After receiving a nomination for Best Hip Hop Act at last year's NZ Music Awards for his EP Island Time, Diggy Dupé has released his first full-length album That's Me, That's Team. Music 101's Tony Stamp visited the rapper in Grey Lynn to talk about balancing music with money, and representing the Central Auckland Pacific Island community.
It's a sunny day when I meet Diggy Dupé at his family home, so we set up for the interview in the back yard. Along the way I meet his mum, dad, and their dog Kazu. Diggy tells me the house has been there since the fifties, and until recently he lived there with his parents and grandparents. Like many Polynesian people his age, he felt a responsibility to stay and help.
"Some people, their parents aren't struggling, and they aren't playing catchup in life. But a lot of Island families, they are. So we feel obligated to stay back and help."
He says it was his grandfather who instilled in him the importance of helping out, of connecting with a community.
"He did such a good job of keeping everyone on the same page so we all have the same goal. I guess that's where I get it from. We all have the same goal - me and my team."
It’s an idea that’s important to Diggy, so much so it influenced the name of his new album.
He tells me That’s Me, That’s Team relates to his outlook on life. He’s aware that he’s part of something bigger. He says he’s not just sharing his story, he's sharing his family's story, and the stories of those around him.
And it’s with help from his team that he’s reached his goal of releasing a full length album, something which took eight-odd years to reach. The final track ends with him listing every person who helped make it happen.
It’s an achievement he doesn’t take for granted - that’s why there's all that confetti in the video for the single ‘That’s Team’. It’s a celebration.
On the single ‘Keke Boy’, Diggy switches between English and Niuean, in an effort to normalise the language to his younger listeners. He says he wants to help Pacific people have a sense of pride in their native tongue.
Asked if switching language on a track makes wordplay harder, or easier, he says "If I try to incorporate it in my daily life with how I speak in general then it won't be hard to convert into my songwriting. If we're speaking the native tongue a lot more then it shines through in the music."
He’s spoken about this in the press quite a bit, and tells me it wasn’t intended as a call to arms, but he’s happy it’s seen that way.
“If you look at the Poly scene, even over in Australia, they’re also incorporating their native tongue. It’s just refreshing to hear, because our generation growing up, all we got to see was American songs. The only one using island words was King Kapisi. But now he’s not a minority.
"Twenty-odd years later, it's normal to hear Polynesian artists sound Polynesian. And our generation that’s coming through, we’re making it more known."
That’s Me, That’s Team tackles other societal issues, although according to Diggy it’s not calculated. “I just say what I see”.
On ‘mmmUla’, he trades verses with MC and singer Rizvan, as they take on two different viewpoints - Diggy as someone who deals weed to get by, Rizvan as someone working multiple above-board jobs. The track isn’t so much about cannabis per se - it’s about income.
“It’s just to show people there are different ways of getting money. You’re not cornered into one way. We all have choices. In the song I start off as, to some people, the only choice. They think that’s the only way they’re going to make it in life.
“Rizvan is the optimism at the end of the tunnel. And he’s speaking from his own experience - he had three jobs! He was doing security jobs, mentoring jobs, then on the weekend doing sound at Neck Of the Woods.
“Everyone’s unique, and we’ve all got talents, we just need to understand what they are, and then how to turn that passion and that hobby into finance.”
The track 'CT&T' got attention outside the music press for dealing with the issue of problem gambling. On the track Diggy highlights his Nana and Poppa’s fondness for bingo and Lotto respectively, with the title ‘CT&T’ standing for ‘cup of tea and toast’ - sometimes the only thing left to eat when gambling had eaten up the family finances.
But Diggy says he didn’t want to seem judgemental. “It’s not a stroppy sad song. There’s a bit of optimism.
“It was never a bad thing for us. Nana will go play bingo and it’s really social for her. She’s got her own table, her own chair - it’s like school! For her and these other old ladies it’s like a social gathering.
“And my grandfather, he was blind since I was five. He would sit there all day thinking about Lotto. All he had to do was daydream. He’d go religiously to buy a ticket every week.
“Unfortunately he passed away, and who knows how much money he made back in the end.”
I ask if he had to run any of the lyrics past his family. He says no. “I think they love it though, they’re just proud.
“I’m glad I did it the right way.I could have done it really high-horse, like ‘you’re doing this and that!’
“That’s why on ‘Hype’, the song straight after, I’m turning it back on me, saying ‘what are my bad spending habits? What are my vices?’
“Mine is consumerism, and buying shoes and things I can’t afford. Blowing all this money. So it’s like, I said this about you, but I’m also saying this about me. I guess it works out.”