Large-living Auckland hip-hop crew Home Brew have a number one album to their name, with musical and personal development next on their list. That’s not easy, though, when ‘self-destruction is easier’.
When the record companies came courting the three members of the Home Brew crew two years ago, Tom Scott, Haz Beats and Lui Silk drank the free beer and ate the free pizza they were plied with, and then remembered what they learned listening to A Tribe Called Quest.
“‘Industry rule number four thousand and eighty, record company people are shady,’” says Scott, rapping a line from the ATCQ track, Check The Rhime. “Growing up with hip-hop, you’re aware the record industry is dodge. In other genres, signing a record deal is glamorised. In hip-hop you’re warned against it. You never hear a folk song that goes [Scott strums air guitar and sings], ‘Aw, my record company is f–––––g me.’”
If Scott didn’t have hip-hop in his bones, he could make a living as a stand-up comedian or a life coach, albeit the sort of dysfunctional life coach you would most likely encounter in a Hollywood movie. His conversation, like his lyrics, is peppered with witty one-liners, as well as musings on motivation and the meaning of success. There might also be a future, in a parallel universe, in employment law: the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ Home Brew signed with their PR people is pure gold. “It was scribbled on the back of a piece of paper,” says Scott. “It said, ‘One: Home Brew retain 100 per cent creative control. Two: Don’t be a dick. Three: Shit f–––s up.’ That’s all you need. If someone tries to take 80 per cent of our money, I can point to clause two.”
That said, 80 per cent of Home Brew’s money wouldn’t add up to much. Their self-released, eponymous album debuted at number one in the New Zealand album charts in May, but they’re still doing things the hard way.
“Nothing has changed,” says Haz Beats. “[A number one album] didn’t get me a new car or a new house. I’m still living in my missus’s flat and it’s still the same munters up the front when we play live.” What is different is Home Brew’s fanbase away from the gigs. Their songs about life on the margins of society have been embraced by middle-class New Zealand.
Read the full story in September's issue of The Red Bulletin.