High Beams is a new local hip-hop collective poised to be the breakout stars of this year.
Comprised of rappers Melodownz and Raiza Biza, and producer IllBaz the group's self -titled debut record drops tomorrow off the back of their hard hitting singles Outchea and Live Stream. The latter in particular gained attention thanks to its memorable chorus by R&B sensation Teeks and it's potent call for a different sort of revolution.
"A revolution for us is essentially everyone being accepting. Equality is one of the main principles that I live by...so imagine a society where everyone was helping each other, says Illbaz, aka Baz Raghib.
"That would be my revolution. It's not necessarily a revolution in an aggressive and violent sense, but more a change of minds, a change of hearts."
It's not a stance you'd usually expect from hip-hop - Raghib knows that. But the group's new project High Beams is looking to change that perception, as well as other misconceptions they come up against as people of colour in 2018.
"Hip-hop's always seen in such a bad light because you look at what it is now and it's clubs this and girls that and drinks this...but if you look at where it started, hip-hop has always come from the struggle and the pain.
"[Hip-hop] took the mind, soul and heart of frustrated youth and put it into music. That's what we're doing. We're taking what we're going through now, what we see around us, and we're putting it into mp3 files and handing it out."
These three artists come from diverse backgrounds; Raghib is Palestinian, Biza from Rwanda, and Bronson Price (Melodownz) Polynesian.
They're long-time friends who made this album at Raghib's Mount Roskill home, after the other two finished mentoring youth in music at the nearby community centre.
And though they never set out to make an album, when they listened to the hundreds of tracks they'd made they started noticing common threads which, as a whole, represented what they were going through at the time.
"At that time, there was the Great March of Return in Gaza which a lot of my family were participating in, which was a really hard time and that just oozed into the music. And at the same time Raiza was kind of struggling with similar stuff back in Rwanda. And it also is a bit of a testament to our friendship," says Raghib.
"We like to be very involved in each other's history, heritage and culture. You soon find out that you're a lot more similar than different, despite being from opposite sides of the world."
The group's lead single Live Stream (featuring soul artist Teeks) was the first, highly political step, announcing their "revolution", while the following Red Wine and Outchea are stories about romance and close-knit friendships, rooted much closer to home.
As much as it gets political, High Beams is just as much about being normal, everyday people.
Their aim is to shine a light on the diverse peoples living in New Zealand and the issues they face, and hopefully make a few steps toward equality and unity.
"I've always known New Zealand to be diverse and multicultural. We're everywhere. So it's ok to ask someone about their culture and learn about and appreciate it. Why wouldn't you? You get to learn about the world's cultures within your backyard and that's beautiful."
High Beams is out July 20, and IllBaz, Raiza Biza and Melodownz will tour Queenstown, Wellington and Auckland on August 2-4.