Interview: NZ Hip Hop History with Spell-Part.2

spell many

Continued on from Part One Spell talks Step Kingz, being the dominating DJ for Bboy breaks in New Zealand, attending film school, making beats, and going to DJ school at Whitireia with NZ Hip Hop pioneer DJ Raw:

HH: So at the time [being put on in 4Corners] did it feel like you were apart of this big movement or was it still just what you did?

S: 4Corners…I didn’t get to know the older cats in 4Corners for a little while; I was just always hanging out with Are-K and Delight. 4Corners were big in H-Town, so yeah I felt like, I’m the man pretty much and I repped it hard. I was young and I had a big mouth… talked mad shit on the net and yeah it got me in trouble…I remember Askew told me off once and I felt real bad. But yeah there was a whole bunch of times, it was just Hip Hop NZ shit.

…Then I joined Step Kingz in 2005 and that was pretty big for me. Kid Kurv [and I] both joined Step Kingz [he was] like my best friend. Tweak and Swerv were the leaders of Step Kingz…I guess they were just like aunty and uncle. Swerv is from the first generation of Bboys in New Zealand that was 1981, 1982…he’s still breaking to this day. He taught me a lot but I think I learned a lot just on my own. Me and Dujon back in H-Town were obsessed with finding breaks… funk and soul breaks.

HH: In New Zealand was there anyone else at that time making breaks mixes, because you did it out of necessity…

S: Yeah I did it out of necessity…nah there wasn’t really any DJ’s that had that sound and kept current with the rest of the world as far as breaks go… At this time I’m still really, really shit. Everyone else thought I was good so that just made me feel like I was good and I kept going. Then in 2005 Omega B who was running Beat Street, asked me to come along and DJ for the Bboy battles. It was a local hip hop event you know they’d have the emcees, usually graffiti and battles. He’d come up one time to Youth Zone and had just seen me DJ’ing and was like can you just do that at the battles. So I did. After that it was every single Bboy battle, like to this day, pretty much, I’ve DJ’d all of them.

HH: And in that whole time has there been anyone wanting that spot?

S: Yup. Heaps, a lot of DJ’s. But because I know what the Bboys want- it’s a very, very particular style of DJ. There’s nothing else like it, DJ’ing for Bboys.

HH: So now you’re technically pretty good, right?

S: Now, I still think I’m pretty average. But yeah, way better.

“My mum told me that once I was taller than her, I could quit the piano, cause I really, really hated it. She forced me to go and I’d cry and shit. Like I really, really hated it.”

HH: Who do you see as your competition in NZ?

S: There’s not really any direct competition I guess. When it comes to breaks, umm, pretty much. There are others. But pretty much as far as breaks go in New Zealand and DJ’ing for Bboys, I’m the guy. Definitely. 100% And everyone else is second choice if I can’t make it to the event. But yeah there are a handful of us that do DJ breaks: Kerb, Rhys B actually there’s a new kid called James in Auckland he DJ’d last week. I think it was his first time but he did pretty good for his first time. Also Dujon, who is one of my favorite Bboys in New Zealand, he started DJ’ing in the last couple of years. Me and him were like the diggers together looking for these breaks; if anything he knows just as much if not more about breaks as I do. He has dates, names and really obscure shit.

HH: So it’s not threatening competition?

S: Nah, not at all. I’ve been the guy since 2005 and so I am the best. I do it the best, I do it well.

HH: Okay 2005…

S: So 2005 was Step Kingz and DJ’ing all the Bboy events and everyone starting to know my name within the Bboy community…I’m bussing and training down to Paraparaumu all the time maybe like five times a year and we’d have crew weekends. Step Kingz were winning all the battles at the time, I was usually DJ’ing all the battles and then my crew would enter them and win them all. I was still heavily into breakin, I just wasn’t doing it and I still didn’t have a job. I was 18 by now, on the dole and getting some paper- spending it on paint and sneakers. I was also making mixtapes and getting good at that. Selling them. I started DJ’ing for my friend Pakkz One from West Auckland, he’s the same age as me. We put out a mixtape together at the Summit 2005 and that got a good response cause we were like the young kids that were doing hip hop. By this time I had been making beats for quite awhile as well.

HH: And how did that occur to you?

S: Um, P-Money’s Big Things.

HH: And then were you like, I wanna be like P Money?

S: Yip. Yip. That CD was also like a CD-Rom and it had his DMC set on it from the World’s 2001…the one where he came third. And yeah I thrashed that, I know that whole set off by heart.

HH: Do you still have this personality where you kind of just consume whatever it is that’s inspiring you?

S: Yeah. I’ve been that way since I was a kid… Like right now what we’re doing, I’m doing it. I’m trying to give you everything. So yeah you’re kind of seeing it right now.

HH: Okay back to making beats…What were you making beats with?

S: Fruity Loops and Acid. I was sequencing my drums in Fruity Loops, bouncing them, then cutting up samples inside Acid. Also I had a drum machine, this Zoom drum machine, it was a piece of shit man it was called a Zoom RT-223. But my dad, I think he bought it from a pawn shop or something, Cash Converters or something and he brought it home one day and was like here look, play with this. I thought it was off the hook but it was just a shitty piece of plastic.

HH: What kind off beats were you making when you started?

S: Chopping up like Chic Corea samples, Jazz and whatever I could find. TV themes, cartoon theme songs, a bunch of shit.

HH: Did you ever get into rap? 

S: Nah, I never got into rap. I was never good at writing down, writing raps. I tried. I wish I could sing actually.

HH: Do you play an instrument?

S: I took piano lessons as a kid, my mum forced me to take the piano and at the start I was really into it like this is cool man shit… I started at seven and did it probably for five years, once a week, I never practiced and for five years I got out of it not even a years worth. I didn’t even pass my grade test. But it definitely helped. My mum told me that once I was taller than her I could quit the piano, cause I really, really hated it. She’d force me to go and I’d cry and shit like I really, really hated it. She was like you need to do something that you don’t like, ‘You can’t just watch wrestling all the time… I’m only making you a stronger person’, she’d say shit like that… But, what I got out of it was my scales.

HH: Okay 2005…

S: All the Step Kingz stuff yeah so let’s skip to 2006, that’s more Step Kingz stuff…Then 2007, I went to DJ school.

HH: Whitireia?

S: Yup. I left home, I was 19 and was like I want to do this, I can get a student loan and I came in the perfect year because they still didn’t have Serato, everyone was still using records. I did DJ school with DJ Raw, moved to Porirua, walked to school everyday. At the start because I was like, ‘I’m already a DJ, I already know everything’, so I was a dick at school. I think Raw probably thought I was a dick, probably thought I was like a know-it-all. But yeah my first term there I hated it and was like fuck I’m not learning anything. Then the second term I was like, nah actually, Raw is at my disposal he’s there to help me so the second term I flipped it around and was like actually this is off the hook and yeah I went hard and we’d go there from 9am to 10:30 at night when the security lady would come and kick us out. So I’d stay there all day and just fucken, scratch…And juggle.

“I knew I needed to move to Wellington. I had friends there and I knew, as far as the music scene in Wellington, it was good and that’s what I wanted to be part of and I needed to start DJ’ing -for real this time.” 

HH: So is that where you…

S: That’s where I got good. Going to Raw’s school. You just have to be determined and hard out enough to want to learn.

HH: How’d you find quitting everything else to move to Porirua and DJ?

S: Fun. Super fun… As far as my hip hop career, my hip hop life, it’s been a pretty good 10 years…12, 13 years.

HH: What’s the biggest thing that you took away from DJ school?

S: Probably wasn’t the actual school itself but it was just me leaving home and moving away, that was the biggest part. I had to do shit on my own; I stayed at Oban in Kenepuru on the hospital grounds. I had a little room, toilet and a little kitchen part. I stayed there for a couple month and there was another DJ across the hall from me, he’d done DJ school the year before, his name was 4Tek…Yeah he passed away, and that was real, real sad. [It] was the first time that someone the same age as me had died and he was a DJ and he was real good. So yeah that was the first time something like that happened to me. He was in and out of hospital I think just trying to get better. The whole DJ school went to his tangi in Vegas and yeah… That was another big thing that happened in 2007 and just the whole experience of leaving home. So yeah I got good at DJ school. I learnt how to DJ properly. Before that I was average, I was not good at all.

HH: What’s Raw like as a teacher?

S: He’s just good at breaking everything down and making it easy for different people to understand what he’s trying to teach… He doesn’t really talk too often, he’s really kind of soft spoken…I made some really good friends there. Yeah DJ school was off the hook. I recommend it to any DJ, old or young.

HH: 2008…

S: 2008 I moved to Auckland and went to film school for one year. I went up to Auckland to SAE to do audio engineering and I went there on an open day and saw the big beautiful studios they had and then I went next door and they were like, we’ll just show you the film department, and I saw that and was like, fuck that I’m gonna do the film.

HH: So you had that thing happen, were you like I’m doing this now?

S: Yeah, that happened and I quit everything else and I did that and got a diploma in film…Actually I entered the NZ DMC’s in 2008 and came third. That was my first battle ever. And I’d only got my turntables that year as well. The level in NZ is super low so for me to get third with the set that I did. It’s kind of… It’s sad. It just showed how shit the level in NZ is overall. Impact took it out that year and D-Form came second, at that time Impact was the only one on an international level, the gap between his set and second place was so big.

HH: Okay 2009…

S: What happened in 2009…Oh I had a girlfriend and she broke up with me, I was heartbroken… I moved to Perth, my parents live there, in-land, in a mining town. But yeah I went there cause I was like what am I gonna do now- I just needed to hang out with my mum for a little while. So I did. And I played the piano every day and I made a lot of music. Beats and beats and I listened to a lot of jazz, it was like a break from hip hop.

HH: Did that scare you a bit?

S: Nah. It was time for a break and I’m so glad it happened. I started watching wrestling and I fell in love with piano again.

HH: And then you got sick of the heat and came home?

S: Man I hated it, I stayed inside the whole time and made a lot of music, hung out with my mum and dad. I needed to chill the fuck out, I did, it was good. All my family thought I was crazy cause we have other family there. I like deleted my Facebook and shit and did like a Swayze ghost.

HH: What made you decide to come home?

S: I knew I needed to move to Wellington. I had friends there and I knew, as far as the music scene in Wellington, it was good and that’s what I wanted to be part of. I needed to start DJ’ing for real this time. So I did. January 2010 I moved in with Omega B and Ayesha and then I started DJ’ing properly…So Omega B and Ayesha are from H-Town and they had seen me growing up and they’d seen me come into Sounds when I bought music off them, they worked there. I got Traktor Scratch and started getting gigs. It kind of happened nice and quickly. But it was all part of the plan. I knew that if I got to Wellington, I’d be sweet. So I moved and stayed in my room for half a year and then I started getting asked to DJ. I got asked by one person and then the next one, then promoters saw me and I started getting support slots.

HH: Do you kind of look at your past two years as setting up to where you’re going?

S: Yup, I’m just laying my foundations down properly. The last two years has been setting myself up.

HH: Do you consider yourself an artist?

S: Yup. If people ask I just say I’m that I’m a hip hop artist.

To be continued…

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