The Crusader in 2003, and there's a good reason this West Auckland trio hav' />

It's the first local hip-hop album to debut at No 1 since Scribe released The Crusader in 2003, and there's a good reason this West Auckland trio have made an impact.

They don't sound like any other hip-hop act to come out of New Zealand, and though they might take on the roles of jokers and provocateurs, this double album is a serious statement of intent, with some sombre undertones.

Tom Scott, Haz Beats and Lui Slick are the voice of a generation - perceptive, honest, intellectual and self-reflective.

Their conscious social commentary may be slightly obscured behind a smokescreen of rhyming about familiar hip-hop subjects like drugs, alcohol, prison and so on, but there's no bravado here - instead they're coming at these issues from a fresh angle.


They've casually divided the discs into light and dark, though there are obviously themes and an over-arching musical direction which run through all 21 tracks.

There's a strong jazz influence in the production - contemporary grooves, and often perfectly judged keys and rhodes, samples, horn lines and guitar riffs provide a very appealing bed on which Scott can lay his occasional finger-pointing, self-critique, pop philosophy, and storytelling.

On disc one, Benefit has an upbeat grin to its cheeky positive spin on social welfare - "scamming the Government, laughing it up on easy street" as Scott puts it. The bittersweet childhood nostalgia of Basketball Court, and the common family memories and dreams on Radio are among the honest sentiments that make these tracks genuinely relatable.

Disc two is a slightly different proposition with a more disillusioned, brooding quality. Some tracks almost have a protest bent, but they always manage to keep the story personal.

State of Mind has Tom musing on his feelings about his father's stint in prison, while The Truth is Ugly sees him venting about his failings in his relationship and trying to dissect the mysteries of a modern-day partnership. This makes the melancholy of final track Space all the more potent, as they riff on the troubles of loneliness and mending a broken heart.

Mid-album tracks Listen to Us and Good God see them at their most indignant and fiery, delivering a couple of anthemic-quality pleas to the establishment to face up, while also sounding resigned to the general state of the nation.

Guest vocals from Hollie Smith, Tyna Keelan, Matthew Crawley, Tourettes and Esther Stephens give just the right dramatic kick to both those tracks, while other occasional guest MC spots, and an array of top-tier instrumental guests like Chip Matthews on bass, Jeremy Toy on guitar, Isaac Aesili on horns, Ben McNicoll on saxophone, and members of @Peace (Scott's other project) Christoph El Truento and Brandon Haru are employed with real skill and great judgment.

Stephens is a true standout, and adds her smoky-toned R&B talents to four different tracks including the classily smouldering Plastic Magic, which may be one of the best musical evocations of a drug trip this generation has produced.


The 21 tracks walk a delicate line surrounded by joy, humour, and misery, a beautifully eerie picture of optimism and condemnation which is undoubtedly a local hip-hop classic.

Stars: 4.5/5
Verdict: Bold and beautiful jazz-influenced hip-hop debut, delivered with a wry smile.