NZ HIP HOP STAND UP - SWIDT '312'
For the members of SWIDT, their debut track represented a new platform allowing them to comment on their own experiences with mental health, masculinity and authenticity from the Auckland suburb of Onehunga — otherwise known as the ‘312’.
Before becoming SWIDT — INF, SPYCC, Jamal, Smoke and Boomer Tha God grew up together through the late-1990s and early-2000s in Onehunga where they were within walking distance of each other’s houses.
Jamal says that the five “were just a bunch of friends making music at home in our bedrooms [and] in our lounges” when they decided to have a crack at a project together in 2014.
With each of the five group members ‘bringing something to the table’, that moment marked the beginning for SWIDT - which stands for ‘See What I Did There?’.
Working on their music for several years, the group’s debut album in 2016 featured a taste of SWIDT’s loyalty to their home turf. ‘312’, one of SWIDT’s first tracks, was a tribute to the trials and tribulations they experienced while they lived and grew up in Onehunga.
The track’s name comes from the bus line which ran between Auckland’s city centre and the Onehunga town centre. While discontinued today, the line was and remains heavily associated with Onehunga itself.
“The memories and experiences keep it alive, but living there now it’s not the same experience,” says SPYCC.
Since they were teenagers, house prices in Auckland’s central isthmus have soared, and this has meant a change to the makeup and experience of living in the 312.
Later in 2017 their coming-of-age album Stoneyhunga referenced the band member’s adolescent experiences growing up in the 90s and directly addressed the ongoing gentrification in their home suburb.
“My mum’s house is like the only state house on the street. Across the road from her house there used to be a massive-as cornfield, that’s gone, it's full-on apartments now,” INF adds.
Beyond Onehunga, the members of SWIDT have boldly confronted issues like mental health, toxic masculinity and stereotyping in their subsequent albums and singles.
“We do social commentary, we speak on experiences, what we’ve seen — a lot of people can relate to that. And I feel there’s a lot of power in vulnerability,” INF explains.
Rapper JessB says that being ‘so relatable’ means SWIDT’s music brings people together authentically and collectively.
Together in their music and shared vulnerability, the SWIDT five ‘love each other like brothers’ with the reassuring knowledge that ‘Onehunga is the best place in the world’.
Hip hop collective SWIDT were all high school friends before forming the group in 2014. Their first project in 2016 was compilation album ‘SmokeyGotBeatz Presents SWIDT vs Everybody’ which included their first breakthrough track ‘312’.
That year, they were nominated for having the Best Urban/Hip-Hop Album at the New Zealand Music Awards. While they did not officially win, the award winner Aaradhna refused to accept what she felt was a discriminatory category and instead offered it to SWIDT as 'the future of hip hop'.
SWIDT’s subsequent official debut album ‘Stoneyhunga’ reached number four on the New Zealand album charts. Soon after came the ‘The Most Electrifying’ EP, ‘Good Things Come in Threes’ and singles ‘Preacher Man’, ‘Seize The Day’ and ‘Bunga’.
INF had released several singles produced by Smoke and also DJ Madd Musik, before helping start SWIDT. Making music as part of the group included ‘Before Tears Dry’ which was partially inspired by how the death of a close family member had affected his mental health.
SPYCC, pronounced Spike, released music prior to SWIDT as ‘Spycc&INF’ in 2012 with long time friend and SWIDT member INF. Band members say that he ‘shapes’ the group's direction.
Smoke or SmokeyGotBeatz, had a long background in professionally producing beats before SWIDT. Prior to 2016, the Tongan/Māori producer worked in Los Angeles where his beats were picked up by big-name artists like Jay Rock and Hit-Boy.
JAMAL is one of the primary DJs in SWIDT and works as an executive producer in the group. His father was also a DJ and inspired his son to do the same after transforming his garage into a studio.
Boomer tha God
Boomer tha God, is the ‘personality’ of SWIDT according to his band members. He attended Onehunga High School in his formative years alongside the rest of the group.