Home Brew

August 3, 2012

New Zealand hip hop crew Home Brew have quite a reputation, and given that, I wasn’t sure how I would take their first full-length self-titled LP. Yes, it had been No. 1 on the charts in NZ, but they’d also been labelled a ‘burden to society’. Would it be full of angry, ‘we hate the world, let’s get high’ catch phrases or was there a lot more to Home Brew than the mainstream media had given them credit for? Thankfully, upon listening to the LP, I have to say it’s the latter, with Home Brew delivering an album that has depth, healthy doses of sarcasm, and is heavy on the jazz and soul energy throughout.

Home Brew’s debut is a double album that has a lighter, ‘higher’ side, and another side that is the darker, that depicts the feelings of ‘coming down’, you could say. It’s always quite risky to deliver an album that has two sides and is pretty much a concept album. Concept double albums can be game changers (Outkasts Speakerboxx/The Love Below comes to mind) or they can easily fail (take your pick). It’s a fine line between creating a masterpiece and something that is simply self-indulgent.

On this LP, Tom, Haz Beats and Lui succeed in delivering a consistent and strong hip hop album that comes with the goods. 21 tracks can easily seem like a few too many, but here it all flows and the outcome is an album that can be listened to from start to finish without skipping a track. The weak points are minor and few, and the strong points are what see us play the album in its entirety. Tom Scott’s rhymes and vocal tone is interesting to listen to, and that’s before you even take stock of what he’s actually saying. He has a story to tell, some things to get off his chest, and he’s not ashamed to be brutally honest about life: the good and the bad, the regrets, the inspirations, the problems. It’s all unapologetically real.

While tracks like Alcoholic have garnered attention thanks to the subject matter, and the first side of the album is upbeat and sort of like a big screw-you to society, the real star of the album is the production, the use of instruments, that is, real instruments: splashes of brass, raw drums, gentle keys, all of which is oozing of jazz and soul influences. For these reasons, to me the second half of the album has much more depth. Where on the first half of the album Home Brew are proud of their mistakes and issues, and shouting it for the world to hear (as evident in Benefit) on the second half they are much more reflective and questioning (State of Mind and 55 Stories). It’s as if we’ve scratched below the surface and are at last seeing the truth behind the bravado of the first side of the album.

Highlight tracks for me include Basketball Court, The Truth Is Ugly and Listen to Us, where Home Brew lament the inequalities of life in NZ, how misunderstood the people are and their anger at the government. It is a moody, dark, keys-lead track that goes beyond saying ‘F-the-police’ and paints a picture that quite possibly most people don’t want to see, but is crucial for them to acknowledge. It’s tracks like this that make it clear just how important Home Brew’s message and music is. Far from young hoodlums creating trouble, with their debut LP Home Brew cement their place in the hip hop music history of New Zealand and Australia.

Home Brew’s debut LP is available in stores and online now.

Home Brew tour Australia throughout August, in support of the album on the ‘Speak Easy Tour’. See http://homebrewcrew.co.nz/ for details.

Tour info:

Thursday 9th August – Amplifier, 393 Murray Street, Perth

Doors open 7.30pm

Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au

Friday 10th August – The Espy (Gershwin Room), 10 The Esplanade, Melbourne

Doors open 8.00pm

Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au

Saturday 11th August – The Factory, 105 Victoria Road, Sydney

Doors open 8.00pm

Tickets available from www.factorytheatre.com.au

Sunday 12th August – Coniston Lane, Coniston Lane, Brisbane

Doors open 8.00pm

Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au