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Music: Mareko

Featured in Freestyle Volume 06 2008. Interview by Jason Jaram. Photography

Dawn Raid is back in the building. Yessir, after the trials and tribulations of last year they’ve returned bigger and badder than ever. And who better to lead them back from oblivion than Mareko, champion of the NZ hip hop underground and all round beast on the M-I-C. Having recently released his sophomore album Mareko has taken on a much more soulful vibe in his music while still staying true to his battle scarred roots. Freestyle had a chance to catch up with Mareko in between touring, running his blog and owning suckers on Streetfighter II.

You handle a lot of production on the album. What sort of equipment are you using and how did you actually get into the production side of things?

I use Cubase and Goldwave software and also Roland Phantom & Korg Triton keyboards for the bulk of my production. I basically got into production out of necessity. On the Deceptikonz first album we didn’t have any hands-on producers so I just basically had to learn right there on the spot. Actually glad it worked out that way.

What producers out there are you really feeling these days or had an influence on you?

I enjoy Timbaland for pushing the envelope with his ideas; whenever somebody has mastered his style he’s already two styles ahead. I’m also feeling local (Aussie) producer M-Phazes. He’s crafted out his sound to perfection. Digging the sample based production.

Did you take much influence away from dudes that worked on other Dawn Raid releases such as P-Money or Nate D?

Yeah, definitely. P and Nate D are close mates of mine and we all vibe off each other. I’ve learnt a few good techniques from the both of them.

Your (musical) sound seems to have mellowed when you compare your first album to your latest. There is a much more chilled out vibe. Is there any reason behind this?

I’ve just grown up a bit more, I guess. That battle MC is still in me and you can still hear it on my new album but I guess I’ve developed more of the other sides of my MCing ability, where my previous efforts were more cut-throat. But I’m definitely that same hardcore dude.

Do you see it as ironic that you make a track called ‘Record of the Year’ when Savage has a track like ‘Swing’?

Swing is definitely the record of this year! See, told you! Haha.

Speaking of ‘Swing’, how did you guys get the hookups on that ‘Knocked Up’ soundtrack?

Basically a lot of hard work from our publishing companies - and more importantly YDNA. He pushed to get it on the movies but more importantly as the music on the DVD menu. There was no way you were going to watch that DVD without hearing that track. Perfect placement.

With this whole era of ringtone rap have you found yourself having to dumb down your lyrics?

I wouldn’t say I dumbed down my lyrics, just filtered them. I’m still saying the same message and the same opinions; just I’m saying them now without using a million words in a line.

There was a point there when NZ hip hop was blowing up big time on both sides of the Tasman. What is the scene like these days?

The scene is still healthy. We can still make a good living off it and there are a tonne of groups still doing their thing, but I guess to get it to that stage again we're going to have to make an effort in producing timeless music rather than just the quick hit. If we don’t take our music seriously how can the mainstream?

I’ve seen quite a few of your shows here in Australia. How do the crowds compare to NZ? Is there much of a difference between them?

The shows are pretty much the same; I enjoy the hip hop enthusiasts that the Australian scene has. But it’s pretty much the same on both sides. I guess the only difference is the Australian based Kiwis are so proud to see one of us over there, they go that extra mile to show their appreciation which is always all good. Haha.

You’re very much a veteran of the live shows so what are some of the craziest/funniest things you have witnessed?

A whole heap of funny shit, bro. The Snoop tour was crazy. You know you’re a superstar when you’ve got a guy on your touring entourage whose sole job on the tour is to stand on stage when Snoop exits and hand-pick girls out of the crowd to come back stage. Awesome stuff!

Listening to a track like ‘Sin City’ paints a pretty bleak picture of AK. Did you have much first hand experience with the South Auckland gangs?

I never put on any kind of bandana to intimidate people.

Why do you think it is that often negative environments are often the most fertile environments for hip hop?

Hip hop was born out of poverty. It was an outlet and expression for the oppressed and people living in hardship. Where ever you find struggle, you will find people working two times harder than the average Joe to rise above the struggle. Be it academically, with sports, or music.

So we’ve talked about the negatives, what are some of the positives of growing up in South AK?

There is a sense of community here that you will not find anywhere else in the world. South Aucklanders are the proudest of people! I guarantee that. Everybody looks after one another and has a real family vibe going on. And you will not find food anywhere else like you do here! Haha.

How do you think your songwriting skills have progressed since the first album?

My song writing ability has improved a whole heap, I reckon. I’m more focused on writing songs and structuring cohesive music rather than just writing killer 16 bars!

What else has Dawn Raid got in the works over the next few months and beyond?

Well if Dawn Raid hasn’t branched off in the States by the next few months then it will very shortly!

You’re part of a crew called Deceptikonz so I gotta ask. Who was your favourite Transformer?

Cyclonus. He was a bad ass. 120% loyal and didn’t talk much but would put your face in your lap if you crossed the line.

I’ve read you’re a Streetfighter II fan so tell me would you give mercy 2nd rounds? And who is the most worthy challenger to your throne in the NZ hip hop scene?

Haha. Nah mate, no seconds given here! Actually the guy that gives me the best competition is (fellow Dkonz member) Alphrisk. I use Dhalsim and he uses Ken so our styles make for good matches!

You have a lot of Footy references in your lyrics, what are your thoughts on the Sonny Bill situation? And if Samoa and NZ meet in the semis of the World Cup, who do you go for?

I think SBW’s was definitely all good about doing what he did, I mean support you and your family first and foremost, but I just think the way he went about doing it was wrong. But Samoa all the way mate, that’s a no brainer! On paper we got a killer team!

We like to talk about cars here at Freestyle so when you’re not catching the bus (i.e ‘City Line’) what car would you like to be cruising around in?

What you talking about? It’s all about catching the bus mate!! Haha. Peace!

To find out more about Mareko, visit

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