Smashproof - Welcome to the Weekend
Author: Andrew Hughes
|Photo - Kelly Newland|
Like-minded MCs Deach, Young Sid and Tyree make up Smashproof, a kind of super group who are currently enjoying the status of New Zealand's favourite homegrown hip hop act. Released late in March, Smashproof's debut album 'The Weekend' is considerably more than just home for a number one hit single - and that itself was no lucky strike. The trio talked with Andrew Hughes about rapping about their world and taking over the local hip hop scene.
Smashproof appeared in 2005, signing to Auckland/US label Move The Crowd Records (MTC). They released a slew of street-level mixtapes here and in Australia, including 'Tales Of The Southside' hosted by international RnB phenomenon Akon, and a follow on series called 'Speed Of Sound'.
The group came into the game as underdogs. At the time there was a strict hip hop hierarchy and exclusive scene in Auckland which revolved around K'Rd club 4:20. The South Auckland crew fought for their place in the spotlight early on and proved themselves through touring and hard work, gaining the respect of some key industry figures including the super well-connected MTC co-owner Kirk Harding.
Four years later Smashproof have sat atop the NZ Top 40 Singles chart for over a month, their social commentary crossover success Brother giving their debut album 'The Weekend' a healthy foundation for release.
'Notify the king of the city, we're coming to take his crown', spits Young Sid on the opening bars of the album, and he is right on point judging by the charts. Brother (which brilliantly includes the counterpoint of North Shore-gone international girl Gin Wigmore) has pushed local and international competition aside in its highly impressive chart involvement, five weeks spent sitting in the number one spot.
Little wonder the song has enjoyed heavy rotation on radio and TV given the publicity generated by the accompanying Chris Graham video that quickly had well over 200,000 views on YouTube. Shot in East Tamaki, the video includes Gin and notably a scene re-enacting the controversial Pihema Cameron/Bruce Emery case, showing a middle-aged man chasing a kid who has tagged his fence. Extensive mainstream media coverage of the video aided Brother to quickly achieve gold single sales, also bringing welcome attention to the kind of South Auckland issues which loom large in their writing.
Tyree wrote and sung the hook in the original version, Gin Wigmore's involvement an afterthought.
"Tyree didn't want to do the part that he's singing, he was meant to do Gin's part", reveals Young Sid.
"We laid our verses down during the day," Tyree picks up. "It was serious…[and then] when it came to the night we were just mucking around, and we came up with a masterpiece!"
"We're more than Brother
because we'be paid our
dues in terms of songs -
we were spitting that real
shit before Brother!" - Tyree
Tyree explains that Brother is more than just a song, and the group's message more than hip hop frippery.
"I had a dude hit me up on Bebo and his wife had just died. He said it was hard for him and his daughter and Brother helped him out. I was touched for real… for our music to help other people out, I'm happy, I'm ecstatic."
'The Weekend' is MTC's most important release to date, there is a lot riding on it for the group and the label. Despite around 30 songs not making the final cut, the album is still a comprehensive 15 tracks. At Harding's recommendation, it is a journey in time, taking listeners through a rowdy weekend where three friends find themselves in some sticky, scary and surreal situations.
The album was recorded in its entirety at Woodcut Studio's in Eden Terrace by Juse, who says the album took around a year to record. Producer Cochise lent his hand to recording, and also helped with the mixing in New York, alongside Benjamin Wollner in France, while Angus McNaughton handled mastering duties.
Breaking in waves, the album begins with the high-energy title track, moving toward more contemplative topics at its conclusion, in the form of Sunday Star-Times and Ordinary Life which shows the group's recognition of their position as influential local leaders.
Following the album's theme concept each track leads into the next, Hot Boy for example leading into The Morning After where Tyree spits, '… that's when the police came, try to put me in chains, I swung and hit one in the face'. Blacking out shortly after, he wakes up with a headache in 'a fucked up jail cell… guess that's what happens when I try fighting with the cops'.