Regarded as one of the greatest Aotearoa hip-hop tracks of all time, the 1996 single 'Chains' marked rapper Che Fu's first solo outing and confirmed the pedigree of producer DLT (Darryl Leigh Thompson).
This episode covers the story behind 'Chains', which topped the charts for five consecutive weeks in 1996. We explore the unique platform the track's success provided rapper Che Fu and its impact on the New Zealand hip-hop scene.
Many in New Zealand can sing the refrain of hip-hop hit 'Chains' by DLT featuring Che Fu but few know that the song went through a whopping 13 revisions before its release.
"The original of 'Chains' was a reggae song," recalls producer DLT, and the record label asked him, "Can you R&B it a bit, mate?"
As a younger artist, King Kapisi viewed DLT as a "big brother" figure and a "great guide" who influenced a lot of his peers in the New Zealand music industry.
It was inspiring to meet a musician who had similar feelings and opinions to him.
As a Māori Niuean, Che Fu had a unique opportunity to speak on matters affecting Māori and Pacific Islanders through his lyrics.
In 'Chains', these issues included French nuclear testing in the South Pacific and social conditioning through advertising.
"He can rap, and he can sing. On 'Chains', Che is spitting hard," says DJ Sir-Vere.
'Chains' proved to be a game-changer for both Che and DLT when the track soared to the top of the NZ music charts for five consecutive weeks.
DJ Sir-Vere remembers the label's excitement about the track and how it picked up momentum "real fast", which was unexpected for a New Zealand hip-hop song at the time.
King Kapisi viewed the success of 'Chains' as a victory for the New Zealand hip-hop community: "For us, having a number one meant that all of us had a number one."
The unprecedented success of a New Zealand hip-hop track shocked the music industry, proving that pop music wasn't the only genre capable of reaching such heights of popularity and commercial success.
The impact of 'Chains' on the New Zealand music scene was profound, as it paved the way for other local hip-hop artists to be recognised and celebrated.
About the artists
Darryl Leigh Thompson (DLT)
DLT is a renowned hip-hop producer from Napier. First breaking out as a member of hip hop group Upper Hutt Posse and helping to produce what many believe to be Aotearoa's first hip hop record 'E Tū'. He has released two solo albums and left a lasting impact on the New Zealand hip hop scene, viewed as an influential figure by many artists.
Che Fu is a Māori Niuean musician and rapper. He rose to fame as a co-lead singer with the band Supergroove, and later established a successful and award winning solo career. His distinctive style and conscious lyricism helped to pave the way for a new generation of New Zealand hip-hop.