The Fast Crew: Setting the Record Straight
Author: Melanie Selby (photography by Brendan Callaghan)
To the innocent bystander it would certainly seem that Fast Crew have lived up to their name. I Got, the single which effectively introduced the act, spent 23 weeks in the NZ Top 40, peaking at #4. Their follow up It's The Incredible debuted in November at #8, not long after they settled with one of the three local major record companies bidding for their attention. About the same time they also signed an international deal with Warner Music Australia. All that in the last six months.
In reality however, success for this Auckland group has been slow burning. They have done some hard yards for over four years now - since core members Jerome Fortune, Kid Deft and D-arbio started rapping with their extended group of friends.
"We started off break dancing," says Dane Rumble (his real last name, he assures me), aka Kid Deft. "We used to go to Youth Town and parties and were drunken idiots just break dancing and generally living the hip hop life and just loving the music. Then we got into freestyling and then..."
"Then we started rapping," takes up Jeremy Kent-Johnston, aka Jerome Fortune. Our interview at Auckland's York Street Studios is taking place while their marathon debut album 'Set the Record Straight' undergoes final mixing. These two are the hard working core of Fast Crew, which also includes fellow original Crew member D'arbio and Bex on vocal duties, backed by the scratching of DJ Alias.
"We went to the Naughty By Nature concert and realised we wanted to make music rather than rap. We started stealing people's beats and rapping over them. Then we got sick of that and started writing beats and here we are."
It was a year later when Fortune met Becks (Rebecca Bonner), through a friend.
"I was attracted to her at the time and then I realised she could sing and I thought I'd think with my brain instead!" he says.
As a trained opera singer into a variety of music including jazz and funk, the boys liked the dynamic Becks brought to their act. The fact she's easy on the eye has doubtless done her (and the band even more so), no harm. While Becks initially clung to her classically trained roots and would sing operatically over the beats, according to Deft she has slowly got into the hip hop buzz.
"We corrupted her," laughs Deft.
"We ruined her," adds Fortune.
Not long after Josh Thorne, aka DJ Alias, was added to complete the Fast Crew. This connection came through Josh's brother Sam, a friend of Fortune's from school.
"We always wanted to have someone scratching over the top of our music, to have a DJ element. Josh came along and was really enthusiastic and yeah, he's been awesome," reflects Deft.
The group have since been gigging frequently (mostly at Auckland's Fu Bar), and it was actually back in November 2002 that Fast Crew made their recording debut. The single Mr Radio made it to #15 on the Independent NZ chart. With the assistance of a $5000 NZ On Air video grant they were able to release a video for the song made by Greg Riwai, who has subsequently also been responsible for the very popular videos to I Got and It's The Incredible.
The phenomenally catchy I Got was released in May this year and it was through the video (NZ On Air again came to the party), that Fast Crew seemed to explode onto our airwaves. Since then interest in the band has been huge as the simultaneous pursuit from three local major labels attests.