Kiwi artists ready to take on the world
There's a new wave of New Zealand musicians ready to conquer heights in places we've never been before. Now I use the term "new" extremely loosely here. I'm aware these artists have been plying their trades for years before these "moments". However, now the time feels just right. Groeni, Spycc & Smokeygotbeatz represent just a few of the exciting airwaves vibrating from Aotearoa.
From what started off as a solo project by Alexander Green (releasing a self-titled EP in 2012), Groeni blossomed into a three-piece band - where Al was joined by James Paul and Mike Issacs. Based in Wellington, Groeni's sound mixes elements of folk, electronic, and downtempo among others. The heavily reverberated vocals help create a warm, emotional, sonic landscape for the listener.
Their first EP in 2015 Hewn was released through Project Moon Circle, a European label located in Berlin. This partnership should see increased exposure for the band who will be looking to take their sound/vision to the next level. Word going round is that they've signed to another label overseas so you best hop on the 'wagon before it takes off.
Groeni played San Francisco Bathhouse later in the year supporting Australian musician Oscar Key Sung. How much did the concert set me back you ask? $5. That's right. $5 to see two incredible acts (the rest of the support cast wasn't bad either) - ridiculous value for money.
I was also lucky enough to catch them again along with Average Rap Band, Raiza Biza and Third3ye at the YGB curated Red Bull Sound Select gig at Meow.
For similar reasons I was disappointed to miss out on the (earlier) May installment of the Red Bull Sound Select concert in Wellington, which featured Auckland rapper Spycc Latu. To be perfectly honest I feel like I've been sleeping on him the last few years. I remember bumping the first YGB tape as well as The Daylight Robbery EP without realising that he had killer tracks on both. I won't make that mistake again.
2015 was a solid year so far Spycc (pronounced "spike"). His collaboration "Other Lover" with fellow Aucklander HIGH HØØPS has reached 232,000 plays (and counting) on Soundcloud and has also helped grant the pair $6,000 funding from NZ On Air. Next to the cut was "Ain't A Phase" featuring one of New Zealand's most successful MC's David Dallas . This tune is blessed with some funky West-Coast vibes thanks to in-demand producer Smokeygotbeatz (straight outta Onehunga). Spycc & D. Dot trade verses on this one, sounding like an ode to '94 Bone Thugs. Both tracks appear on Spycc's most recent offering Wuavé Season, a 25-minute long EP.
In one of the opening bars of "Be You Tiful" Spycc announces "this shit smoother than a shot of hennessy". The jazzy instrumental provided by Smokeygotbeatz definitely backs up this claim (confession - sadly i've never had a shot of hennessy so I struggle to truly "get" this line). As the track begins to wrap up DJ Spell adds the final touch with some nice scratches over a vocal sample .
Hey, remember scratching? In a world full of digitalised beats it’s refreshing to still hear some good ol' fashioned scratches from time to time ↩
"See I'm tryna bring the groove back, everybody soundin' too trap"
To me one of Spycc's biggest strengths is his ability to effortlessly flow and ride to the music, over well-chosen instrumentals (dude has a great ear for beats). You can chuck on his tunes knowing you'll be nodding your head, enjoying his raps without having to overly think or decipher his lyrics. But don't get me wrong - that's not to say he isn't spittin' bars. On Wuavé Season Spycc's songs exude happiness and good vibes - if you aren't enjoying yourself by the end the tape it might be time to see a therapist.
Usually I'd be disappointed to see two tracks I've already heard before on a new EP - however in this case I think an exception can be made. "Other Lover" and "Ain't A Phase" are such strong songs that it would've been a shame for them not to see an official release on some sort of project. Both cases deserve all the exposure they can get .
Other Lover is currently sitting at 235,000+ streams on Soundcloud. That's cool. But wouldn't a milli be even cooler? It's that good. Hell, it gradually became one of my favourite songs of last year. ↩
This provides the perfect segway for my latest favourite producer, Smokeygotbeatz. If Spycc helped put Onehunga on the map then Smokey's the one taking the Auckland suburb global (literally).
Smokeygotbeatz is fresh off a couple of trips to Los Angeles where he worked with a plethora of musicians - some well established artists, as well as some lesser known producers. A quick browse through his instagram page reveals evidence of studio time with YG, Monsta O (Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E.), and TDE in-house producer Tae Beast (among others). One would assume he also had some sessions with production heavyweight Hit-Boy, whom he's already collaborated with this year.
However, the big play was when he secured another production credit for Jay Rock, this time for "Easy Bake" which features Kendrick Lamar and appeared on his second studio-album 90059. This prompted many in the Kiwi sphere of the "Twitterverse" to lose their minds at the collaboration, and surely helped open up many more ears to Smokeygotbeatz.
Smokey first caught my eye in 2014 when he produced the TDE veteran's banger "Parental Advisory". Who the hell is this kid from Onehunga and why haven't I heard of him yet?! The track went on to be received extremely well and initially helped shift some attention back on to the 29 year old Watts native (ahead of his long awaited second studio album). The fact Smokey chose to go and record in Los Angeles recently is fitting as he has a distinct West Coast sound to many of his beats. I imagine he would've been (and will continue be) in hot demand once more artists are made aware of his talents.
It was upon further research that I discovered he'd produced the final track off @Peace's 2012 LP Girl Songs. "Wandering" shows off more of a ballad-side to Smokey with a gorgeous piano melody carrying the track. It's tracks such as this & "Be You Tiful" which help showcase more of a mellow sound to the Aucklander.
2015 has also been kind to Smokey, some of his production credits include:
- Hit-Boy - Automatically
- Audio Push - Jumpin' (Ft. Isaiah Rashad)
- Audio Push - SixtyOneImpala
- Catalyst - Nostalgia
- Spycc - Be You Tiful
- Spycc - Rollin Pt2 (Ft. Paul F)
- Spycc - Ain't A Phase (Ft. David Dallas)
- Jay Rock - Easy Bake (Ft. Kendrick Lamar)
- Born 2 Be A Menace (Ft. King Lil G)
- Big Bad CPT (Ft. MC Eiht)
- Live From Crenshaw Pt. 2 (Ft. Blaison Maiven)
It truly is inspiring to see someone from our country working with artists of this magnitude, whilst continuing to put in work locally (didn't mean to get all sappy there). If you're craving some more music from this guy, why not check out his Instagram page (where he often uploads previews of beats he's working on). One of his latest offerings Born 2 Be A Menace (Ft. King Lil G) is the start of a new series called #WestCoastWednesday and will also appear on his upcoming project/beat tape Coke, Cigarettes & Chicken. It's clear he has an eclectic taste and won't be limited on who he's able to work with in the future. Sky's the limit.
Check this playlist for a combination of Smokey's latest as well as older production credits