Questions&Ayebro: DJ DLT
AYEBRO had a convo of sorts with a living pioneer of the homegrown scene, Darryl Thomson AKA DJ DLT. Read up on his personal views about Hip Hop and its inception here in New Zealand to where he believes its headed with a few notable fillers and to-be schooled up parts in-between to keep us all informed – Nga mihi to th’native for his contribution, kia ora
- Describe the Maori people of Aotearoa [New Zealand] pre-Hip Hop?
First of all let me say everything I’m about to say is from my perspective only – I do not and can not speak on behalf of anyone else.
I was a second generation urbanised Maori. Maori are into everything, there are Maori folksingers, Maori country and western singers and at that time lots of Maori showbands. It was only natural that Maori embraced Hip Hop with such vigour. Maori pre-Hip Hop were a labour force as the system did not consider us worthy of the higher end of the societal spectrum. Whenever Maori had dreams of achieving high we were simply knocked back to the back of the classroom by the system ie; considered sub-human. Maori were great at sports, really strong and willing to give everything a try – we call it haututu. Following on from the civil-rights movement in America, Maori were influenced enough to create groups including Te Ahi Kaa, Polynesian Panthers and Black Power – these groups influenced a percentage of the people. We actually drew our influence from our ancestors such as Te Kooti Rikirangi, Hone Heke, Te Rauparaha, Tetokowaru, Te Whiti and Rongomaiwahine etc…
In the early 70’s, I was a child, I lived for being with my family, swimming, staying up late – the usual things young children do – like wanting to be an astronaut, a pilot or driving a fire engine.
- What are your first accounts of exposure to Hip Hop?
The date is 1977, I was 11 years old, I attended a disco at the Scouts Hall on a Friday night with my older cousins. We danced to classic disco and funk songs of the era, The Silvers, The Commodores, The Jacksons, Earth, Wind and Fire and Heatwave and of course the sound track to the Car Wash movie. That night, the DJ played Flashlight by Parliament and my body movements changed to this song. To me, this is when I first met Hip Hop – I became a robot on the dancefloor. Another introduction was through local basketball teams and their tracksuits and basketball shoes because I came from the hood, leather shoes and slacks were not an option so by the early 80’s when I saw Hip Hop in effect I knew I was already there such as the scene out of Flash Dance when the Rock Steady Crew get two minutes of fame and also Malcolm McLaren’s Buffalo Girls’ Video. I first met grafitti in 1979 after seeing the Warriors movie – I didn’t pick up the can for another three years but when I did I remembered the film and made the connection. One night on television in NZ, they played the Style Wars documentary and the next day NZ grafitti was born. There was 100’s of us overnight. I met dj-ing at the roller-skating rinks of Napier in the late 70’s – even though the djs were white and playing white rock and roll, the sound of loud bass and mobile dj units resonated with me. I moved to Wellington in the summer of 1983 where I met Dean and Matthew Hapeta and Wikingi Hori and we started the Juice Groove Breakers Crew – this was the core that was to become the Upper Hutt Posse. We were not the only crew, I know of at least 10 other crews that were in the greater Wellington region at this time.
- Who inspired you from the very beginnings of Hip Hop and why?
In the very beginnings of Hip Hop we were inspired by Planet Rock. In the late 70’s my mother brought home a Kraftwerk album. When I heard Planet Rock I knew the sound already and was freaked by the familiarity of the sample – it buzzed me out that I recognised it from another time. Then came the Electros, they were a bunch of compilation albums – these records fed us through our breakdancing times. At the same time, we were listening to Curtis Blow, Cold Crush and Grandmaster Flash. The latter in particular was to become very influential as it introduced us to the struggle. The message rocked my world because it showed us that the struggle (oppression, colonialism, racism) was universal, the same but different. Already being heavily influenced by reggae music and the injustices against indigenous people it was a perfect match that raggamuffin hiphop would speak to us in volumes with such artists as Brother D, Asher D and Daddy Freddy and on to KRS1 and Boogie Down Productions. Raggamuffin Hip Hop was the perfect blend of two genres that suited my feelings. I believed Bob Marley was a Maori from the Coast so we grew our dreads and we adopted some of the life-style values of the Rastas. The message by Flash and the Five resonated deeply with Maori people of my generation.
- How important was the Patea Maori Club – Poi E record?
It wasn’t. We were too busy running the streets at night, to be thinking about kapa haka. In saying this the Poi E video featured one of our brothers from our world popping and locking which gave props to our world ie; Maori Hip Hop was on video – Kia Ora Dalvanius. After seeing the documentary on Poi E, I have a greater appreciation of what Dalvanius was doing ie; spacey sounds, in retrospect we were on the same tip.
- Where and when did Upper Hutt Posse (UHP) come together?
The Upper Put Posse was created in the garage at Dean and Matthew Hapeta’s house in Upper Hutt. A group of us who regularly hung out together literally started banging on pots and pans, we put a blanket over the JVC beatbox and started recording our jams. The UHP began its life as a reggae band – a mentor and a friend from Upper Hutt who helped us maintain our instruments gave us a drum machine and the rap group the Upper Hutt Posse was born. We wrote a song called Hard Core Hip Hop as well as E Tu and No Worries in the Party Tonight and we also did a cover of Boogie Down Productions 9 millimetre. We performed in 1987 at the Cricketer’s Arms Hotel in Wellingotn and never looked back.
- How much influence did Hip Hop have on Maori culture or vice versa?
When you’re 17 years old you are just trying to get shit off your chest, you are not trying to save the nation but as we studied the lyrics of rap songs we began to work it out so we re-educated or defragged ourselves into real history. We read books such as the auto-biography of Malcolm x, Soul on Ice by Elridge Cleaver, Cease the Time by Huey P Newton, Martin Luther King’s book, Ghandi as well as great books from Aotearoa including, Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou, Pakeha Maori, books on Hongi Hika, Te Kooti, Parihaka. We felt no reason to imitate the closest thing we got to imitating was that E Tu was our version to Our Message. We were influenced by Hip Hop but we didn’t want to be black people – we took the metaphor of it. It seemed to us that a lot of our friends and neighbours of the time were ignorant of the truth, that’s how colonised our people were and it frustrated us hence using the vehicle of rap to re-educate and challenge the colonial mindset. In our quest to free ourselves, we showed others around us there was another way.
- What was the drive behind forming Dam Native?
Native Bass/ The Dam Natives was formed using the same model as the Posse but in Auckland. When I moved to Auckland, I found that Maori were third rate, gun shy – not all, but lots, so I gathered a crew of guys who were in my immediate vacinity and created a crew. Most of them were talented musicians but with no outlet. Dam Native became popular due to live instruments with rapping – good drums, killer bass and rock guitars with scratching and rapping. We looked good visually (we filled the stage as opposed to a guy with a microphone and a guy with turntables) the general public at the time seemed to respect instruments more than just beats and rhymes. We built a big following and had the opportunity to influence another generation of polynesian kids coming up. Highlights include packing out nightclubs and making non Hip Hop people get down. A bunch of festivals all around the country making the Hip Hop people and non Hip Hop people jam together to the same shit which was not an easy task in 1993 Auckland. A highlight for Natives was no compromise in everything, we wrote songs about tino rangatiratanga and we wore our normal clothing, our everyday look was our thing – poor brown funky and hungry – this was pre Wu Tang Clan.
- Why do you think Hip Hop resonated with Maori and Polynesians alike?
Maori are Polynesian – there’s the answer right there, it brought us together after being divided and conquered we became one – a skilled based society which included non-polynesians.
- Which direction is Maori Hip Hop headed in and who are the keepers of today?
Hip Hop does not discriminate; there is Polynesian cheesy rap, there is native language rap, there is gangster rap – the great wheel keeps on turning. I love it all – there’s a very thin line between being influenced astounded, believe it or not I even enjoy mumble rap lol. What I have enjoyed seeing develop recently is kapa haka and hip hop – it is the inevitable that these two shall meet and influence generations to come.
- Any final thoughts in closing?
All goods ?