In a scene inundated with talent it can often feel impossible for young artists to discover an effective creative process. Auckland’s Team Dynamite have been building their unique brand of hip hop for over a decade now, and this year have released a strong new album they’ve titled ‘Respect The Process’. Up-and-coming rapper/producer Aidan Fine met up with two members of the trio – Lucky Lance and Haz Beats – to learn more about their approach to the world of music creation.
A lot has happened in the years since Team Dynamite’s last project (2014’s ‘Shepherd’s Delight’). Tony Teez (Sihamau) has had his first child, Haz (Harry Huavi) spent some time abroad while Lance Fepulea’i has expanded his entrepreneurial pursuits. One might assume that such a break from making music for that long might affect their joint creative process, however, returning from the hiatus Team Dynamite remain a tight-knit crew with a strong work ethic and evident passion for their joint music. Haz details the reboot after several years away.
“It’s gone back to how we were then, but we’re just a bit busier with our lives. But, when we do get together it’s pretty straightforward. It’s the same old routine; they sit in the studio, I find the sample, put the beats together, then they just rap over it, and we move on.”
While Haz works on the beat, Lance and Tony are writing their verses and getting ready to record a demo. While this process usually works out, some days it can be tough, admits Lance. Perseverance, as he says, reaps rewards.
“You never know what’s gonna come out of the speakers. Sometimes it might start off where I’m not writing because I don’t like it, and then it will change and grow, and something will flip, and then it becomes something that I really like.”
Once Lance and Tony have finished their verses and recorded the demo, Haz doubles down on his production, sometimes adding extra instruments atop the samples.
“If the song needs it, I’ll give it to some musicians to play, but most of the time I’ll just leave it how it is with like two or three stems. The sample, maybe a bassline, and drums. There’s definitely some live instrumentation on the album though, like bass, guitar and keys. Most of the bass comes from Matt Short. He also plays for Vietnam War, Sola Rosa and Tourettes. I used to live with him, he lived upstairs and he played all the instruments. One night we just got drunk and I was like, ‘Play some bass lines over these beats,’ and he pretty much played over every single beat!”
Lance explains that often the song is given a new life once Haz adds production elements.
“A lot of the demos were so old, and Haz would spruce them up and get people to play on it, which would give the song a new energy, and we’d want to re-record the vocals at that point.”
After re-recording their vocals the track would be finished, but because the group repeated this process so many times it proved difficult for them to finalise the album.
“We were linking up and making music but we weren’t releasing anything, we were just doing the fun part, you know? Just having fun making music all the time. And then we were like, ‘Well, we need to put all these songs out.’ There were like 28 songs and it took like two years for us to finalise it,” Lance laughs.
With the album finally locked, there was still plenty more processes to sort, like a release strategy for instance.
“We kind’a just made a record, and as the universe would have it, Lorraine Barry, through Tom Scott and Avantdale Bowling Club, connected with it. She loved the record, so that’s why she was keen to work with us,” Lance explains.
“Lorraine knows what to do, and where we’re headed. She just puts us in the right direction,” Haz agrees.
“Shout out to Glenn Jowitt and his trust for the photography. There’s something special about a good aesthetic, plus a good sound, combined,” says Lance.
Preceded by the mid-2020 release of aggressive comeback rap track Who? which featured Diggy Dupé, and the warmer Dragon Fruit (featuring Louis Baker), the album was touted for release on Tom Scott’s Years Gone By label around August last year. In February 2021 ‘Respect The Process’ was finally released.
“The album has been well-received. I just kind of knew when people whose opinion I really respect were saying they liked it straight off the bat,” says Lance. “It seemed genuine. Plus our family and friends like it. It’s a good feeling.”
“When it comes to critics, of course, you’re gonna wonder about what they think. I think people would be lying if they said they didn’t. Whether you like it or not, it’d be hard to not think about it falling on any ears. But when you write from the heart it doesn’t matter who’s listening because you’re coming with a certain intention and for a reason. With that said, I do like to think in mind of the next generation and the kids. I’m more cautious now,” he acknowledges.
Haz points out that Lance doesn’t even swear in his raps.
“Having a positive message is something we’ve had going from the start,” Lance notes. Part of the reason we got going was because of the sound of the radio. What we were hearing was really commercial. No underground, no grassroots. It was a bit… plastic. It was encouraging toxic behaviour. But, what are you gonna do? Are you just gonna sit on the sidelines and complain about it? You actually have to step into the arena and do something yourself. And so when we did make our art, I was quite cautious about the energy we put out.”
Haz agrees about the positive messaging of Team Dynamite.
“I see it from a live perspective. So when we perform our songs live, we lift people up.”
“You’ve gotta have the faith in yourself and your music, and just enjoy it,” Lance finishes. “Because, you know, whether it happens or not, at least if you fail – which you probably won’t – you’re not gonna be on your deathbed going, ‘I wish I gave it a crack and my life could’ve been different if I was a musician’.”
Team Dynamite make it clear that finding – and respecting – your own creative process is important, but so is developing your own ethos as an artist, which can and will sustain you throughout your career. Respect the process.