Thursday, June 06, 2013

Upper Hutt Posse – Against The Flow



Upper Hutt Posse – Against The Flow (1989, Southside Records)
"Classic: Kerry Buchanan takes a second look at classic hiphop albums" -  this was a regular feature in Back2Basics magazine under editor Phil Bell (DJ Sir-Vere) - this one is from Sept/Oct 2005 issue. Kerry is one of our finest writers when it comes to hiphop, this is a fantastic read.

"If the Bible teaches us one thing, it is that there is a genesis to all things, that there exists an original source that generates and produces change and influence. In this case I'm talking about a musical form and culture that we now inhabit and live in like a second skin. I'm talking about Hip Hop. Many of you have grown up with and become accustomed to it as if it ain't no thing, as if it has always existed.

Back In the day there was funk; our mother who nurtured us, there was reggae; that spoke to us in a language we intuitively understood. Both came from elsewhere but also from within us; the links with black culture reside within our genes. Its power and ability to influence and control popular culture is tantamount to how we are living now. When Hip Hop first seeped into our consciousness back in the late 70s (Fatback Band, Sugarhill, Prelude) it seemed like a giant arising from slumber ready to take on the world. As the 80s lumbered on, filled with the most inane white music ever produced,

Hip Hop seemed like a saviour and every release from Tommy Boy, Afrika Bambaataa, Soul Sonic Force and Kurtis Blow was devoured like a holy sacrament. Most of us just got the records, some of us became DJs and the bold ones started to make their own form of Hip Hop.

Down in Wellington, Upper Hutt, there was a collective of sorts hanging around making music, Reggae, with a full band. The main cat was Dean Hapeta (enshrined later as D Word) on vocals and keyboards, Matt (M.C. Wiya) Hapeta on bass, Darryl (Darryl-Thomson on drums, Aaron (Blue Dread) Thomson on vocals/guitar, and an extended whanau of other players. Of major old school importance was DJ Rhys B who hangs heavy in our Hip Hop history. Once drum machines, turntables, and programming were introduced, Bennett (M.C. Beware) Pomana, and Teremoana Rapley, joined to form the 'posse from the Hutt'. 



All this was happening around 1985-1987 The posse wrote material with a Hip Hop feel, influenced by Afro-American culture. But they also made the revolutionary jump in placing that culture within their own Maori culture. Hip Hop during this time was a many-headed beast. Pop styles abounded mingling with the forthright politics of ants like Public Enemy with gangsta, frontin' on the horizon. The Posse looked to the ideologies of struggle found in the revolutionary texts of the Black Panthers (anyone who thinks they are Hip Hop should read Bobby Seale's Seize The Time) and found them within it. 

Looking at the history of colonialist imperialism in Aotearoa, they produced their amazing first single 'E Tu' in 1988. Here we have a reinterpretation of history, a narrative that goes against the hegemonic teachings of Pakeha ideology. 'E Tu' promotes the concept of racial pride; instead of the European as the subject of history, the posse project Maori as the important factor. Strong and prideful, they spit lines of protest and action ''There's a lot of people who think they're tough today/ But chiefs like Te Rauparaha would a blown dem away/ Hone Heke he expressed his disgust by cutting down the flagpole, huh/pakeha killed Maori inna Matawhero so Te Kooti exacted it in slaughter/ Yes the Maori battalion inna world war two, staunch on the battlefield."

Fantastic stuff that put politics and cultural pride in command. Here the themes of resistance, perception, and investigation are formulated and remain throughout the Posse's work up to the present day, set against a musical bed of Hip Hop with DLT scratching and the bass pumping.

The Against the Flow album that followed, through the Southside label (1989) was and still is a stone classic, important for being our original Hip Hop release and even more important for the number of great tracks that established the sound of Hip Hop, Aotearoa style.

There are the pop drops that certainly carry an American feel. The energetic 'Do it Like This' with that KC and the Sunshine Band sample, the Hip Hop slide of 'That's the Beat' and the hymn to sports culture in 'Basketball'. There are the staunch political tracks that became their defining element in the monumental 'Dedicated ('check the history, check the pain, this ain't no game') the come correct attitude of 'Clockin' the time' and the call to arms of the title track with it's coda of ''Enough is enough, times up, it's our time."




There is another element that makes the Posse's work so important; the use of rhymes set against sung choruses, something we hear a lot today. It's the use of R&B, of slow jam elements that make a lot of these tracks. Check the feel of 'Trust' and especially the great 'Stormy Weather', which uses Teremoana's soul-tinged voice to wonderful effect. What I'm trying to say here is that the Posse was a soul band as much as Hip Hop or a politically conscious act.

All round, it's one of Aotearoa's finest albums and it really doesn't get the props it should. It's important not just for being the first of its kind or Its sharp political observations but because it features truly great songs. Dean Hapeta is a fine songwriter as his solo work as Te Kupu and continued work with U.H.P demonstrates.

The latest album Legacy is a continuation of Against The Flow in thought and content. He will never give up the fight and neither he should.

This continuation of struggle was put into perspective recently when I spoke to DLT who said about his photo in last months issue ''You should have just said f*** Hip Hop." Always the combative attitude, always clockin' the time, always against the flow.

No comments: