Smokey, Spycc and INF, three members of five-strong rap crew SWIDT, are perched on a bright yellow chair in the middle of Onehunga Mall Rd.

Their gathering has sparked a bit of a scene.

Fans stop and stare, ask for selfies, and yell out of passing cars: "We love you SWIDT". In return, the trio are all smiles, waving back and happily posing for pics with anyone who asks.

This is their home. These days, in this part of town, SWIDT are celebrities. And they've returned the favour by dedicating their debut album, Stoneyhunga, to their home suburb.


Released tomorrow, Stoneyhunga is a blistering sonic attack full of throwback references to Onehunga circa 2005. At various points it references "rat tails, high tops, Chuck Taylors, white socks ... knife fights and Counter-Strike" and "having scraps on the way home" from parties.

During Little Did She Know, a song about hiding things from your mum, INF raids a pantry during a party for a feast of "Milo and potato chips".

Its artwork fittingly features the group sitting on gaudy gold thrones placed around local landmarks, casting them as the suburb's unofficial kings.

Yes, Auckland's underdog suburb is getting its very own rap album. It's set 12 years ago, before gentrification took over Onehunga, and caused house prices to soar.

That makes Stoneyhunga a first: a documentary charting the changing face of Auckland, told via battle raps.

And SWIDT couldn't be prouder.

"This is our neighbourhood. This is where we're from," says Spycc (it's pronounced "Spike"), aka Daniel Latu. "This is our story."

SWIDT were born here, grew up here, and started rapping here, trading rhymes together while blasting beats from under the stairs in their school library. "I had a CD of beats, computer speakers in my bag, I'd take them to school and blast them in the library. I didn't care," says INF.

Smokey, Spycc and INF, along with Jamal (Jamal Muavae) and Boomer-the-God (Asher Schwencke), watched the changes happen to Onehunga right in front of them. They're the perfect people to document the suburb they remember.

But, perched together on that yellow chair, itself an Onehunga icon, they're not entirely happy with what they see.

"That place there - that's new," says INF, or Amon McGoram, one of the group's two main MCs, pointing at a shop across the road.

"It used to be $3 combos - cheeseburger, chips, and a can [of soft drink]."

Now, the whitewashed shop sells noodles. Has anyone tried them?

There's laughter. "Nah," replies fellow frontman Spycc. No one has.

That's not all. Earlier, walking down Onehunga's main block of shops, we passed a gym that used to be the area's biggest bank. SWIDT's favourite movie store has disappeared, replaced by one of the area's busiest cafes. They even remember a time before thrift mall Dress Smart showed up, and the street in front of us didn't exist.

Cafes. Gyms. A mall. Parking issues. Cars bumper-to-bumper. Flash noodle shops. Now, Onehunga resembles many other parts of Auckland. We could be in Otahuhu, or Te Atatu, or, dare we say it, Grey Lynn.

SWIDT's response to all those changes is hard and brutal.

"F*** gentrification," raps Spycc on Alfred & Church, a song named after nearby crisscrossing streets. Later, he declares, "Motherf***er, this is home," sounding like he's angrily stalking around the streets, trying to reclaim them.

"We're telling our story for the people who haven't known [Onehunga] before Dress Smart, before this was even a road," explains INF, pointing at Onehunga Mall Rd.

"They've probably never been here, but by the end of the album, they'll feel like they have been here."

Spycc: "This is heaven on earth."

Their debut album comes after last year's excellent introductory mixtape SWIDT vs Everybody, and Stoneyhunga spends much of its 17 tracks giving listeners a personalised tour of Onehunga. There are throwback nods to local bus routes, popular bottle shops, street names, and the now defunct Three Guys supermarket. "Twenty dollars used to go a long way," raps Spycc on Alfred & Church.

Some are already calling it the best New Zealand hip-hop album in a decade. That's thanks to the dual vocal abilities of Spycc and INF, who play off each other like old pros. "We've know each other for so long ... the chemistry's there," says INF. "At the end of the day, we're family."

But the songs are there too. Player of the Day and RIP Shirt bang like the classic rap anthems they're destined to become, as do the grimy wooze of Ric Flair and Every Weekend. There's much more though: Tonight is a love song, Kelz Garage dives into thumping reggae, Mine is indie prog-rock, and Before Tears Dry is a piano-led ballad that closes the album.

It's all-you-can-eat hip-hop buffet set in Onehunga, with some brilliant one-liners. "I eat rappers like a quarter pack," they threaten on RIP Shirt. "Put them in a dirt like a hangi."

They talk about Stoneyhunga like it's a movie - and it's got widescreen ambitions. They're aiming big. They want it to create a second coming of New Zealand hip-hop. They cite Scribe's The Crusader, from 2003, as the pinnacle. They want to top it. They want Stoneyhunga to travel further than Onehunga, further, even, than New Zealand.

"The main thing for us is the mentality of striving for more than the status quo. That's how we've been," says Spycc. "I hate it when people put limitations on you. It's like, why? Someone's gotta be better than somebody. Why not let it be us?"

For now, though, Onehunga remains their base. They're here most days. SWIDT's studio is just around the corner from the bright yellow chair we're sitting on. It's where Stoneyhunga was recorded for close to a year, near their favourite fast-food shops and family homes.

"It made us who we are. This is home to us," says INF. Only, for some of them, it's not. INF is flatting in Otahuhu, and Spycc is living in Manurewa. Soaring rent demands has seen them priced out. "For one bedroom, it's $350-plus," says INF. Not that it matters. They're here most days anyway, meeting friends, waving to fans, hanging out.

Besides, gentrification can have its up-sides.

Sitting in the Onehunga Cafe, the site of their old United Video hangout, Spycc and INF are eating fried chicken and waffles drenched in maple syrup, laughing about how the video store had huge mirrors. "They let you see right into the R18 section," says INF, to raucous laughter.

But ask SWIDT if they'd ever leave Onehunga, that upbeat mood drops. It turns out they did. Spycc and INF both moved to Australia. It didn't take. INF was back after a year. Spycc returned after just three months.

What was the first thing he did when he got off the plane? He headed to Onehunga.

"I walked down the main street," he says. "It felt good. I was home."

Who: Onehunga rap crew SWIDT
What: Debut album Stoneyhunga, released tomorrow