In 2000, New Zealand’s first all-female hip hop crew, Sheelaroc, dropped the song If I gave u th’ mic. The hit propelled Sheelaroc onto the New Zealand stage and into TV screens around the country.
The crew consisted of three members: Ladi6, Voodoo Child, and Tyra Hammond. They were rappers, writers, performers, singers, and MCs. In short, they were, as hip hop artist Randa describes them, “dope, talented woman.”
Voodoo Child thinks back to the birth of Sheelaroc: “everyone else that was MCing the time that I was around were all male. But I heard from somebody else that there was another chick in Christchurch who was also writing raps.”
That chick was Ladi6. They joined forces, and soon after Sheelaroc picked up their third member, Ladi’s cousin, Tyra. The teenagers treated their band like a business, holding weekly meetings and even keeping minutes. The vision was clear. Ladi saw all-female rap crews overseas and wanted that same representation here in New Zealand.
“There are definitely attitudes out there that women should be a certain way,” Randa says, “like, gentle or low key. But when you see a woman with mad skills, you cannot deny the power there.”
When their single was released, New Zealand’s hip hop industry was sorely lacking in female representation. Radio stations across the country quickly discovered Sheelaroc’s talent and If I gave u th’ mic was nominated for a bNet music award.
Rapper and hip hop artist Scribe grew up in the same Christchurch neighbourhood as Sheelaroc. He saw a challenge in the all-female rap crews’ path to success.
“[Sheelaroc] made me kinda be like, oh, hang on, I’m going to get left behind here if I don’t get my shit together,” Scribe says.
This episode follows Sheelaroc from their origins through to their breakup. It explores female empowerment, the early 2000s hip hop industry, and unearths the terrible music video all the members thought (and hoped) was long lost.
NZ Hip Hop Stand Up was made possible by the RNZ/NZ On Air Innovation Fund.