Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

From near break-ups to a breakthrough: the triumphant return of hip hop trio Team Dynamite

Hip Hop trio Team Dynamite release new album "Respect the Process"
Hip Hop trio Team Dynamite release new album "Respect the Process"
“Before we’re Team Dynamite, we’re brothers.” (L-R) Lucky Lance, Haz Beats and Tony Teez.  PHOTO // Team Dynamite FB

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Alice Lolohea | Reporter/Director/Videographer

As the former Music Director of Niu FM, urban music connoisseur Alfred Aholelei, aka DJ Al’Goodie, would sift through hundreds of tracks every year, picking new singles for radio audiences and introducing listeners to a wide variety of Pasifika artists and music.

I remember walking past his office one day hearing his speakers blaring with what sounded like stars sprinkling over a gentle keyboard riff, and a rhythmic bass drum pulsating underneath melodious rhymes.

“Oi, come listen this!” he shouted excitedly from behind his desk.

The song was Coconut Lime, and this was my introduction to one of Aotearoa’s most criminally underrated hip hop trios – Team Dynamite.

“I got to know Team Dynamite through word on the street,” Alfred remembers.

“People in the Central areas, Grey Lynn, some ex- [Auckland] Grammar boys were telling me about them. Me not being a huge fan of Grammar, I thought, ‘What do Grammar boys know about rap?'” laughs the former St Peter’s alumni.

Well, it turns out, an awful lot.

“There was a club on K Road called 4/20. I was DJ’ing, and Team Dynamite were performing together with other hip hop acts. That was the first time I heard them live,” Alfred recalls.

“At the time, Dawn Raid were still doing their thing. But Team Dynamite, their sound was real ’90s – I’d liken them to Souls of Mischief. It wasn’t the sound of the time, but I loved them because it was a sound I was used to.”

It’s been six years since the release of their ground-breaking studio album, Shepherd’s Delight, but for Team Dynamite’s Lucky Lance (Lance Fepulea’i), Tony Teez (Tony Sihamau) and producer Haz Beats (Haz Huavi), it was time spent overcoming personal hardships and growing as individuals.

Directed by Tom Scott (Avantdale Bowling Club), the trio released a documentary in anticipation of their latest album, speaking candidly about their humble beginnings, the rise, struggles and triumph as Team Dynamite. Remembering the earlier years of their success, Lance recalls, “I feel like it’s all a blur.”

“I had always associated drugs and alcohol with the music. I had seen Bob Marley smoke weed, and so I thought that this was gonna make my creative juices really flow by getting stoned.”

“Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t like f****n’ junkies or anything, but we came pretty close mate,” laughs Lance.

Tony also remembers the pressures of the time. “Stuff was definitely happening in my life. Like my mental health was at its weakest, and then it all catches up with you and you implode.”

It all came to a head when the group were set to perform in Queenstown with an impressive line-up of Kiwi artists, including Bailey Wiley, Spycc and INF and Melodownz.

“The gig was with Red Bull artists; the Red Bull artists are our peers,” says Tony.

Lance had “done a bender”, almost missing the flight, and subsequently missed the rehearsal and sound check. “Fast-forward to the performance, and we’re like, ‘Bro, you good to go?’ And there was just this blank look in his face,” says Tony.

With Lance unable to perform to his full potential and struggling to remember his lyrics, Tony prematurely ended their set. By this point Haz was ready to pull the plug on the group. “We couldn’t even look at him at the airport.”

“I didn’t want to make music with him anymore. Tony didn’t wanna make music with him.”

Tony says, “When you get older, sh*t just starts happening a little different. You start noticing things or things catch up on you that you just need to take care of. And that’s exactly what happened to Team Dynamite.”

Taking a much needed break from working together, Haz continued to produce music for other Kiwi artists, winning an Aotearoa Music Award last year for his collaboration with Kiwi singer Miloux. Tony focused on his family and his new role at Youthline, helping early school leavers and youth in need of benefit and housing assistance.

Meanwhile, Lance continued to work on his clothing line and on his personal battles. “Working on myself and doing the work that I’ve done has me a lot lighter in the mind. Where I’m at today is I’m in the best place I’ve ever been in my life,” Lance enthuses.

“You can either go into a world of shame and doubt yourself, or you can say ‘be f****in resilient’ and bounce back from this and learn from it.”

And with the old adage ‘nothing worth having comes easy’ ringing true, Team Dynamite are finally back with their brand new album, Respect The Process. It’s a real musical and personal triumph for the trio, taking the group almost four years to write and produce it.

“In regards to…putting this project together, there’s been many tough conversations both as individuals, and as a collective as well, to get to this point,” Tony says.

“Not only did we have to mend our band back together and mend our relationship and mending my life in general; add into the mix trying to create good music. Like, that’s not gonna come easy,” adds Lance.

With the old-school feel of funk and soul underpinning beautifully crafted hip hop beats, the album features music that is both nostalgic yet fresh and new. A Bettye Lavette sample echoes over the final track Goodbye, while Kiwi artist Bailey Wiley’s soulful croon gives Lightening Bolt a hint of ’90s R&B. The album’s 2020 release Dragon Fruit (feat. Louis Baker) remains the stand out track from the album, the essence of their musical and personal journeys.

“The success of it was just us getting back together and just kept making music,” says Haz. “That’s the real success for us – not breaking that bond of brotherhood and still staying friends.”

Lance adds, “Before we’re Team Dynamite, we’re brothers.”

Watch the full documentary below:



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