PNC's new album Bazooka Kid
PNC's (aka Sam Hansen) new album, Bazooka Kid, showcases PNC's talents as a musical artist. PNC uses synth-based beats with a retro 80's feel writing hooks and melodies to the music as opposed to straight rapping.
Bazooka Kid features a number of musically talented guests including: P-Money, Che Fu, David Dallas, Tyra Hammon and Chong Nee.
PNC creates a brand of hip-hop which is distinctly Aotearoa. Aotearoa is a music style which began in New Zealand in 1979.
PNC began his career with Day In The Life- which stayed at number one for three weeks and received a great deal of radioplay. PNC releases his debut solo album in 2006. So far in 2008 he has released three singles to radio and TV, 'Moonlight', 'Find Me' featuring Chong Nee, and 'Take Me Home' featuring Mz J. PNC on Bazooka Kid
"I found myself listening to a lot of Phil Collins and Human League and that kind of stuff, so it just ends up working out like that."
The 1980s were a fascinating time for music. Whereas the '60s and '70s had been defined by the guitar, in the '80s it was the synthesiser's turn to dominate the sound of the pop charts. In the early part of the decade the British Musician's Union tried to have the new instrument banned because of the threat they perceived it posing to their rank and file. Such an absurd notion was struck down, but hip hop, for all its anti-establishment rhetoric, can be a very traditionalist form, and the same way rock musicians revere the guitar, New Zealand producers have long worshipped at the altar of the sampler.
For PNC, the country's devotion to '90s East Coast-style boom bap rap was becoming a straitjacket, and for him to let his music be reflective of his own tastes and inclinations, it was one he needed to break. This meant unleashing the synthesiser in the most boundary-obliterating way.
"It was never like a set sit-down plan, like 'I want to do this type of music'. I guess it was just, like the producers were sending me the same sort of looped soul sound and I just knew that I had no inspiration to rap over those.
"I still like that music completely but it was just not personally inspiring me to rap to it. Then when I get the more synth-based beats with the more retro '80s feel it was gelling with the stuff I was trying to write. I was getting more into writing melodies with the music as opposed to straight rapping. So it just kind of went from there."
From there the Auckland-based rapper (the name PNC comes from Palmerston North City, his hometown, one which strongly shaped his iconoclastic approach) came up with a single called Take Me Home. The song signaled a sea change in sound for the rapper, with a bouncing, addictive drum sound coupled with over-driven guitars and a spectacular, filtered vocoder hook. The lyrics were typically smart and precise, detailing a messy affair which turns dangerous when the protagonist tries to break it off, and delivered in his trademark barrelling, momentous flow.
But it was the production, the cohesive sound of the piece, which was most startling. It seemed a conscious reaction against the conservatism at the heart of New Zealand hip hop, one which was borne perhaps of an inferiority complex by comparison to its US parent, and there was an audacity, a true maverick spirit in the song which suggested PNC was not content to be another solid New Zealand rapper.
"It's just a lot of people think of it as if there's a set of rules," he says wistfully. "I know a lot of the dudes I first met in hip hop would be like 'you need to hold down your four elements and if you don't do that, that's not real hip hop'. I guess people would say that on records and they'd get it from that but really I've always thought hip hop is expressing how you feel through the music, however that is."
The album which would rise from that discontent is called Bazooka Kid, and represents a giant leap on from what was a very solid award wining debut in Rookie Card. Commencing with some life history "No brother/ One Mother/ No Dad", before taking in the classic brag-rap of Tonight and the gut-wrenching tales of wasted lives on Gone with Che-Fu, the album is elevated by PNC's deft lyrical touch. Too often in New Zealand and elsewhere "expressing how you feel through music" has been co-opted into generating an idealised image, a persona which can serve as reality in the place of truly opening up.
This is most starkly realised on 1/2 Kast, which tells the story of PNC's identity, with an absent Samoan father, and raised by his European mother. It's a very New Zealand story, and the questions it raises are quintessentially of our culture and era, yet it has rarely been articulated so vividly.
"I've always embraced that I'm both, and especially being raised totally by my European side," he says. "It's fake for me to go 'I'm only Samoan.' Uhhh, yeah, nah, I'm a bit white, you know? That's what I am... I had a lot of friends growing up that would have problems with identity in that way. They didn't really know what they were or they felt like they identified with this one group but they looked like this group or something like that."
Kast is but one part of Bazooka Kid, though. The title track is a stunning production, redolent of '80s niche genres like Latin Freestyle and Italo Disco, with brilliant punchline MCing, and it's this ability to embrace his multifaceted personality which sets him apart. He is the bar-room warrior, and the bedroom MC, obsessed with the sound and scale of the '80s but not above rapping over an acoustic guitar. Samoan and European, combative and reflective, of the city and the country. In Bazooka Kid he has made an album which embodies all those apparent contradictions, and does so over productions which don't so much rewrite the New Zealand hip hop rule book as turn a blowtorch on it.
Find Me featuring Chong Nee
V.S.O.P featuring David Dallas
Gone featuring Che Fu
Take Me Home featuring Mz J
It Doesn't Matter
New Day featuring Tyra Hammond
PNC Album, Bazooka Kid (Grindin Music) Out Now.
Interview with PNC
Tell us about Bazooka Kid. PNC (Sam Hansen)
: It's my second album, and I'm real proud of how it turned out. I mixed all of my favourite musical influences, from 80's synth pop to dirty south hip-hop and came up with Bazooka Kid. Check it!
Do you have a favourite track? PNC (Sam Hansen)
: Nah. It changes all the time. I like the Intro to the album a lot. And 1/2Kast is one of the most personal songs I've done to date.
Last time we spoke you mentioned Bazooka Kid was an experimental album- are you glad you experimented? PNC (Sam Hansen)
: Definitely. I think its good to keep pushing the envelope with your music, and not being stagnant.
Did you learn anything working with David Dallas or Tyra Hammon on this album, or any of the other featured artists? PNC (Sam Hansen)
: I worked with a lot of singers on this album, and it was cool to see their process of recording compared to an MC. I wish I could sing haha.
How was it to perform on MTV's The Lair? PNC (Sam Hansen)
: That was crazy. No one had actually told me that De La Soul was playing too, so when I saw them at sound check I was a combination of shocked and star-struck. The vibe of the whole event was really positive too.
Tell me about your style: Aotearoa. PNC (Sam Hansen)
: Well, Aotearoa is my country. I love our version of Hip-Hop down here. I think we're word class with it.
Many of your hits are 80's inspired- what do you like about that era? PNC (Sam Hansen)
: I didn't set out to make an 80s album, it was just the type of beats I was feeling had a heavy synth element to it so it turned out that way. I'm 80s baby though, so I love throwing back to that era.