Something new

Auckland rapper Ryan Hendriks brings his hip-hop extravaganza to Re:Fuel on Wednesday. Photo:...
Auckland rapper Ryan Hendriks brings his hip-hop extravaganza to Re:Fuel on Wednesday. Photo: Supplied
Auckland rapper Ryan Hendriks has just released his first solo album, and he's coming to Re:Fuel on Wednesday for a totally free pint-fuelled hip-hop extravaganza.

Titled Old Zealand, the album is an exploration of ideas surrounding the past and present and globalisation set to a mish-mash of trappy and jazzy beats. It's a solid album, the dense layers of lyrical content are definitely worth exploring but, as I discovered, there is a much bigger story behind its conception.

Since 2012, Ryan has been heavily involved in the fledgling Auckland underground hip-hop scene. After releasing a handful of underappreciated albums with Ethan King under Badcrop, he recognised the need for something to bind the loose array of artists together and, in 2015, started The Grow Room.

"The birth of it was creating a physical space. It was actually a room on K Road with an open-door policy that anyone could come and make music. It just started from there really.

"No-one's actually signed to anything, it's just like power in numbers. It's more just a collective of artists putting stuff together."

Basically, it's like a record label without the evil parts, and so far The Grow Room has helped release 16 albums. It continues to grow despite the physical space currently being on hiatus.

Shortly after starting The Grow Room, he detected a rot decaying the heart of K Road and responded by distorting "Badcrop" to "Badcorp", which became his and Mr King's latest rap project, "Badcorporation". Famously, as a defensive act of cultural violence, he performed a song on the street which culminated in the burning of his suit jacket.

"It was right on K Road, our studio, so it was right in the midst of the madness, and then it just got heavily gentrified suddenly. Everything got washed out by corporate property developers and turned into upper class restaurants as opposed to op shops ... so it all got pushed out.

"That's the whole metaphor. Me burning the suit is, like, the whole corporate environment washing the artists from the area."

Fast-forward to last year and Ryan travelled to The Netherlands, one of his ancestral homelands, and created Old Zealand.

"I just needed to do some growing for myself with this album, it's been more about my solo journey.

"It was always a trip to me because I was from The Netherlands, so I went and lived in The Netherlands.

"You see old buildings and you have a physical reminder of the past. Like you look at the ancient churches that have been there for a thousand years and it's a constant reminder, you think about that time and place, but when you're in New Zealand everything's new, there's no old.

"I go away from where I was and come back and it's still the same, it feels old, but it's all new."

The peek into Auckland's K Road hip-hop scene is fascinating. The number of local hip-hop artists on the bill for the gig suggests a hip-hop scene here in Dunedin but I don't recall ever seeing a hip-hop focused gig before. Not that I don't love Dunedin's guitar-driven live music scene, but diversity is good.

"It's a free show. I'm not really making any money off it, I'm just coming down to share what I'm doing.

"I could have had my own show on a Friday or Saturday, but I know they have that pint night on Wednesday, so I was just like `F*** it. For my first show, I'll just try to make people remember it'."

Maybe this could be the seed which grows into something bigger.

  • Ryan Hendriks at Re:Fuel, Wednesday, March 7, with Lil Dust, Mohamed Muse, ASO Music, EYZ and Ndozi Gahadza, free. Listen to Old Zealand at


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