Dei Hamo “We Gon’ Ride”

2003-dei-hamo-we-gon-rideWell, there’s a lot going on in this video. The video starts with a prologue – Dei Hamo and pals sitting in a car parked in the pedestrian area outside the Britomart Transport Centre. After declaring that there’s no “new sound”, the four discover that – hey – you can make cool noises with things inside a car. This suggests that none of them have ever been a bored kid waiting inside a car.

After a minute of that, the song proper kicks off. Most of the action takes place in and around Commerce Street in Downtown Auckland, right in front of the bookshop selling cute Asian stationery. There are cars galore, along with boys and girls who are just as much into cars as Dei Hamo is. He’s pestered by the media (with one reporter played by Jane Yee) but just as things seem about to get boring, they instead get weird.

There’s Dei Hamo and Chong Nee dressed as military generals standing in front of a big wall of shiny mag wheels, Dei Hamo in white-face as Paul Holmes having a dig as the notorious “cheekie darkie” comment, Dei Hamo relaxing with an underwear-clad model in an RV. And then there’s Matthew Ridge excitedly boogieing down with the boys.

At the time the video came out, it all seemed very exciting. As Duncan Greive says over at Audio Culture, this is what big flashy hip hop videos were like at the time. It takes a lot of effort to make a video like this (the video reportedly cost over $50,000), but Chris Graham and Dei Hamo pulled it off. And yet… as Greive also observes, “something about the cumulative impact feels a little overblown – like, this is New Zealand. We can’t possibly afford to live that life.”

It looks like a world created for a music video, rather than an actual depiction of a blinged-out good life. The song was number one for five weeks, in that remarkable time in 2003-2005 when eight New Zealand hip hop songs made it to number one before the trend flipped over to reality TV show winners. And now, 10 years later, the world of “We Gon’ Ride” seems like ancient history, that time when entertainers used to dress up and dance around cars.

Best bit: Dei Hamo holds up a fat wad of Rutherfords.

Director: Chris Graham
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

And with this blinged-out extravaganza, I’ll end the year. 5000 Ways will now take its annual break, back on Monday 20 January right in the midst of that particularly fruitful time for New Zealand music in the pop charts. As always, thanks to you, dear reader, and to everyone who’s commented and shared stories, and to all the people who’ve tracked down old videos and got them online. Merry Christmas, happy New Year and see you in 2003!

  • Robyn

King Kapisi featuring Che Fu “U Can’t Resist Us”

2003-king-kapisi-u-cant-resist-usA giant crown-shaped cloud overs above the setting of this hip hop video: it’s a farm. It’s not the first time a New Zealand hip hop video has used this unconventional location. In 2000 Dark Tower’s “You Beauty” threw out the symbolic hip hop rulebook and filmed on a farm.

But while King Kapisi, Che Fu and friends have just as much fun down on the farm, their rural adventure is more focused and more… sheepy. Directed by Chris Graham, the video makes bold use of the landscape and the photogenic farm life.

The video starts with King Kapisi burst out of the middle of a flock of sheep (who have a much happier life than the sheep in the Skeptics’ notorious “AFFCO” video), leading to a livestock auction taken by former All Black Michael Jones. The video is full of cameos, with Inga Tuigamala, Imon Starr (of Rhombus), Oscar Kightley (recently seen in the Ill Semantics “Watching You” video), Nathan Rarere, director Chris Graham, and the late great Peter Fatialofa.

The auction over, King Kapisi hurls around some nunchakus made from jandals, before joining Che and Imon in the woolshed for some shearing. There’s a surreal break in the middle of the song where the three talk in shrill-voiced Kiwispeak on a smoko. “Oh, fair suck of sav, man,” says Che.

And there’s more fun to be had. Che and Kapisi go for a hoon on a tractor with a booming sound system, then as night comes, the younger dudes go on an eel hunt.

Artists go to so much effort trying to make Auckland seem so much more gritty and urban than it actually is. It’s really refreshing to see a video that happily abandons that world and goes in the opposite direction – a day in the countryside.

Best bit: Che Fu flouting the “No lying in wool bins” sign.

Director: Chris Graham
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… it’s a bloody big truck.

Bic Runga “Something Good”

2002-bic-runga-something-goodFirst, two comments from YouTube –

The uploader’s description: “Enjoyable video from 2002 which should be seen more often.”
The top-rated comment: “She comes from the lil country that could…NEW ZEALAND!”

And they both say it all, ready. It is indeed an enjoyable video, and its full of feelgood New Zealandness that goes down a treat with whatever sports-related national pride is setting the country on fire.

The video sees Bic on Cuba Street in Wellington, which had been dressed to make it look even more groovy and boho than it normally does. When the Bucket Fountain goes, it’s not a wet, messy splashstravaganza, but a joyful, light-catching water display. The video was directed by Chris Graham and was nominated for Best Video at the 2003 New Zealand Music Awards. It has a really sweet, warm Wellington-on-a-good-day feel to it, and Bic looks lovely.

But in this pleasant setting, Bic makes an alarming discovery: she’s invisible. For a professional performer, this must be an absolute nightmare. The nicely dressed businessman ignores her. The elegantly dressed kuia ignores her. The hipsters on bikes ignore her. All the stylish people of Wellington are ignoring Bic. Not even her NOM*D belt will render her visible.

What does it is the innocence of a child. A little girl happily accepts Bic’s offer of flowers that she apparently steals from a street vendor. This awesome moment inspires Bic to lift off into the air, causing all the people on the street to finally notice her. And it’s just as well that she’s wearing shorts under her dress.

But Bic’s not quite one of us. She can be seen, but is still semi-solid, as a taxi driver discovers. He seems quite upset by having driven his car through a pop singer, but Bic is on hand to comfort him. She then sets off on foot (best to stay off the road), and is followed by a group of smiling women. This leads her to being given a bunch of flowers by a young boy, at a weird pedestrian crossing where people queue in single file as they wait for the green man.

But we never find out if Bic becomes a solid, visible human, or if she just learns to live with her etherial state. Ah, such is the enchanting world of “Something Good”

Best bit: The Christophers for Crystals shop, a surely a case of nominative determinism.

More: This old-school Bic Runga fansite has a little bit about the video’s production.

Bonus: The single’s B-side was a remix of the song by Submariner, feat Tha Feelstyle. Peter McLennan has made a video for the track, using footage from the original video and clips of Tha Feelstyle from the “Hibiscus Milk” video.

Director: Chris Graham
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… home, work and the third place.

Rhombus “Clav Dub”

2002-rhombus-clav-dubThe “Clav Dub” video plays tribute to the legendary New Zealand film “Goodbye Pork Pie”. With the group filing out of a local WINZ office, they spy a familiar yellow Mini that the original Blondini (Kelly Johnson) has left while he pops in to a dairy. Enticed by a big-arse speaker in the back, the trio take off in it. Blondini seems a but miffed, but, well, he’s experienced worse.

Rhombus are rather excited with their new wheels, and go for a good hoon around downtown Wellington. (And they even go past my old Wellington flat, which is the fifth video to feature a former abode of mine.) As they drive around, they drop off flyers to an event. Blondini finds one of these. He’s on their trail.

It’s a very Wellington video. As well having as cameos from Fat Freddys Drop and Trinity Roots, the video takes in scenes from central Wellington, including Courtenay Place, Cambridge and Kent Terraces and a bit of Wakefield Street. There’s no attempt to dress it up as New York or a random cool city. This is Wellington.

The group end up at the Centennial lookout atop Mt Victoria, ready to have their big party. Everyone shows up, even a few comedy policemen (and this is exactly the sort of adventure that has dancing cops). Blondini also shows up and take back what is rightfully his – the Mini; laughing in to the night.

This was Rhombus’ debut and the song made it to number 16 in the charts, with the video winning Best Music Video at the 2003 bNet awards. The video takes the cheeky humour of the original and plays off it, creating their own original adventure in Wellington. It’s a bold introduction to a group that would become a popular live band around New Zealand.

Best bit: the legendary Embassy cinema advertises a screening of Star Wars.

Director: Chris Graham
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… primary colours all over the place.

P-Money feat. Scribe “Remember?”

2002-p-money-rememberOh, remember those days? When life was a bit easier? P-Money and Scribe do. The video has a bit of set-up to do before the song can start (a whole minute of set-up). First we see Scribe doing some freestyle rhyming with his circle of mates, as director Chris Graham’s camera circles the group. I get the feeling this was a spontaneous thing that happened on the day of the shoot.

Then the proper set-up starts. P-Money and Scribe are sitting at a park bench watching some kids playing, remember the halcyon days of their youth. Their dialogue seems improvised and as a result it doesn’t sound too clunky, and conveniently ends with Scribe saying “I remember…” as the song itself starts.

Scribe has some issues with a friend of his, who has evidently betrayed him. They’re engaged in a tense stand-off on Queen Street, but we also see a flashback of the pair play-fighting as kids. Scribe also spies a pretty lady in a record store, so that’s setting up a triangle of drama.

Scribe falls in love with her, leading to a rather nice shot of the couple cuddling on the cool old benches on the K Road overbridge, with the colourfully painted concrete and the city lights in the background.

It turns out that the girlfriend had an unpleasant childhood in the form of a dodgy uncle who molested her. This is a pretty heavy topic to have in a music video, but I think it’s handled well, with more implied than is actually shown.

But I’m most interested in how much of the video is filmed in parks. It’s like a park is a place where kids can go to escape their family home, but also a place where the adults can get away from all the pressures of their complicated lives. And while the city scenes are always full of drama, it seems that only good things happen in the lush green parks.

Best bit: Scribe’s pash – a most unexpected occurrence in a music video.

Director: Chris Graham
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a casting call.

Trinity Roots “Little Things”

2001-trinity-roots-little-thingsThis video can be simply summed up as an old man reflecting on his life. But it’s oh so much more than that.

People love this video. They love it hard. Looking at online comments, this is a video that homesick expats use to remind them of Aotearoa. It’s a video that reminds people of their absent friends and family. It makes people feel proud to be from New Zealand. One YouTube commenter was so moved that he pasted the haka as tribute.

At the heart of the video is acclaimed actor Wi Kuki Kaa. With most of the video being a close-up on his face, he effortlessly moves through a range of emotions. And here’s the really clever thing – he is subtly moving in time with the music. A twitch of an eyebrow, a quiver of the lip moving with the cut-up beats.

The video begins with the busy preparation of a hangi in the front yard of a villa, set some time in the early 20th century. The camera slowly moves in and we see the old man sitting on the porch. Zooming right into the man’s eye, reflected on his pupil we see memories of his past – courting his sweetie and walking with his grandfather.

Back on the porch, family members come to hongi and chat with him. There are moments of happiness on his face, but there’s still a deep look of a connection with the past. One young women seems to say something harsh that upsets him, bringing tears to his eyes. And seeing an old man cry is such a horrible thing.

But comfort comes with his mokopuna. A grandson leaps up and hugs his koro, bringing a smile to the old man’s face. The camera slowly pans out on the same house but it’s in contemporary times (complete with a loft conversion) and it’s bustling with friend and family, again preparing a hangi.

Chris Graham had directed a few funded videos before, but “Little Things” was the first that went from being just a promo video to a moving creation that still has a deep effect on audiences.

Best bit: the big smoking hangi pit.

Director: Chris Graham
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… waiting for the pizza man.

The Nomad “Where Are You”

1999-the-nomad-where-are-youAfter Salmonella Dub’s earlier excursion to the Gathering, The Nomad’s video also uses footage from the popular turn-of-the-millennium festival. Specifically it’s G2000 which saw in the new millennium, and is also known as the one where it rained and rained and rained.

The video, directed by Chris Graham, uses footage from the Nelson area festival as well as stuff shot around Wellington. The scenes are sliced into thin horizontal or vertical stripes, directing the focal point to particular scenes, whether it’s a sweeping panorama of the festival, a shirtless man standing in the mud or downtown Wellington.

Digital effects allow festivalgoers to appear in front of different backgrounds, even overlapping with Wellington. There’s a sense of real life impinging on the escapism of a vacation… and vice versa.

The scenes of Wellington contrast with the Gathering. Wellington is dry. People look more purposeful and less out of it. The breakdancing happens at a specific time at a specific place, where as at the Gathering, hey, anything goes. In Wellington, the graffiti is traditional and conservative; at the Gathering people make art by smearing mud over their bodies.

But as the main refrain of the song goes, “All you have to do is be you.” Whether sloshing around in the mud at festival or hanging out in Cuba Mall is your thing, all you have do to is do it, man.

Best bit: watching people getting muddy from the comfort and privacy of my own home.

Director: Chris Graham
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… the windows need cleaning.

Fur Patrol “Now”

1999-fur-patrol-nowThe video opens with the startling image of Julia Deans with glowing orange eyes, holding up a comedy voodoo doll. Just what is going on here?

Before any answers are given, the video flips into a parallel universe. Fur Patrol are performing in front of a large audience at Wellington Town Hall (or possibly Auckland Town Hall). It looks like it might be part of a festival rather than a headliner gig, but they’re still playing to a huge crowd who are loving it. [Commenters Lisa and Sam have figured it out. It was a Victoria University orientation gig at Wellington Town Hall in March 2000, where Shihad and HLAH-side project Baconfoot also played.]

The video is directed by Chris Graham, whose work we’ve previous seen with Upper Hutt Posse’s “Dread on a Mission” video and Te Kupu’s “Vision” vid. With “Now” he both captures Fur Patrol’s live energy and gets a bit arty with the strange world.

Yes, back to the strange world. There’s Julia lookin’ fierce, wearing a tracksuit and standing in a not-quite-natural world that seems inspired by Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” video. But wait – it’s not just one Julia, it’s two, a green-screen clone to add vocal harmony. There’s also a grumpy-faced small girl with two dolls, a snake, and the other Fur Patrol members hanging out with dogs.

The band also gets to have fun with great balls of CGI, including one that looks like a Swiss ball with a CGI baby surrounded by an orange plasma glow, and two smaller balls with Julia’s eye and lips. It’s a bewildering world of crazy. Parts of the CGI feel like someone mucking around with all the cool new toys in the edit suite, but other stuff – like the two Julias – just feels normal.

This all makes the live footage seem a little dull in comparison, but there’s one moment from the town hall that stands out. Julia does a sideways kick, revealing that she’s wearing a skirt over trousers – long flared trousers with a tunic-like top hanging down. It’s like hitting the late ’90s/Wellington style bingo.

Best bit: the clever cut from Julia reaching towards the camera to a concergoer doing the same.

Director: Chris Graham
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… pucker up.

Te Kupu “Vision”

Dean Hapeta, the frontman of Upper Hutt Posse went solo as Te Kupu – the word. “Vision” is a smooth tune reaffirming his social and political stance. Te Kupu’s vocal style goes from a raspy growl to a spoken word drawl to cool chanting.

The video, directed by Chris Graham, focuses on Te Kupu in various locations around Wellington. Wearing a trenchcoat, sunglasses and beret (Cold War chic), he hangs around an alleyway where a small girl joins him, nicely diffusing his menace. But just in case you thought he was too soft, he sets fire to a table. And it’s a hearty blaze, making me wonder if there was any nervousness at the time on the video set.

We also see Dean in casual streetwear, sitting outside the old National Museum building. It now houses Massey University, but back in 1999 it was empty, with the museum having moved down the hill to its new home at Te Papa. It’s all highly symbolic – an angry young Maori man holding ground outside an empty symbol of a colonial institution. There are also scenes of protest, breakdancing in downtown Wellington and an urgent run along under the motorway.

We find Cold War spy Dean also hanging around an abandoned industrial site, all overgrown and exposed. Again, it’s a good symbolic location, a sign of something from a previous New Zealand that doesn’t have a place any more. Well, either that or it’s just a cool place to shoot a music video.

Best bit: the giant fiery flames of the table.

Director: Chris Graham
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision


Next… poo.

Upper Hutt Posse “Dread On A Mission”

“Babylon, stop your murdering!” Upper Hutt Posse are dreads on a mission with this politically charged reggae number. The video is directed by Chris Graham and it visits a number of landmarks including Parliament, Wellington railway station and on One Tree Hill with an axe. But there are also scenes on a beach, in the bush and at a marae.

They seem most staunch and at ease when they’re in the rural or coastal areas, far away from Babylon (i.e. the police, the justice system, government). But if the Posse are in the middle of the big bad city, rapping outside the Auckland District Court, they still hold their own.

There’s a confrontation at a train station. A dreadlocked guy bumps into a crowd of skinheads who aren’t happy. He’s outnumbered, but he stands strong and we catch glimpses of the invisible posse behind him. The skinheads beat it. Upper Hutt Posse has a posse.

Best bit: the shirtless MC bothering a man in a suit outside the District Court.

Director: Chris Graham
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… baby, baby, baby, oh?