PNC Gives Us The Codes (Interview)

PNC (aka Sam Hansen) is well known as a talented kiwi hip hop artist, with three albums under his belt and a fourth set to drop on June 27.  The Codes boasts production genius of Matt Miller, Fire and Ice and Forty One, as well as being engineered and mastered by electronic duo State of Mind. But the name-dropping doesn’t end there, as Hansen continues his penchant for collaborating with an album that features some noteworthy guest spots including P Digss, Pieter T, David Dallas and Tyra Hammond. Showcasing dancefloor-ready beats and dynamic lyricism, The Codes has been touted by some insiders as his best work yet.

Born in Palmerston North City – now his abbreviated namesake – Hansen has always been an avid music lover, but discloses how it wasn’t until he was a teenager that he became interested in hip hop and song writing. “It all started in my bedroom in Palmy, when I was about 16. I started mucking around with music programmes, downloading instrumentals, experimenting with making beats, ya know.” He also reveals there’s plenty of comedic value in going back and listening to his early works, but also how playing those early demos to his friends gave him the confidence to pursue his dreams.

Really into “Outkast and those guys”, at the same time Hansen was downloading music programmes he was also learning to rap: “I tried to emulate how they constructed their lyrics and the streams and patterns of writing a verse.”  Plenty of practice went in to perfecting his flow, which raises the question, can anyone learn to rap? “Some people got it and some don’t… like natural talent. But you can learn it, if you have understanding. Like people who know how to put words together – even someone writing speeches say – you gotta know what words go together.”

PNC pic-0-594-0-0Kicking it with the likes of P-Money, David Dallas, Scribe and Che Fu, Hansen’s entry to the music industry was not one of small gigs in back-road bars. First gaining underground notoriety for his unofficial single Day In The Life, Hansen then made a guest appearance on P-Money’s second album,Magic CityHolding his own alongside Scribe and Con Psy, both lyrically and on tour, Hansen was starting to make a name for himself and the hip hop heads were digging his sound. Signing to Dirty Records in 2005 he released a mixtape, Ooooh On The PNC Tipand a year later his debut album, The Rookie Card, with P-Money, Scribe and Con Psy each returning the guesting-favour on a track. This went on to earn him the Best Hip-Hop Album at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards in 2007.

In 2009 he released his sophomore effort Bazooka Kid, which continued the trend of critical acclaim. Turning heads with a State Of Mind collaboration, City On Fire (which became a local and international club anthem) Hansen was also racking up writing credits on a number of Top 10 singles, including two Number 1’s; P-Money’s Stop The Music and Everything). And just for good measure, 2010 saw the release of his third album, Man On Wire, along with another VNZMA nomination in 2011.

With no deliberate starting point for his fourth album, Hansen explains that’s he’s just “continuously making music. There’s less pressure on myself that way,” he laughs, “and when there’s enough material to turn into an album, then I start to define it and make it cohesive.”

There is a creative process for Hansen in crafting tracks, where beat structure is crucial.”I start with a sample, which always comes from one producer or another – I’ve always been working with such good producers I’ve never needed to learn that side of things. But yeah, that’s where the whole song starts and it dictates the feeling of a track.” Hansen also says of his creative process that it makes sense and enables him to concentrate on his strengths and what he’s best at.

Always a fan of the collab Hansen’s fourth album stays true to this ethos. Featuring industry heavyweights such as P Digss, Pieter T, David Dallas and Tyra Hammond, there are also some talented up-and-comers (including Bailey Wiley, Spycc and INF) adding valuable contributions. “Working with others is important for me, to stay inspired and fresh… and hip hop overall is a collaborative genre.”  Hansen also believes the various artists bring a new dimension to the album, in particular working with P Diggs on Ride. “It was awesome working with him and bit of a departure from what I normally do… but I’ve always been a fan and I’m really happy with it how the track turned out.

Doing things a bit differently is what The Codes has been all about for Hansen: “It might be a risk musically, but these things usually turn out and it’s good to try different things.” And by different things he’s referencing genres and the move towards a more electronic sound which he explains was a result of listening to the likes of Flume and Rusko, as well as working with Matt Miller producing and Pat Hawkins from State of Mind engineering and co-producing. “This is the perfect album for bridging the gap between hip hop and electronic/EDM music. I’m really happy with the final product and I just enjoyed the journey… it’s what I like about music best, the process of making songs.”

– Ren Kirk

Click here to listen to 100 Cups from The Code: