In 2019, Church & AP dominated NZ radio. Before the hip hop duo even officially released their hit song Ready or Not, it had already been picked up by Mai FM, played at Childish Gambino’s Pharos festival, and became the most searched song on the app Shazam. Ready or Not was set to become a phenomenon.
And its success wasn’t limited to Aotearoa either – this homegrown hit made it big internationally too. Radio BBC 1Xtra discovered the song, and soon the boys were on a flight to the UK. Ready or Not, with its falsetto hook, banger chorus, and fresh vocals, was being played on repeat.
Speaking about Church & AP’s international acclaim, hip hop artist Dirty says, “because of the internet, people aren’t just looking left and right and trying to be the best rapper on their street, you know. It’s like you’re actually competing with the world.”
Church & AP’s rise to the top didn’t come out of nowhere. The duo found a mentor in kiwi rapper Mellowdownz at a music program in their local community centre. He was one of the people who pushed the pair to continue with their music. Straight from school, still in their uniform, Church flicked AP the hook for what would become Ready or Not.
“These kids are like, so driven in what they know they want to do and how they want to do it,” says DJ ILL BAZ. “It’s just their first, like, they’re not even getting started yet.”
The song, perhaps, crests a new wave in New Zealand hip hop which has been rising for some time: artists who take the history of Aotearoa hip hop, of international hip hop and build on it.
As Scribe says “I wanna hear what else they got. I wanna hear stories. I wanna feel it… I’m looking forward to what they’ll do. I’m looking forward to what the next generation does because I think it’ll be big.”
This episode tracks Church & AP’s speedy rise in the hip hop world and explores where the new New Zealand hip hop sound is heading. Because, ready or not, the future of Aotearoa hip hop is already here.
NZ Hip Hop Stand Up was made possible by the RNZ/NZ On Air Innovation Fund.