Bernie Grundman's Hollywood offices have plaques lining the walls with the names Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Snoop Dogg, and Eminem engraved on them.

Whether the Fast Crew will get a plaque is up to Grundman, we guess. But you can add the local hip-hop crew to the list of musicians who have had their album mastered there.

Admittedly, Fast Crew didn't record their debut album, Set The Record Straight, in the land that is the home of hip-hop, but it's a star-studded way to finish the process.

"It's a humbling experience," says Jerome Fortune (Jeremy Kent-Johnstone), "because Bernie treats you, and dealt with our record, as professionally as he would anyone else. Those artists aren't on pedestals, they're great artists but they're not so above everything else. It's a reachable level."


Hollywood is a long way from the dingy pubs and house parties of central Auckland where Fast Crew members Jerome, Kid Deft (Dane Rumble) and D-arblo (Brad Devcich) started rapping five years ago.

"I remember the first time I rapped in public at this bar called Adam's Inn on Wyndham St and you'd go in, and this was when the drinking age was still 20, and it was $1 beers," says Jerome. "It was hip-hop night on Thursday and you could go up there and get pissed under-age. They had this pool comp where if you won you got to sleep with the bartender - I'm terrible at pool.

"It's only been in the past two or three years that we've classed ourselves as musicians. It was such a hobby before. I started calling myself a musician when I came back from Australia and I had no job or anything and it asks for your occupation. I had nothing to put into that gap except musician."

Jerome is the straight-talker with an attitude that he's not scared to share. He confesses later, without a hint of shame, that: "I did five years at university and basically that was a good excuse to spend all my student loan on music gear."

Kid is more relaxed and slouches permanently in his chair wearing a low-riding cap with his hair splaying out. They are both reasonably reserved today compared with their goofy gesturing and exuberance when performing.

Thanks mostly to the disturbingly catchy single I Got, Fast Crew - which also includes singer Becks (Rebecca Benner) and DJ Alias (Josh Thorne) - has become one of this country's most successful groups. But until recently, in the pecking order of New Zealand hip-hop, Fast Crew weren't taken seriously. "There are groups out there who don't agree with our music, and don't enjoy it," says Jerome staunchly.

Kid adds that Fast Crew "has always been an outsider to the underground NZ hip-hop engine".

"But we really have not given two ****s and we've just been doing our thing. We've continually done our own thing and all of the sudden people have gone, 'Holy shit, look where these guys have gone and we haven't supported them one bit.' I think because of that people respect what we do and what we've accomplished."

"There were some cats early on," says Jerome, "who were important as far as keeping us going and giving us inspiration. Sir Vere you know? He was like, 'You guys work hard, keep doing your thing, I've got respect for that.' That meant a lot to us because he was one of the first people who was in that hierarchy to acknowledge us."

So the title of the album suggests the Fast Crew have something to prove. Set The Record Straight is a hip-hop record but it also draws on their love of rock'n'roll (Metallica, Megadeth and Nirvana), Supergroove ("The best band to come out of New Zealand"), and funk. It shows they're not just a novelty act who are more pop than hip-hop.

Jerome says Fast Crew - who don't use samples and create their own music - borrow heavily from funk, not only for its grooves but the stories.

"Funk lyrics are not just your standard love song. They address some real cool topics. It is black music and we can't relate to a lot of it but they talk more about how they live than the fantasy and love thing that's in most of the music you hear now," Jerome says.

Despite releasing their debut single Mr Radio in 2002 it wasn't until I Got came out in May this year that Fast Crew made it big. It spent 25 weeks in the top 40 singles chart - much of that time in the top 20 - and the popularity of the tune surprised them initially. But after recycling the classic "jing, jing" hook from one of their old songs and considering the "party" they were having when they wrote the song, the pair can see why people connected with it.

Jerome: "We'd moved into this place in Newmarket and we built a recording studio with insulated walls. It was this massive building, it was dirt cheap so we could punch holes in the wall if we wanted and smoke weed up there."

Kid continues: "... and we were listening to our older stuff, and a combination of lots of J's new beats and I remember just hearing that, 'jing, jing"'.

Jerome: "The environment we wrote that song in is what captured it. Man, we were having a ball. We had our own recording studio, we would go up there and party. So I think I Got captures that time when we were just havin' a ball."

But now, declare the Fast Crew, it's time to set the record straight.