From the opening track ‘Dedicated To (Intro)’, when rapper Tom Scott dedicates the album to “the fuck ups and crack fiends, the drop outs and drag queens” and many other social outcasts, you know that Home Brew is going to hold a unique and important place in New Zealand’s hip hop legacy.
The first half of the double album takes an optimistic approach. Scott shows off his skill as a comedic MC on ‘Benefit
and Datura/White Flowers’, which offer a humourous look at dole-bludging and drug-taking respectively, while the rest of the disc offers a thought-provoking take on personal and social issues. Scott reminisces about his childhood on ‘Basketball Court’; ‘Everybody’ recommends being yourself instead of bowing to society; ‘Last Day’ questions conspicuous consumption and looks at ways that so-called third world countries are better off.
The second half of the album reflects the darker side of themes explored on the first disc. Social commentary gets confrontational when ‘Listen To Us’ calls out John Key for his lack of concern about the poor and working class, while ‘Good God’ sends a fiery letter to God blaming him/her for all the world’s problems. Personal issues get raw and emotive– ‘Bourbon and Coke’ and ’55 Stories’ look at two different sides of suicide, ‘The Truth Is Ugly’ tells a story about a relationship that is falling apart, and ‘Space’ looks at post-break up loneliness with an extended metaphor that would make Lupe Fiasco proud. Even the fun of ‘Datura’ gets flipped when Plastic Magic and Fungi address the dangers of drug abuse.
Haz Beats’ and Dandruff Dicky’sproduction is on point across the album with smooth, jazzy beats–reminiscent of the late Nujabes–never failing to set the mood. Scott’s flow is consistently sharp, his rhymes clever and versatile, and guest vocals from Esther Stephens, Hollie Smith, Tourettes and others add a haunting extra layer of depth.
This is an album that won’t get much radio play, but that’s not how Home Brew rolls. You won’t find a more joyfully heart-breaking, calmly aggressive, honest example of New Zealand hip-hop.