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Those who believe hip hop is dead need look no further than Home Brew for living proof to the contrary. Consisting of Tom Scott, Lui Gumaka and Harry ‘Haz Beats’ Huavi, the New Zealand trio have become the most talked about musical act in their home country, reaching #1 on the New Zealand album chart with their independently released self-titled debut album. The last time a local hip hop act made such an impact was when a scrappy newcomer by the name of Scribe made his debut in 2003. Not bad for a crew that has received no mainstream radio play and is accustomed to selling CDs out of car boots.
“Making music is what we do every day,” says Huavi, the group’s beatmaker. While the statement would ordinarily be lip service coming from some others it rings true for these dudes. Their brazen approach appeals to their young fans while outraged commentators offer up the usual “think of the children” hysteria that accompanies such musical revolutions. Despite the madness that has accompanied their rise to prominence little has changed for these three mates. “We take things by the day, normally, I don’t think anything’s changed really,” the hard working producer confirms.
Harking back to a more classic sound, Home Brew’s organic use of live instrumentation has earned them many plaudits. The recording process starts with the three core members before they hook up with the instrumentalists. “They’re not pushing us and we’re not there pushing them around. I let them be who they are. I’m not a bass player, I’m not gonna tell a bass player how to play bass. I sit down with them and tell them what I’m going for. The person I’m talking to will be like ‘I can play that, I can play a variation’ and it ends up being a constant loop sort of thing.”
The vibrant energy of tracks like Yellow Snot Funk and Radio reflect that unique chemistry. That energy is also reflected in the changes of tone as they go from social commentary to party music. “It all goes together I guess. The partying, the crying, it’s all in there,” Huavi says with a chuckle. “Most of the songs do say ‘you can have fun here’ or ‘at this point it all ends and at this point you’re crying’. It’s like the ups and downs of life.”
With such an accessible persona Home Brew obviously have a unique relationship with their fans. “I got into a fight,” Huavi explains rather calmly, about his recent encounter with what would be considered a ‘fan’. What he leaves out, though, is the fact that this fight received national news coverage in New Zealand, accompanied by pictures of the producer-DJ with a bruised face. For most other groups that would be a sign to take a rest, but not the boys from Home Brew. “I wasn’t going to make it [to our next show] but our manager got me some crutches so I went down there.” Details about the fight spread on their Facebook page before the gig, with many thinking he would not attend. “I was like ‘fuck that shit, I’m going to come see you guys’. They were appreciative of that.”
Bruises and all, seemingly nothing can stop the crew from rocking the crowd. “I was on stage with crutches and a balaclava to cover my black eyes. But then all they wanted to see was my face,” he says with a hearty laugh. “I got to sit down for a few songs at least so it wasn’t too bad on my ankles. At one point I fell over and one of the fans picked me up. I was like ‘fuck, thanks.’”
While bruises and black eyes are a badge of honour there’s one thing Huavi is still getting used to: male groupies. “[After gigs] I just get male groupies all the time, I think the girls go home. No girls come up to us, it’s just dudes all the time. They’re like ‘hey bro, hey bro’ and it’s cool, but can some girls come up and talk to us?” As he goes on to describe the scene it sounds more and more like the makings of an epidemic. “We have female fans but the majority of our fans are muzza dudes elbowing chicks so they can be in the front row. Look at Justin Bieber, he doesn’t have male groupies, he has female groupies. That’s all we want. I mean we love you, keep supporting us, thank you, but at the same time please don’t maul us like we’re a gang. As long as they maul us no girl will come up and talk to us.”
Social media has also played an important role in developing their following, something they clearly work hard on. “I was nothing without the Internet,” Huavi jokes. “Just having that online base where people can interact and buy music, it’s much easier than trying to sell music out of your [car] boot. It’s the same thing but more people can see it online rather [than] you standing around looking stupid outside a shop.” As he sees it they are dealers of audio drugs, giving fans a fix. “We’re always working on stuff and we want them to hear it. It’s like a heroin addict, you give them a free taste and they’ll be back.”