It was a rags-to-riches tale that featured an international No1 hit but ended in bankruptcy.
Pauly Fuemana is being remembered as the man who brought New Zealand hip-hop to the world with the infectious hit How Bizarre.
The singer with the Otara Millionaires Club (OMC) died in North Shore Hospital yesterday morning aged 40, surrounded by family and friends. He had been ill for several months.
It is understood that he may have been suffering from a neurological condition with TV3 reporting he had pneumonia.
TV3 said Fuemana's friends and family said he had died from the "wear and tear of a lifestyle that was hard, but a lifestyle that was rich".
"Rest in peace, the one and only Pauly Fuemana," wrote rapper P-Money on his Twitter page.
Fuemana's older brother, record producer Phil Fuemana, died of a heart attack in 2005, aged 41.
Pauly Fuemana was best known for OMC's 1995 hit single How Bizarre.
A worldwide smash, the blend of South Pacific strumming and rap went to No1 in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Ireland, South Africa and Austria.
How Bizarre topped the United States airplay charts and was No2 on the Billboard Top 100. It peaked at No5 in Britain.
Their album, also called How Bizarre, sold between three and four million copies, making it New Zealand's biggest-selling record.
Yesterday the Kiwi hip-hop community paid its respects to Fuemana.
Kirk Harding, of hip-hop label MTC, said Fuemana would never be forgotten. "Pauly put South Auckland on the global stage."
Porirua-based musician Ben Aitogi said he "made the impossible possible".
OMC broke up in 2000. They reformed in 2007 and released a single 4 All of Us, with actress Lucy Lawless.
Born to a Nuiean father and Maori mother, Fuemana grew up in the tough Auckland suburb of Otara. Often in trouble, he found a refuge in music, forming OMC in 1993.
How Bizarre made him at least $1.5 million.
However, a natural generosity and the cost of a rock'n'roll lifestyle saw the cash slip through his fingers. He was declared bankrupt four years ago.
"I bought my brother Phil a Range Rover and my sister a BMW ... because they were at the bottom of their glass, they were struggling," he said in a 2006 interview. "I said, `Here, have some money."'
There were no regrets, he said. "I'm from Otara and I got to see Italy and Spain and Germany. To play at the Supper Club in New York and the Whisky a Go Go in LA. It was like a dream come true."
Tony Fuemana said his brother, who had five children, fought his illness until the end.
"He really wanted to have more time with his kids.
"He opened the music up right across the world. The world had a taste of what our style of music is.
"He went from nothing to having all this fame dumped on him, and was meant to cope with it all by himself."
Mr Fuemana told Radio New Zealand the close-knit family had been hit hard by Pauly's death.
"The impact for my sister has been huge and also for my mum as well," he said.
- with MICHAEL FOX, Stuff.co.nz
- © Fairfax NZ News