Diggy’s lyrics transport you through the streets of Grey Lynn, each song telling the rich narratives of central Auckland’s different characters as he explores themes of identity, gentrification, and culture.
Bursting onto the scene in 2017 with his first album K.O.T.I.C, Diggy showed off his raw songwriting talent and made his name known in Aotearoa hip hop.
He kept the momentum going in 2018, releasing the EP Island Time, and his second album That’s Me, That’s Team in 2020. Earning award nominations with both bodies of work, he maintained his drive, jumping on the 2021 television series The Panthers. The soundtrack, written alongside Troy Kingi and with choicevaughan as producer, won several awards.
Diggy’s 2022 EP Hues continued his winning streak, providing listeners with a new direction in sound, this time more intently focused on the creative journey and process.
Diggy’s lyrics transport you through the streets of Grey Lynn
Growing up in Grey Lynn, Diggy first experimented with making music in high school at his cousin’s house, armed with a blue SingStar microphone and Motorola cell phone. What began as making songs with his cousin every weekend soon became freestyling at house parties and competing in battle raps.
Diggy has been on the scene for some time, and his connections to the hip hop community run deep alongside long-time friends and well-known names, Rizván, MELODOWNZ and Eno & Dirty. As each built themselves up in their local areas – Rizván in the North Shore, Melo in Avondale, Eno & Dirty in Western Springs and Diggy in Grey Lynn – the boys were able to cement solid foundations which unite them in their vision and sense of community.
“You’ve got to realise, Rizván, Melo and I came out of his [Rizván’s] basement,” Diggy explains. “It’s those little things that are unwritten but ... these are the foundations a lot of us come from.”
Making music with Melo since he was around 16 years old, Diggy has been creating music in the community for much longer than his Spotify discography suggests. His constant presence in Auckland’s night life is a testament to this – an example of his dedication to the craft rather than a nod to his drinking habits.
Diggy has spent many years studying artists, researching their stage tricks and freestyle skills. “You’ve got to be an avid fan of it or else what are you doing it for?” he says.
This hard work manifests in Diggy’s relationships across Auckland, as the research phase of his career allowed him to form essential connections across the community which have served as platforms for his music.
“That was definitely the era when we were just researching,” he reflects. “Which is funny because people thought we were just a couple of piss-heads but there was more to it.”
Establishing a plethora of relationships through years of house parties and community events, Diggy’s intricate knowledge of Auckland provided him with the tools needed to solidify his rap career.
In his early days he worked with an eight-piece collective, comprising himself and seven cousins. They spent hours in the garage, building their skills; the deep focus was positive.
Making music with his cousins, trying to rap, helped Diggy and his cousins stay out of trouble
Diggy explains, “I definitely think making music and just staying with each other in the garage, trying to rap, is one of the things that kept us out of trouble and I’m blessed for that.”
Since going solo, his team has evolved to include DJ GarethxMF, manager Jerome and producer Rizván. Meeting Rizván in 2015, Diggy jumped on a project and found a lifelong friend and mentor. He describes Rizván as a pillar in the hip hop community and a guardian of the culture.
It was from this relationship that Diggy’s first album, K.O.T.I.C was born. This was the first body of work released under Diggy Dupé, a name that underwent a significant period of evolution before selection.
The name is twofold; taking Diggy from Melo (who was previously known as DIGGYDOWNZ); and Dupéstemming from the Niuean word for money, tupe. With this, Diggy Dupé was born and burst onto the scene with his first album.
Released in 2017, K.O.T.I.C opens with a recording of Jaunnie 'Ilolahia describing the migration of Pacific Islanders to central Auckland, setting the scene for Diggy’s unabashed political commentary that flows throughout. With Rizván’s production talent and Diggy’s wordsmith abilities, K.O.T.I.C is timeless and politically hard-hitting.
The 2018 EP Island Time was a continuation of the sound developed in K.O.T.I.C. Imbued with references to central Auckland and his community, the EP reflects the various influences of location, ‘aiga and culture that are paramount in Diggy’s life. Island Time gained him a nomination for best hip hop cct at the Aotearoa Music Awards.
After the first COVID lockdowns Diggy launched right back into mahi, releasing That’s Me, That’s Team in August 2020. The album added even more depth to Diggy’s distinctive sound through the incorporation of Niuean language and bassy Pacific beats in ‘Keke Boy’. That’s Me, That’s Team earned Diggy several nominations in the 2021 award season, including the Pacific Music Award for best Pacific hip hop artist and the Aotearoa Music Award Te Kaipuoro Hipihope Toa / best hip hop artist.
While waiting for the release of That’s Me, That’s Team, Diggy continued writing, creating his Nesian Mystik-inspired single ‘WEON’.
A sample was posted online by local producer Tamagotchi, who took the beat down at Diggy’s request. The final single, mixed by SmokeyGotBeatz, was released in 2021 after Diggy jumped through the hurdles of copyright legalities.
For the ‘WEON’ video Diggy recreated scenes from Nesian Mystik videos in the original locations
Not only does the beat pay homage to hometown heroes Nesian Mystik but the music video recreates scenes throughout Tāmaki Makaurau from their old videos. Directed by Connor Pritchard, the ‘WEON’ music video has Diggy recreating the scenes of a selection of Nesian Mystik videos in the original locations.
Stepping on board The Panthers television series, Diggy was able to diversify his already booming portfolio. The series, created by Halaifonua Finau and Tom Hern, is a retelling of the story of the Polynesian Panthers, an activist group founded during the 1970s. The Polynesian Panthers were a pivotal group in the history of Aotearoa, operating during a time when deep sentiments of discontent were held towards Pacific Islanders, displayed publicly and by those in the highest positions of power.
The Panthers explores this dark and not-so-distant history, spotlighting characters to explore the full range of emotions felt around the country at this time. It looks into the lives of palagi and Samoan cops alike, the founders of the Polynesian Panthers, their families, their racist landlords and Prime Minister Robert Muldoon.
Teaming up with choicevaughan and Troy Kingi to create the album, the trio imbued each track with their own style: Kingi with his timeless crooning vocals; Diggy with his smooth storytelling painting a perfect melancholy portrait of 1970s Auckland; and choicevaughan’s raw talent that switches tempo to match each specific scene.
Following the director’s vision of the story, Diggy did what he does best – write. As he says, “That’s it – that’s what I do. Just tell me what to write about.”
Once given the script, he went away with choicevaughan’s beats, creating pieces in deadlines of one or two days. This process accumulated in a 13-track album complete with a plethora of features from Aotearoa’s best Pacific talent – including MELODOWNZ, Bella Kalolo, Sam V, Rizván, SWIDT, and Che Fu.
As the series begins, you are greeted with Diggy’s commanding voice and lyrical prowess as the opening scene plays out. He stares down the camera as a ghost, observing the actions of the Polynesian Panthers, providing musical commentary as the episodes progress.
The success of this soundtrack and the dominating position it played in The Panthers was no accident. Tom Hern intentionally chose to bring music to the forefront of the show. Rather than having backing tracks simmering in the background, the volume of the songs are raised to prominent levels, and Diggy himself appears alongside the characters, rapping in the shadows, interlinking music and film as one.
The success of ‘The Panthers’
soundtrack and its dominating position in the series was no accident
The focus on music paid off, with The Panthers trio walking away with two Pacific Music Awards, one APRA screen music award, a Aotearoa Music Award and a New Zealand Television Award in 2022. These included the Pacific Music Awards for best producer and best Pacific music video for ‘Ain’t the Same’ featuring MELODOWNZ and Summer Vaha’akolo; the APRA screen award for Tohu Paerangi / best original music in a series; the Aotearoa Music Award for Te Kaipuoro Hipehope Toa / best hip hop artist and the New Zealand Television Award for best contribution to a soundtrack.
Released in October 2022, the Hues EP remains unique to Diggy’s sound, while changing the tune slightly to bring a more hazy energy to the recording. Working alongside Haz Beats, Diggy focuses more intently on the artistic journey, this time moving away from his usual political lyricism and leaning into the process.
Artist Askew One (Elliot O’Donnell) provided Diggy with a specific artwork for each individual song, taking the direction of the cover away from himself. Diggy, who has said he’d rather sit in the background and write, has successfully achieved this, focusing instead on creating a representation of the colours and shades he visualised when writing each track.
Central Auckland still remains a key influence in Diggy’s songwriting, with his skills evolving over time to represent his origins in more nuanced ways. He creates music that tells intricate stories about the heart and soul of human nature, whether it’s through the lenses of the different characters of Grey Lynn, or the antics of Diggy’s own crew.
Lyrics have the ability to connect with all types of people, no matter who the intended audience. Building the world visually allows Diggy’s music to connect not only with listeners within central Auckland, but others with similar life experiences and people from all walks of life.
As Diggy noted, “it’s bigger than Central, it’s bigger than Grey Lynn – it’s about tapping into human emotion and things you can relate to.”