Home Brew – Home Brew (Independent) CD REVIEW

FIRST IT WENT ballistic as a free download, then zipped to the top of the NZ charts when this double CD version was released back in May. If any local album release has gone straight to the heart of the nation in 2012, it’s this one, although it’s probably not spending much time on John Key’s favourite portable music device, due to the expletive-resplendent dissing Key gets.
So… what’s left to say about a record that’s been thrashed by every granny and her donkey for the past few months? Well, from a Witchdoctor perspective, we can report that it sounds pretty good. No, it’s not an audiophile experience; it doesn’t have the kind of bottom end that’s to be found on the slickest American hip-hop productions, but they’ve turned out a nicely mastered product that’s certainly no slouch in the sound department.
In fact, one of the most appealing things about Home Brew is the fact that they don’t sound at all like a typical hip-hop group. For a start, MC Tom Scott was clearly raised in a middle class family in West Auckland, and is obviously well educated, and has a bounteous thesaurus at his disposal. The guy has genuine skill with words, and can spill them out of his mouth with a speed and nuance that’s impressive. He’s also got a great balance between outrageousness and humanistic, and that really means something. Yes, there are controversial lyrics, but they’ve got a social conscience, and more importantly, they’re real. For all that, however, I wonder how he got the typical hip-hop accent. I guess he would risk being laughed out of town if he used a suburban white-boy West Auckland drawl.
I get sick of rapping after about 30 seconds, just as I get sick of morbid guys moaning along to acoustic guitars, so it’s to Scott’s credit that with Home Brew, I found myself able to keep listening, and dip in and out of listening to what he was banging on about and still pick up on it whenever I wanted.
It’s also to the credit of the music/production, which essentially moored in rather old-fashioned ‘90s jazz-inflected, hip-hop turntablism, except here it’s performed by a real band. So where ye olde jazzy turntablizing hip-hop was grainy as hell because its samples all came off old vinyl, the Home Brew version sounds quite clean. But there’s nothing wrong with that. I find the music a bit on the safe side, that’s all – while it’s got a nice groove, and that makes for a good background to the lyrics/rapping, it’s all been done before. Well, most of it has. One aspect of the sound that carries a whiff of difference is the double-tracked horns that Isaac Aesili provides, and the good humour that pervades the whole enterprise also comes through in the music.
It’s a good album, but what I’d really like to hear is a dub version of the whole thing – not dub as in stripped utterly of vocal content, but with fragments of the vocals left in, with someone going crazy on a mixing desk. If anything, it’s that sense of audible risk-taking that the Home Brew debut lacks. GARY STEEL
Sound = 3.5/5
Music = 3.5/5

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