The 6 track project has faintly recognisable samples underneath stories of youth, trouble, and the neighbourhood. If you are a Kiwi, particularly an Aucklander, chances are you can relate to the subject matter and appreciate the energy and simplicity of the beats. Eno is at his best when chopping up slow soul, creating a stripped back and minimal sonic base for the fiery Dirty to dance on with his brash lyrics.
The pairing of these two men feels solid and certain. When we link up in person, this creative collaboration makes even more sense as it’s clear that on top of colleagues, they are just really good friends. Friends who want to build something for themselves, and have fun while doing it.
The boys take me down to their studio which is nestled in the back of the BaseFm building on Rose Road. As we make our way through the maze of hallways, they explain to me how lucky they feel to have this space in which to work and chill. In fact, its not just luck, its destiny – Many of their friends and heroes within the Auckland music scene have called this building home at one time or other, and the boys themselves have been coming here for years to assist on radio shows or just to hang out before they started their journey into music.
There’s a lot of history here and I can already tell this spot is special.
As we sit down with some beers, weed, and a recording device, the following chat ensues:
Dove: Who are you, where are you, what do you do, & why do you do it?
Manu: I’m DIRTY. I’m from Grey Lynn, and I sing rap songs because I have to, and because I can.
Eden: I’m ENO. I’m from Central Auckland, Grey Lynn. And I make rap music because I love it.
D: Eden, you produce? How long have you been doing it? Do you produce also Manu?
M: I can’t make beats to save my life, but I’ll always be trying to tell him how to make the beat. I’ll be like ‘go, doo do dum dum’ and he’s just like, ‘nah bo.’ Hahaha. He’s like, ‘just stick to the raps.’
E: I’ve been producing for awhile now, I’ll say 5 years? 5 years properly. I guess I started rapping and producing at about the same time. I did have my little primary school raps, you know like, ‘yo I’m the man’, just all that silly shit. But yeah, I dunno. I wanna call myself an MC but I’m not quite there yet.
D: Did you start producing your own music out of necessity, because you wanted to rap? Or was it just something you were drawn to?
E: I guess just listening to my Dad play records when I was younger was the start of it. I’d listen to these records and you’d know a rapper can rap, and a singer can sing, but it was like, who does everything else? You know? Like, you know a guitarist played that, but who’s pulling it all together? And then I saw Hustle & Flow, and he was banging out on an MPC2000 XL I think it was, and I was like shiiit you can make a whole song on that one machine. One dude. And I was like, I need that. I did all this research about it and for years I used to go to sleep dreaming about it. I used to draw pictures of the MPCs and shit. And then finally I had worked my ass off to save up for this MPC that I saw on Trade Me and my dad was like ‘since you worked so hard, I’ll go halves with you.’ So yeah, I copped that and have been making beats ever since.
D: Manu, how long have you been rapping?
M: I’ve been writing actual proper raps since I was about 17, but before that I was just freestyling at parties. My older brothers, all his boys did it so that was like, the thing to do.
D: That’s such a New Zealand thing though right? My older brother produces music as well and when I was younger I just remember him having all his boys over and they would be making rap songs. Most of them weren’t particularly good but it was just what you did.
M: Exactly, it’s just a good time! No one’s really gonna give you shit, it’s just fun. But when you start writing raps down, then they can judge them. Then it becomes serious, haha.
D: When did you guys meet and start making music together?
M: I knew Eden way back in intermediate, Ponsonby Intermediate, but we were in a different year group so we weren’t really mates. We were still bros and would say whats up to each other but we didn’t really hang out like that. Then he went to a different high school. But then one day he came to Springs, and I was like ‘oh snap, Eden!’ Yeah, then one night we were drinking, actually it was in this building! Upstairs at Greg’s place. This is when we were about 15, or 16. Some instrumentals were playing and one of my bros knew that I freestyled and was like, ‘Manu G, spit some freestyles! The bros wanna hear you.’ So I did, and later came to find out that Eden made beats. I was shocked because I’d never met anyone who made beats. Like ANYONE who made beats. No one. Then from there we were like, sweet we gotta do this sometime… Then we did this sometime. Haha.
E: And then Supervillains came around.D: Tell me about Supervillains – How did that come about?
E: In this building too, haha. There’s so much history here.
M: That’s why we’re so lucky to have a recording studio here now.
E: So basically my homie Sid from Western Springs was like ‘yo my sister’s mates have got a show on BaseFm, you and Ethan should roll up there and do some raps, play some beats or whatever.’ And I was thinking damn that sounds sick! So we started coming up here every Monday doing these freestyles, and one day these big homies came through and started rapping. When I heard them I was like ‘oh shit, they’re pretty mean’, they were just freestyling on the mic. This show was on a Monday night at like 11pm, I was still in high school. I would just gap out of the house like, ‘Mum I’ll be back later’, and I’d get back at like 1am, half drunk.
M: Fuck yeah, Monday night was horse night!
E: It was the one. But yeah, so we used to come up here and freestyle. Then I bumped into Liam, and I knew Liam, who’s like 3 years older than me, from Primary. We never really knew him on that level, but I knew who he was. So anyway, we started talking, nostalgia. We reminisced on Freeman’s Bay days. Shouts out Freeman’s Bay Primary! Then I was saw Freddie Bishop who’s a member of Supervillains, and I told him I made beats and that we should link up and do something. Then before you know it, they’re coming round to my house and we wrote this siiiick song, or what we thought was so mean at the time, and it was the title track ‘Supervillains.’ I dunno how, but it just eventuated.
D: How many people are in Supervillains?
M: 5 of us. But then of course, there’s all the honorary homies who are members too in their own way. Haha.
D: So when you two came together to do this project (E.E.A.G.S), you’d already been doing things as ‘ENO X DIRTY’, or was the partnership solely for this?
E: We took a break from Supervillains because I wanted to work on my solo stuff, and that’s what I was doing. I was working and then this dude started rapping to me and it was completely different from his sorta style on Supervillains. And yeah, I dunno. I fell in love with the mans raps. I was like ‘we gotta do this.’ So yeah, I’m doing that now instead of my own stuff. It’s dope.
D: Explain your names? Any meaning behind them?
M: I’ll let you go first because mine’s kinda long.
E: ENO. So, I was originally ‘The Enovator’ and I didn’t really like that name all that much to be honest. So I just shortened it down to ENO which worked out because my MC name is En Sabah Nur which if you know anything about Marvel there’s a character called Apocalypse. Apocalypse is also called En Sabah Nur. I’m getting real nerdy here but Apocalypse is just a reincarnated version of En Sabah Nur. That translates to ‘the first one’, and ENO backwards is one. It just all came together.
M: The first time I ever got stoned, I went to the Ponsonby Food Court. And there was this O.G guy who would sell drinks and every time you’d buy something he’d go, ‘Saaank you.’ It was the funniest thing and he was the homie. Every time we’d go there we’d be like ‘Yo! Mr Sank You!’ So anyway, that first time I was stoned, he was there waving plates around and shit and by brothers went into the bathroom to do some hits. And some of the boys were like, ‘what do you tag Manu?’ and I was like, shit I dunno. I don’t have a tag. And then someone was like, ‘you tag SANQ.’ S-A-N-Q. And I’m like yeah solid! So I tagged SANQ for years then I ended up changing it to Q. Then when I was freestyling with the boys they’d always call me Dirty Q because I was always rapping about some nasty, dirty shit. Then I just dropped the Q so now I’m Dirty. But yeah, Dirty Q kinda sounds like a dirty Q of crack. Hahaha. Terrible.E: And we have NO attachment to that drug. Haha.
M: Just for the record.
D: Let’s talk about YGB – How did you get aligned with that movement? It looks like it was a recent thing because I saw Hugo’s [Mathias] illustration he did for the site, he’s a really good friend of mine in Melbourne.
M: Solid! He’s the man.
E: Well yeah, we’re RMC first and foremost. That’s our thing, and it will always be our thing.
M: RMC stands for Ruthless Maori Crew, originally. But obviously, non Maori members are more than welcome, haha. Now it’s about unity. Bigger than what it started as.
E: Then we started rapping and it became Rap Money Cartel. And then there’s OZM, Ounce Mob, that’s the crew. Thats ALL the homies. Everyone knows about OZM. But I mean YGB came around recently. Just after we started doing the solo stuff. Tom just hit me up, and Tom’s always shown love. Always shown nothing but love. He was like ‘yo we’d be keen to put your stuff on the website and help you guys out.’ And for me, I was like fuck yeah. It’s dope to be a part of that movement. A historical movement within New Zealand rap, because man, before YGB, I didn’t listen to any New Zealand hip hop. Full stop.
M: Yeah man, I didn’t believe in it until I heard Home Brew back in the day. It sounds corny because they’re the homies but yeah. That was IT. Just like, holy shit.
D: I totally agree with where you’re coming from. I love how it’s a whole creative movement, not just musicians, but artists from every medium. It’s a huge part of the culture here.
E: It is IT. It’s so dope. Everyone just supports each other.
M: It’s just like another crew, you know? The creative crew.
D: This new project – Is there a situation you made it for? Like, how do you picture it being listened to? Did you create it with that picture or situation in mind?
M: I think overall there are lots of different situations it could suit. That’s what I think is so dope about the diversity of the project, like theres stuff you can listen to when you’re super happy, but maybe when you’re down, or a bit pissed off, it might gas you up or whatever.
E: But this is the setting. Chatting and smoking a blunt. That’s what we did making this.
M: The rap’s the banter.D: What inspires you to keep doing this? Because although you’re both still young, it seems like you’ve been doing this for a long time. What keeps you going?
M: I just have to. You know?
E: Too late to turn around, hahaha.
M: I just fucking love doing it, and I’ve always loved doing it which is the mean thing.
E: And just everyone around us. Even just listening to the people around us. Average Rap Band just put out an EP, that inspires me to make some heat that’s gonna put that in the grave.
M: Yeah, it’s like I’ve gotta top that now! Competition is dope. And there’s enough people making good music now so that people can feed off each other.
E: And grow together.
D: What has been some of your favourite New Zealand releases of late? Or anything you heard over the years that you thought was particularly special? I know you mentioned Home Brew just before. Anything else?
M: Yeah, Home Brew definitely. I reckon back in the day, the Deceptikonz. I was talking to Angelo from Third 3ye about this the other day, they were ON. They had the Mobb Deep intro on that album and their bars were fucking dope! Couple songs in particular I still listen to now. It’s South Auckland, it’s gritty, it’s bad. Lately though? Heaps of cats.
E: Yeah for me, Electric Wire Hustle definitely. Their first album was like wooooow. My Dad told me to check it out and it really resonated. I felt like I could listen to it in heaps of different settings, it gave me euphoric feelings. Just good music, good instruments.
D: With this project, what were you listening to while creating it that you think shows through as an influence? Who are some other musical influences in general?
E: So much aye. So much. Gangsta Gibbs. Roc Marciano.
E: Yeah just heaps of weird shit, like I was listening to some random stuff. Okay like Drake for example, that album, oh my god I still have that on repeat. Although it doesn’t represent the music that I make now, it’s still a big part of it. You know?
D: Who influences you outside of music?
M: My Pops. My Koro. Everyone in my family, cousins, brothers. All my mates.
E: Yeah same, definitely. But I’m gonna have to give this one to my homie Wolf Brooks though, one time. That dude is a photographer if you don’t know. His work ethic is just like, wow, I bug out. The trailer he did for us, we shot that on the day we were moving out of the flat in Kingsland.
M: Swerve Street!
E: We shot it at like 12am Sunday night/Monday morning, and he gave us the finished project for the trailer of Easter Eggs & Good Sportsmanship at 9am the next day. He just works. He’s so elusive. Like, you don’t know who this man is, you’ll see him and then you won’t see him, then you’ll see him and then he’ll disappear for ages and he just works. He’s sick.
M: He’s the man.
D: Since you released the project, have you heard any comparisons made about it? Positive or negative?
E: That’s the funny thing, no one has. Which is different because when we were in Supervillains people used to say Wutang, which I couldn’t see. I think Supervillains sounds like its complete own thing. Then I thought people were gonna question this tape, but they haven’t. So its kinda almost as if we have created our own thing. But I mean, I guess Noisey put it well when they said ‘It’s something familiar, but revitalised.’ Or however they put it.
M: Revivalism done right.
E: I guess I’ll take that.
M: No I wouldn’t compare it to anything. I always try to question myself when I’m writing or recording, like does that sound like something else? And if it is similar I’ll pull it back and try to change it.
E: Unless it’s like a tribute. Like the ‘I been dranking, I been smoking’
M: Oh yeah, the Beyonce. If you’re gonna bite you have to directly bite and make it obvious that you’re biting, otherwise you a biter. Haha.D: Explain the title – Easter Eggs & Good Sportsmanship. What does that mean?
M: I guess the easter eggs are the good parts. The little things you appreciate. Like in video games, the easter eggs would be the prizes. Fuck, this is so hard to explain, haha.
E: The easter eggs are the special moments.
M: Those gems. And the good sportsmanship is just because, we some good sports! It’s all about good sportsmanship at the end of the day. That will be my certificate.
D: Nice! And who came up with that?
M: I said it randomly one day! I thought it was stupid but I just said it.
E: And I was like, ‘hold up what did you just say???’ Then a couple of days later someone asked what we were gonna call it and I said Easter Eggs & Good Sportsmanship.
M: And I heard him and I was like, ‘ayeeee.’ Hahaha. But when we thought about it we realised it just works. The name is what brought it together for us. We were so unsure about this tape. We thought it just wouldn’t do anything, but people really seem to like it and are picking up on it which is mean. At the same time, we’ll be making so much music after it so we just had to put that out. And what we’re doing now, we wanna put that out too, you know? So much writing. Don’t be lazy!
D: I was listening to Todd’s [Louie Knuxx] podcast How Not To Be An Asshole this week, and he had Tom [Scott] and Lui [Tuiasau] on and they were all talking about how sometimes you’ll write a song for a specific purpose or person and it suddenly becomes way more meaningful. Basically on the songs where they had been most honest, or vulnerable, or like transparent because of whoever they were rapping to, that’s when more people connect with the music. The point I think was the realisation that sometimes as artists you need to keep in mind that you’re the voice for these people. Then on the other hand sometimes you just wanna be self-indulgent and rap about yourself. Can you guys relate to that?
M: Fuck it’s funny you say that because with Louie Knuxx in particular, I didn’t really click onto his music until one of those songs. Like one of his super vulnerable songs.
E: Exactly, same for me.
M: I heard it and I was like, holy shit, then the next song played and I was just like, this dude’s BAD!
E: We both felt the same. It was crazy because we both listened to him on different occasions. It was his latest album on one of his songs where he talks about when he first got locked up. Yeah, that moment. I was just like, I understand now. I understand his craft and it’s his emotion. And now, fuck, I’ve got that on my iPod now. I listen to it at work, you know?
D: I 100% agree. With him and his music, for awhile I kinda slept on him. Then when I really listened to it, it clicked. His music is him. Like, thats him. That’s his voice, and those are his stories, those are his experiences. And even if you can’t always relate it directly to your own life, you get it because of the honestly and pain and truth in it. That’s his art. It’s always vulnerable, gritty, raw.
M: And you don’t have to go through that yourself to appreciate it, that’s the thing about it.
D: Exactly. So do you think for you guys, you try to create with others in mind? Like, I wanna make this rap song that all my boys will listen to at a party or whatever, or do you shut that out and just write purely from your own experiences?
E: I wouldn’t say its personal, but it is. For this project, its a bit of past experience, its a bit of in the moment. Some of these stories are stories of friends. They’re just stories that somehow have related to us in some way, whether its through people we know or not. Its that Grey Lynn story.
M: But yeah at the same time, its totally made for the boys! Its our slang, its how WE talk. I mean there might be universal slang through it too, but heaps of it is just words that we use. Central Auckland. You can understand it even if you’re not from it, its blatant.D: What are you guys listening to at the moment? Favourite songs?
M: White Range – Freddie Gibbs, Pronto – Freddie Gibbs, that whole EP actually. That’s my shit.
E: I’m gonna give it up to Future – The Percocet & Stripper Joint! That’s ahhhh. Shouts out Dirty Sprite 2!
M: It’s nuts!
D: What do you think is the most overrated/underrated thing this year?
M: Damn theres so much.
M: Burger Burger is overrated I reckon!
E: Really? G, I fucks with Burger Burger.
M: Drake and Meek Mill’s beef is overrated. The Bachelor is overrated.
E: Kimye and North West! And yep, The Bachelor. Underrated though? New Zealand music in general is underrated as hell. Theres so much talent here so shout out to Lorde for kicking down that door!
M: Shot Lorde, go Lorde.
E: NZ music is world class at the moment and I cannot doubt anyone. Keep doing your thing New Zealand. And always remember you’re from here.
D: Who is the number 1 person you want to meet, dead or alive? What would you say to them?
M: Oh shit. Dead or alive? Damn. For me it would be Hongi Hika, Ngapuhi chief. If I got to meet him I would trip out, I don’t even know what I’d say. I think thats my great great great great grandfather or uncle or something. But yeah, that dude changed the game of the country. That dude got the musket here. He’s one of the buzziest cats ever, you know? Like in terms of New Zealand history. He’s a Genghis Khan level historical figure, just on New Zealand’s small scale. Or um, Dre? Haha.
E: Hahaha! Yo. That’s a good one though. I’m gonna do one kinda similar. I’d love to meet my Dad’s ancestors, like before the slave trade, so I know exactly where I came from. You know? You can only trace it back so far, and I wanna know. But yeah, other than that? Dilla. Madlib. The legends.
D: What’s the ultimate goal with all this? Is there one? Whats up next for Eno & Dirty?
E: I wouldn’t say there’s a goal really.
M: Yeah nah, not a specific one. I guess we just want to get to a place where we can support ourselves, support our families. Just to be able to do this. Because I love it. Just to have heaps of people listen to our music, to be able to play a big show and see people just loving the music. Because for me? I’m a super fan of cats and going to a show is the meanest buzz.
E: Yeah just seeing how happy you can make people, strangers. It’s crazy. Yeah, that’s the goal. Whether we keep making music together, or whether its separate.. If Manu makes it, I’m going with him. And if I make it, he’s coming with me.
M: Yeah totally. Even if we’re doing other projects or collaborations, ENO x DIRTY will always exist. Just like Supervillains will always exist.
E: But yeah, keep your eyes peeled! There’s heaps of shit that you won’t wanna miss out on. There’s heaps in store, watch this space. We’ve been writing a fuck load, it’s been mean. Progression.
M: Hard out, progression. Way more gems coming. We’re gonna make you proud Aotearoa.
D: Any last words for the lovers or haters? Have you guys got any haters?
E: Nah, not really aye. We’ve been getting nothing but love and positivity. Everyone’s very based, haha. But yeah to the fans, shout out to you. Shout out to New Zealand.
M: Shouts out to RMC, OZM, YGB
E: KCB, Ammo Nation, Garden Gang.. just all crews, cliques, and clans all over.
M: All crews! And Hone Harawira we still love you. Even though you did all that stuff we still love you, hahaha.ENO: Instagram, Twitter, SoundCloud
DIRTY: Instagram, Twitter, SoundCloud
ENOxDIRTY: SoundCloud, BandCamp, iTunes, & Facebook
Much love to Eden & Manu. Long live New Zealand hip hop.
[All photos by me using an Olympus Stylus 35mm]