16 Dec 2023

Review: Idiot Check by Iti Bubbas

From The Sampler, 2:30 pm on 16 December 2023
Iti Bubbas

Iti Bubbas (Wynona, MĀ, & Tama) Photo: Bandcamp

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At this year’s Others Way festival on Auckland’s Karangahape Rd, I was lucky enough to catch a performance by Wellington rapper and musician MĀ. She was joined on stage by DJ and producer Wynona, and a second MC, Tama.

Which technically made this a performance by Iti Bubbas, a duo (or possibly trio), who released their debut EP back in September.

‘Iti’ means 'small' in te reo, with Iti Bubbas starting as an affectionate nickname for the group when they toured with Avantdale Bowling Club, due to their relatively young age. It’s cheeky and a bit self-deprecating, which suits the music well. 

MĀ’s earlier solo album Breakfast With Hades was made during a time of grief, and this EP, Idiot Check, is markedly lighter.

‘Rere’ means 'fly', or 'flow', suiting the rather cruisy music. ‘Kauta’, meaning 'kitchen', concerns paying attention to your elders. Ma talks about the racism, and suppression of te reo that was part of life for her parents and grandparents. 

These songs began life as part of a theatre production. MĀ and Wynona co-wrote the soundtrack, then once the show wrapped, decided to adapt the work into a standalone EP. The play navigated serious issues with theatrical flourishes like mime, singing and dancing, and that spirit remains with Iti Bubbas.

In their promotional materials, they always seem to be having fun, and the music’s overall zest sits alongside some serious lyrical concerns. And some lighter ones.

The EP’s name is tour-inspired, coming from the last-minute check you do before travelling, to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.

In their interview with Vice, MĀ and Wynona name check artists like Che Fu, OMC, Digable Planets, and Tribe Called Quest, and say '90s hip-hop in general is a big influence. You can sense that in the project’s overall affability, and somewhat nostalgic flavour. 

At their Auckland show they involved the crowd in a call and response, and were palpably happy to be there. Signing off, MĀ told the audience to “drink some water, eat some kai”. All three band members were smiling widely.