If anyone optimises the close-knit spirit of Aotearoa’s hip hop community the most it is Diggy Dupé. The inner-city rapper has been on the scene for a number of years now, establishing himself as an in-demand MC that has seen him appear on tracks by the likes of SWIDT and Church & AP.
Following two excellent projects in the form of K.O.T.I.C. and Island Time, Dupé is back with his full-length debut album That’s Me, That’s Team and on the face of it, it might just be his best collection of songs yet.
Continuing the strong heritage of central city rap calved out by the likes of Che Fu and Nesian Mystik, Dupé’s upbringing in a Polynesian household in Grey Lynn is at the centre of his identity as an artist. He reps the central city like no one else through his music and this is evident straight away on this album. “All I do is rap and put our suburb on the map” he spits with upmost conviction on opening track "That’s Me".
Produced by SWIDT’s SmokeyGotBeatz and with contributions from an all-star cast of guest producers including the likes of long-time collaborator Rizvan, IllBaz, and ChoiceVaughan, Dupé shows a lot of musical growth on this project in what is quite an eclectic sounding record overall.
The hardcore Pasifika-tinged "Keke Boy" is like nothing he has ever done before, while "Echo" has an experimental quality to it giving off an East Coast 90s hip hop vibe production-wise underneath a more understated Dupé vocal.
Pre-album single "That’s Team" is Kanye-esque in its soulful production and also features a stellar guest vocal from Church & AP’s AP. This is a new level of musicianship from Dupé and the presence of Smokey on the beats really works wonders on these big anthemic tracks.
"New Devils" continues the heavier approach of "Keke Boy" and sees SWIDT’s INF and Spycc show up to provide some energetic vocals over another fat Smokey beat, while "5.35" sees Dupé embrace R&B with a catchy hook and a smooth seductive vocal by Rizvan.
"CT & T" is one of the best songs Dupé has written and in many ways is the centre point of the record. Here Diggy gets personal, exploring the issue of gambling in Islander families like his own. This is the type of song he himself admits he has never written before and as a song has already proven a hit on student radio with its extraordinarily catchy chorus.
"Hype" offers up more chilled vibes with a bossa nova-like beat as Dupé jokingly has a dig at himself for getting caught up in the hype of things, and, finally, "Seven Years" is the perfect album closer with a strong anthemic quality to it as Dupé signs off listing all his achievements of the last few years before ending with the now trademark Diggy Dupé shout outs, of which there are many.
At this point in time, it feels like Diggy Dupé has been around forever and given the way he is revered by his peers, it wouldn’t be too far wrong to place veteran status on him as a local rapper. That’s Me, That’s Team is the perfect bookmarker of his career to date and embraces everything that is good about him as an artist, both lyrically and musically.
The songs on here have more depth to them in terms of the at times very personal subject matter, while the fact he called on Auckland’s best producers has allowed for a more varied album sound-wise and the chance for experimentation with different beats and song structures.
Quite frankly, Aotearoa hip hop is blessed to have Diggy Dupé at its heart, and with albums like this one, the central city’s legacy of quality rap is secure moving forward with a new generation of rappers taking the mantle and running with it.