be saying, I will be arguing in my court case that the imposition of English law in Aotearoa was illegal, as is the very court in which I'm standing in. So really you can tell I don't stand a chance in winning. It doesn't bother me, at all.

But anyway, getting back to hip hop and stuff and why I'm here, I thought I'd just read a few poems, some stuff of mine and that's sort of the easiest way for me to explain what it's all about for me, hip hop and stuff. This first one here, is titled ‘Autahi’ which means 'I myself', literally 'the lone one'. And Autahi is actually the name of a star also, the Greeks or somebody call it Canopus. I guess, yeah, that's their name for it. Our name for that star is Autahi, because it's the lone one, it's sort of fallen out of [a star pattern of a waka (canoe)] ... I don't mean to get into all this star stuff anyway, so let's not worry about it. Actually I should say I have three names too, Dean Hapeta, was my name that I was given at birth by my parents. And once I started doing [rap], we formed a rap group, I sort of took on D Word, because I'm the lead rapper and I write the words, so D Word. But now that I have got deeper into Maaori stuff, I Maaori-fied that D Word into Te Kupu, which means literally 'the word'. So that's me: Dean Hapeta, D Word or Te Kupu, which ever you want, I'm good. Anyway this is 'Autahi':

Ko toku whakapapa Hip Hop tenei started from the hoohaa-ness of the way it is 
Bored by the Baldhead shit cause I ain't one 
He Maaori ahau but I's gots roots in Europe too
Told ya'll on Hardcore where I'm from anyway catch up
The Message, Planet Rock ya know, and at primary school Rappers Delight was da shit
Marley and Herbs to Gil-Scott and LKJ
Checkin' out the stores found a Malcolm tape
Spread da word I was DJing back when - Importing sounds cause no-one had 'em
Always been inquisitive like getting to the cause
So all dat shit about blankets for land was scarfen'
So calling Maaori outlaws was a joke
The Autobiography got me motivated - Then Seize The Time was the bomb too
The NZ Wars and just looking at shit here
Relating outernationally the happenings tings and time ya know, anyhow
Started Rhyming in my head over beats from anywhere
But the Dr220 was the first beatbox I used
Next to come was the Tr505 and with the Poly 800 we got it down
Singing live with the drumkit at Pad yeah roots y'all
Conscious lyrics to the fore because I'd been wised up
By myself and da shit I'd heard ya know
Still a breaker cause I wasn't never a faker
Juice Groove Breakers to Twilite Thrillz to ScottParkBloods
1984 Bop-a-lympics but we were bodypopping and breaking
Then the Hope to Bes took the dance off the streets by themselves
Yeah the Pigs were bugging but they ain't leading nothing
I remember breaking in Manners Mall while homies be talking about bullshit
Later in '88 when they thought breaking was dead
I did the windmill on the video for E Tu to show muthafuckas 
I knew what I was doing back when they was in the Hip Hop scene only to look good - Fake ass muthafuckas
The Muthafucking dogs are in the Street on the Woburn overbridge
Yeah tagging and doing burners - Hip Hop don't stop
It was at the Green Door that I kicked my first rhyme in Public
After that I got hooked up with the 808, the 909, the Casio
Upper Hutt Posse in effect
The MC 500 hooking some beats and grooves up too
Dropping Vinyl and video started back then
Hooked up with the Nation and made Solidarity
1990 Farrakhan run it down yeah, don't slip
Bullshit media come against UHP but you see we still be
As we always have been no smiling for no dollars
Kia Kaha come wid da word sound and vision
Hook up the 16 plus lay out some shieet wid da Sr 16, SP 1200
Muthafuckas today whakamohio your knowledge
Ain't shit changed and I'm still about rearranging

So I thought I'd just talk a little bit about that, this little piece here is going on to a solo album which I'm doing now, it starts out Ko toka whakapapa hip hop tenei and whakapapa is a term in Maaori culture which is ancestry. It's frequently used on the marae like if we go to another area, whakapapa will link us. Like I would link myself through an ancestor that could be twenty generations back, and go back to the person that's standing in front of me. That's what whakapapa is, and it's been said that the knowledge of whakapapa is the supreme intellectual accomplishment that a Maaori can get, really. It's the deepest thing. And I like that cause it's true you know, I mean, genealogy is true. And it's used in the Maaori society to link and to stop a lot of wars and fighting and stuff like that as well.

But anyway this is my whakapapa in hip hop in Aotearoa. Probably the first time whakapapa has been used in this sense, I'm not talking about anybody that's dead and I'm still doing these things. But it's sort of interesting like that. And this whole thing is talking about how I'm a hip hopper, talking about break dancing, 'still a breaker cause I was never a faker, Juice Crew Breakers and Twilight Thrills to Scott Park Bloods'. Those are three breakdancing crews in which I was in. And DJing "I was DJing back when, importing sounds, because no-one had 'em", I mean basically the radio and stuff that I grew up on was Bee Gees and all this sort of stuff. You know I wasn't all hooked into someone like Stevie Wonder and Bob Marley till later. And then further on from there Gil Scott-Heron, the political words and that, that really got me going. So I was Deejaying back then and importing sounds because no-one had 'em. And a lot of the time, which was kind of interesting as well, people didn't like the songs I used to play them until they saw the video. Then it was all great, which I find kind of pathetic, with people and music. But ... that's the nature of it today.

And graffiti, is mentioned in there as well 'the mother-fucking dogs are in the street', which is a line out of a Gil Scott-Heron song. I sort of did a bit of a graffiti piece there on the Woburn over bridge. Woburn is a railway station, so I'm just sort of really, that's my whole identity in hip hop telling you where I'm from and of course I'm rapping it, and these are like the four elements, the main elements I 'spose of hip hop culture: the DJing, the graffiti, the rapping, and the break dancing. I've seen, if you were here yesterday, Kirsten played some dancing up there [on the video], that's sort of running man stuff. And I'm sort of like 'whaooh' (Nah, hold up) - the true hip hop dancing to me is the body popping stuff and moves like the windmill, spinning around on your shoulders and your head. Maybe I might give you a quick demo later too, just for the hell of it.
Some other things sort of peculiar I 'spose to hip hop language which is coming out, you might have noticed a line in there, 'always been inquisitive like into the course, all that shit about blankets for land was scarfen'. Now that is probably not sayin' it quite right there, but that's actually 'fucked', backwards.

What they do in rap music now-a-days is they say these words backwards instead of [forwards]. It started out from you know the whole censorship thing and not swearing. So they flip a word and play it backwards. And now the thing is 'ah, we'll just say it backwards'. So that's something new to me. And yeah, that's kinda sweet. And I'm talking about my history in hip hop, like the DR220 was the first beat box I used, that's the first drum machine I picked up, started playing. Then next to come was the Roland TR505 and the Poly 800 that's a keyboard. Then later on I talk about the [Roland] 808 which is a famous drum machine in hip hop, like rap music through to house, jungle, whatever you got now going on. The 808 is a well known one. And also speaking about literature that got me motivated like the Autobiography got me motivated, then 'Seize the Time' was da bomb too, I'm not trying to explain this too much, like when I do these poems, but the autobiography, there's only one autobiography and that's the autobiography of Malcolm X. And most people should know that, if they're listening to this [talk] and hip hop. And then 'Seize the Time', well that's Bobby Seale, Black Panthers. See I was inspired by all of these people, of course.

What else have I got in that song there? Well, I think I'll just move on anyway. Because I've been inspired a lot by black people's struggles in the so called United States, or really the United Snakes of Ameri ... KKKA. I talk about their problems as well, and mixed them with our stuff. The first single which we brought out was called 'E Tu'. Of course, 'E Tu' means 'stand proud'. 'Kia kaha, 'say it loud'. And if you know James Brown, ('Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud'), well there you go. 'E Tu', say it loud.

Let me just bash you out this rhyme here. It's called ‘Hard Core’ and this is the slant we take on hard core hip hop. A lot of people got a thing about hard core hip hop, it's Snoop Doggy Dog and Gangsta rap and stuff like that. Well maybe it is, but hard core for me is ... well this is it here. No doubt a lot of you'se've seen [the movie] Once Were Warriors, [the character] Jake da Muss and stuff like that, the movie which came out a couple of years ago. Jake da Muss is kind of a scary bloke, but he doesn't bother me at all, I've got no worries about him.


Harder than Jake da Muss I kicked his sorry ass
I'm a warrior with knowledge of the past
Words of consciousness flowing from my tongue
I'll string da fucken Ku Klux Klan up one by one
Like Hone Heke don't be no weak heart fool
Nonviolence is a choice it ain't no fucken rule
Baldheads need to heed respect or get a bullet in the neck
Fuck the sellouts that grovel in our face
Remember Dominic Kaiwhata and Paul Chase
Like brother Moana Jackson justice done for self
Burn down that wicked courthouse
Like Dun I'll dis the Queen cause she's a hypocrite
Cause LKJ told me England's just a fucken bitch
I'm a field nigger a warrior night and day
Fuck it! I'm here to stay Hardcore

Check the Independence Declaration
To state beyond question that Maaori are a nation
Like Crazy Horse we know the Whiteman's ways
How the Muthafucka's neva hear our say
Like Kamehameha in Hawaii fighting for the land
Like the Mohawk nation take the righteous stand
Do you remember Maioro, Takaparawha
Disdainful Babylon dem disrespect my mother
Check Malcolm X the heart the influence
Like Brother Syd Te Ahi Kaa we don't sit on the fence
Hear Farrakhan I love the voice of Truth
Marcus Garvey well deep in roots
Like Steve Biko when the odds are down
I'll neva bow my head to the bumpnut clowns
Fuck fitting in 'cos this Babylon system's just corrupt
I'm hardcore till the battles up

The spirit of resistance comes supreme
The wicked nah know what I mean
Like Pilger expose their wickedness
You know what I mean

Just got to cut it there actually, I'm not getting the rest of that verse, at the moment. But that's sweet anyway, that's sort of where it's at, with 'Hard Core', that's what it's all about for me. Well that song there, should bring together some sort of feeling about that for me, my affinity with hip hop, my real gut affinity with hip hop, stems from a shared experience of European, Eurocentric oppression. What's happening, in the so called United States, throughout the Pacific, throughout the world. It seems that you find hip hop coming up there with strong lyrics. And that's what that song there sort of illustrates for me.

There's been a lot of talk about Aotearoa hip hop, hip hop in New Zealand. And although the first song that I, the poem that I read talks about hip hop and sort of says how I'm a hip hopper, I've still got a lot of problems dealing with this concept of Aotearoa hip hop. I've called it a fallacy, I've been quoted as calling it a fallacy and I still sort of actually agree with it, I'm sort of, kinda like that bloke [Andy Bennett] who was talking yesterday about that hip hopper in Newcastle in England, saying that when you rap with the local accent it sounds like shite. It's kind of true, you need these sort of Americanisms coming into the play there. But because they're there it doesn't mean that it's not, you know you're not being real to yourself, you know. It's just as I said before it's that whole shared experience which is so important, and the bonding that we have with, well with indigenous people throughout the world and also black American people. That was illustrated to us in 1990, a Minister of the Nation of Islam, actually one of sons of the founder, Elijah Muhammad, was in our country to sort of have a look around and see what's going on with Maaori people and how they're dealing with the situation, which we are, our cultures suppressed, etc. And he come to a gig and seen [Upper Hutt Posse] play. And he says 'hey, you guys have to come to Detroit and give us your rap music', you know. And so we go over there and performed, it was great to be there, you know, which we did well, and stuff. But when he first came, as a black person from Detroit, and because I had met him before we performed and he sort of like looked at me and us, like, 'You fellas are rappers?' Rap? here?'. He couldn't believe it, you know. And then even when we were interviewed on radio in New York City, WLIB in the Apollo (Theatre) in Harlem, and people are just like, 'What?'. You know when you meet people over there [in the USA], we say we are from Aotearoa, and they're just like [where????]. Then you say New Zealand and still like [what???]. So for them, I don't know, it just sort of blew them away that we were doing it, and you know we'd be talking about Malcolm X in our lines and stuff like that. So, it's something I had to do, you know. And for me being there, rapping there in New York City where it was all created, sort of made me feel like, 'yeah, I can do this', legitimise it in some sense, which you guys are sort of good at working out here.

And another thing as far as hip hop goes in Aotearoa, the more black American you sound, the better it is. And more people like it. That's from the public, that's from people at record companies, that's from people at radio stations. Take for instance a rap song from Che Fu that went to number one. I mean his rap style is reminiscent of Method Man from the Wu Tang Clan. The music uses a well known sample that's been in hip hop for ages, and that's how you get a number one in our country, if it's going to be a rap video, a rap song. So for these reasons and also the reasons that I can't buy in those fat laces in Aotearoa, you know. Hip hop involves not only the break dancing and stuff, but the way you wear, the way you look, what you wear, the way you talk and everything like that, you know. 'I like to believe in it, but I can't buy no fat laces for my new Nikes, you know. A true hip hopper knows wack and ain't afraid to call it, so, so don't tell me hip hop is one happy family. If you go over my piece, I'll kick ass. Dis me, please I've seen the words, Fresh, Hardcore, Wicked, Wild, Homies come out of the mouths of the wickedy, wickedy, wackest!'.
'But back to my fat laces, fuck 'em. I'll be like Run DMC, check your history, if you call yourself a hip hopper, hip hopper ain't built on today, if you knew the history you'll be wild as hell with all the biters, but New Jacks don't know so I'll dis em, if they come near me without knowledge. Any mother fucker who don't got no respect for the old school artist ain't even a hip hopper, dising an old school artist is like dising your mother'. Fact. And you're a Mother Fucker by the way, anyway, is the racist, pig, dog, that fucks our mothers and has fucked our mothers.

Actually I take that word, 'motherfucker' from what the Black Panthers said about, literally, that their mothers were fucked by the slave master. It's not a nice word, and the strength that they have, for me, that black people now use mother ... a mother fucker's everything, mother fucking microphone, you mother fucker's out there, I'm a mother fucker. You know everything, 'can you get me a mother-fuckin drink?'. It's just everything. For me that's just negating all the bad feelings that's associated with that word, really, so that's why I don't bother, I don't mind saying it either. Two more minutes [to talk]. Shit. I don't mean to be swearing so much you know. 'I ain't swearing for the sake of it, it's just a quicker way of saying shit'.
But anyway, hey, I'm just going to cut now and play this tape because I wanted to play you something about where I am at now, and this here mixes English lyrics with Maaori lyrics. And it's a sort of accapella version of a track that I'm releasing. So they're both coming together, so check it out.

VOCAL VISION (bonus track on debut single release)

The single is called VISION, its thematic subtitle is THE CONQUEROR, the Maaori version is called TE KAIRAUPATU, which is Maaori for 'the Conqueror'. 


Ko te matakite nei ko te kairaupatu
Ko te kino kua hinga anana te tärake
Ko te matakite nei ko te kairaupatu e
Ko te kino kua hinga anana te tärake

Ko te matakite ko te kairaupatu o te kino 
Ko te karaehe tahanga, tüpato! 
Kei te tëpu whakamoho, käti! 

Ira-Atua te whakaaro matakite 
Tino whakahirahira te werohanga o te möhio 
Tino whakarawea te hinengaro hihiri 
Mauru te hinengaro whiwhita, kia mau he hiahia
He käkano kia körerotia, he käkano i märohatia 
E hikoi pai ana mätou i te whakaaro-tahi 

Tohatohatia te matakite kia kore ai te takao 
Nö runga nö ngä kupu pono 
Ka hinga te tümanako rauhanga

Ehara mäku te noho ki te tëpu, Kaikaiwaiü 
Ehara näku te noho ki te tëpu, ki te hewa 
E kore te tika ka puta i te kakai homanga 
Tukua ngä ngoi-kore i ngä hiahia huakore 
Ngä ara whiriwhiria mö te ätetenga 
Te puawaitanga o ngä putiputi-tïari 
Waiata mai mö ngä taonga näu 
Körero mai i ngä kupu kia whakatinana ai tätou 

Tetepe, kia ihumanea, purata! turupana!
Ö rätou tikanga tö kite, ka mate ö tömina
Haria mai, kia mahi e, ana!
Nö tätou he taonga, whakapono! kia toa
Te möhio, Tihei Mauriora!
Mehemea kia pai kia koe te tipihauraro
E kore e taea ehe! kia noho koe i te pohewa
Me horapa te tü-whena korou

Vision's the conqueror of necessary evils
pick up no empty cup / sit at no table
To will is divine
to instil is sublime
the receptive mind is ready
the prepared mind is steady
to will is divine to grow to know a seed
to instil is sublime to behold a need a seed foretold a seed unfold
in harmony we stepping free
A vision shared is a vision spared taunts of disbelief unreared
in words of truth inconquerable / deceitful hopes shall fall
Come me sit at no table no bargains no call
come me sit at no table no contented fool
come me see its not got seen from yearnings unclean
unburden da weak heart from fanciful dreams
Chosen paths of resistance
blooming flowers of existence
sing to me the treasures of thee
speak the words for all to be

Got to cut it short a bit there before the rap, but it's OK, you get the idea. So I'll say 'peace and respect to everybody in the house', and I'm out of here.

Last updated 01 October, 2001