Busta Rhymes is about to play to a full house in Dunedin, and Yudhi Moodley is having an "out of body experience".
Moodley, a young rapper wearing oversized clothes who goes by the rap name Colossal is standing on stage beside his Misfits of Science bandmate Steve McQuinn, aka Optimus.
Tonight, as the Brooklyn rap legend's opening act, the pair have a reason to celebrate.
"It was a couple of months after we hit No. 1 (and) just before our album was about to come out," explains Moodley.
"For me, that was when reality hit that people really liked our shit."
Moodley and McQuinn had spent years working up to that moment, crafting clever rhyme schemes over self-produced rap songs in their bedrooms.
"That entire first album was the result of us not going clubbing, not doing that typical young adult stuff. Just grafting," says Moodley.
That graft led to a chart-topping single in Fool's Love, a bouncy banger about hip-hop materialism that samples Doris Day and Ike & Tina Turner.
Accompanied by a hilarious video that featured cartoon versions of the pair sporting oversized heads, giant baseball caps and baggy jeans, Fool's Love spent four weeks at No. 1 and stayed in the top 10 for three months.
On stage before Busta Rhymes, with the crowd singing their songs back to them word-for-word, the pair felt like they'd made it.
"That was the best time of my life. I was living my dream," says Moodley. "I felt like I had an out of body experience during that show."
Their success came during a boom time for Kiwi hip-hop and New Zealand music, and they kept up their hot streak with a run of follow-up singles from their debut album MOS Presents, including Mmmhmm and Chemical Madness.
Throughout 2004 and 2005, Moodley and McQuinn toured extensively while formulating plans for a follow-up album, one that would add a serious side to their cartoon rap antics.
"People were pushing us into this box, saying, 'Oh these guys make this quirky stuff, that's them'. That second album was going to dispel all that," says Moodley.
By 2006, they were ready to release it. But things had changed. As record sales slumped and downloads took over, record labels were struggling.
The album's release kept getting delayed, and the group grew frustrated as their label underwent a major merger to become SonyBMG.
"It went from months into years," he says. "Everyone working for us to promote the album, they were made redundant. We had to self promo and stuff, even though we were on a major.
"Everything just went quiet. No one wanted to know about it."
The group reluctantly released the EP Can't Leave You Alone, but didn't feel like it reflected the direction they were moving in. Singles struggled to get traction and the album got permanently shelved.
By 2009, they tried showcasing a new look while opening for De La Soul in Auckland, adding more synths and reinterpreting their hits with electronic influences.
But Moodley felt "consumed" by the industry and, combined with personal issues, sank into depression.
"I went into a dark, dark place. (I was) going out, getting completely wasted, getting into fights, all that stuff. There was a point where I had to step back and be completely invisible.
"My entire world was not what it was compared to 2004. I felt at that point, that's when I wanted to leave everything."
Moodley and McQuinn released one last song together. Called Funny Money, the NZ on Air-funded clip flagged their cartoon antics for something far darker.
Featuring hostages bound, gagged and lying motionless on the floor, Moodley says the clip was a metaphor for how the band had been treated by the music industry.
"We felt like we were in a corner and we couldn't get out. I felt hard done by by a lot of people who should have had our backs and didn't work harder for us when we provided the material for them to work with," he says.
"So many people in the industry just want to know you when you're hot, and shy away from you when you're not. It was disappointing because I knew how good that second album was."
That second album remains unreleased. The band quietly went their separate ways after that De La Soul show with McQuinn moving to Melbourne and Moodley shifting to Sydney.
He works there doing "boring stuff" as a service delivery manager but still makes music in his spare time under the time Ruckus Garvey, often using his experiences in the music industry as inspiration for his lyrics.
When he looks back on his time in Misfits of Science, there's only one emotion he feels: Disappointment.
"We never got the recognition. No one gives a shit, we never get spoken about," he says. "The props, they never came."
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