In this episode, Smashproof grapple with issues of inequality, racism, and grief. The episode tracks the creation of brother, the controversy surrounding the music video, and the resounding impact of the song, both in hip hop and in the wider New Zealand society.
When South Auckland trio Smashproof released 'Brother' in 2009, it created controversy. The song’s music video depicted the events leading to the tragic death of Pihema Cameron, who was stabbed for tagging.
“It had to be said in a song and it’s unfortunate that some people got offended,” Smashproof member Tyree says. “It definitely stirred some huge topics that we face in society today and that’s, pretty much, racism.”
The topic hit home. Brother quickly shot to number one, and now holds the record for the kiwi song which has spent the most consecutive weeks topping Aotearoa’s charts.
The hit, with its unusual vocals, catchy beat, and verses depicting life in South Auckland, critiqued systems of crime and poverty in New Zealand. On it, Smashproof spoke about loss, about inequality, about the challenges facing their community.
Hip hop artist Tipene explains Bother’s impact: “in terms of the timing, when they came through, that was speaking to the hearts of people, man. And I understand why that song went on to do what it’s done. It broke records, but it also mended hearts.”
After the single’s release, the crew felt like “the Beatles of New Zealand” when performing. Smashproof member Sid Diamond was surprised at the popularity of such a personal song.
They were a group of three South Auckland teenagers speaking about what South Auckland was like for them and the racism they encountered. But the song stretched beyond this focus.
“You know, it happens everywhere, it’s not just South Auckland,” explains Smashproof member Deach. “Even though we use brother as a metaphor for South Auckland, ‘brother’ is just a metaphor for a small community, or for someone that’s struggling, that needs help.”
And just as the song speaks to places beyond South Auckland it also reaches beyond the time it was written in. The problems Smashproof highlighted in brother are still relevant to New Zealand today.
About the artists
Smashproof is made up of three artists, Sid Diamond, Tyree Tag & Fred Fa’afou who initially met through the break-dancing circuits of Auckland.
Smashproof use their music as a way to express their social commentary and their first album featured the song ‘Brother’ which was a No.1 hit. On the singles chart it held the record for the longest consecutive run at Number 1 by a New Zealand band at eleven weeks, breaking a record previously held for 23 years.
In 2009, ‘Brother’ continued on to win a number of awards at the New Zealand Music Awards; Most Singles Sold, Best Music Video and People’s Choice Award.
In 2009, the group released their album ‘The Weekend’ and continued on to have three consecutive top twenty singles on the New Zealand singles chart.
Each of the artists have released solo albums as well and are all involved with younger generations, whether it’s giving back in their local communities by doing free gigs or being involved in promoting Smoke Free NZ, the group have a very local focus.
Sid was formally known as ‘Young Sid’ and is renowned as one of New Zealand’s best hip hop artists. He grew up in Otara, South Auckland which was the focus of many of his songs.
Sid has released two solo albums, ‘The Truth’ in 2007 and ‘What Doesn’t Kill Me…’ in 2010 which charted for eight weeks and both albums won ‘Urban Album of the Year’ at the Maori Music Awards.
Tyree grew up in Papatoetoe, South Auckland and has released two solo albums, his first ‘Now or Never’ before Smashproof’s ‘The Weekend’ and then ‘Motivation’ in 2013.
Tyree was disillusioned with the music business for a short period where he moved to Australia to focus on family life, however was encouraged by his record label to continue his music and hence his second album was born. He credits taking the time off in that both he as a person and his voice matured, coming back with more maturity to write and record music.
Fred Fa’afou known as Deach started his career as a rapper at school in talent quests at school in Mangere and has evolved into an artist known for fusing hip hop, R&B and reggae in his most recent releases.