The legacy of Upper Hutt Posse

Pioneering Aotearoa hip-hop group, Upper Hutt Posse, are reflecting on thirty years of activism in music after their induction into Te Whare Taonga Puoro o Aotearoa, the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame.

Upper Hutt Posse’s legacy has been recognised thirty years after the group first challenged Aotearoa with their activist hip-hop music.

Sixteen members of the group took to the stage at the New Zealand Music Awards and were inducted into Te Whare Taonga Puoro o Aotearoa, the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame as the Tohu Whakareretanga or Legacy Award recipients.

The group’s founder, Dean Hapeta says, “It’s recognition of us as an activist group and I’m happy with that.”

Upper Hutt Posse started in 1985 and among the original members were Teremoana Rapley and DLT (Darryl Thompson) who went on to forge successful musical careers.

The group’s first single, E Tu, paved the way for the strong pro-Māori and activist voice at the core of Upper Hutt Posse.

“That is my life.  Radicalism, the fight against oppression, that’s me, that’s all I want to do.  People who know me know that’s all I want to talk about- or talk about music.  Those are my topics, politics, struggle and music.  I’m happy, I’ve found what I want to do but it’s from long ago, from when I was eight, nine years old,” says Dean Hapeta aka Te Kupu, D Word.

In 1990 the band went to the United States to meet Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, who later went on to lead the Million Man March in 1995.

According to Hapeta, the two people he most wanted to meet in the world were the late Ngā Tamatoa activist, Syd Jackson and Farrakhan.

Rapley was just fourteen years old when she joined the group.  She went on to sing with Moana and the Moa Hunters and as a solo performer.   She also worked in television as a presenter, producer and director.

Currently she works for the Southern Initiative of Auckland City Council in Māori and Pasifika engagement and development.

Hapeta is writing a book based on his life and the ongoing life of Upper Hutt Posse.  He expects there will also be another album in the future.