3 Feb 2024

The Mixtape: Tom Scott

From Music 101, 4:00 pm on 3 February 2024

Auckland hip-hop artist Tom Scott says the release of a new album from his hip-hop group Home Brew last year came as a surprise even to him.

He shares some beloved tracks that inspired Run It Back and chats to Charlotte Ryan about personal evolution, sobriety and why he walked out of a Kim Hill interview in 2016.

Musician Tom Scott

Photo: Supplied

Tom Scott's band Avantdale Bowling Club plays Morningside Live Block Party on 31 March.

For his infamous Saturday Morning interview eight years, one of the songs Scott chose to play was by DJ Quik and featured a sample of some "yacht-rocky boring white music".

"[Kim Hill] goes 'that's boring'. She said that about the sample. And I was like, 'What about DJ Quik…? She proceeded to go into me like 'Well, what's up with you taking taxpayers' money and then criticising the government?' … I was like 'Oh…' and then I walked out.

"I was just like 'Don't talk back to Kim Hill.' I grew with up my mum listening to Kim Hill every day. She's like dismantling Winston Peters and Geoffrey Palmer or whatever. I'm like 'I'm not gonna fight this lady' … I was just like, yeah, fight or flight. I choose flight."

This year, after a "hard time" in which he separated from the mother of his two sons, Scott is making his choices more consciously than ever. He's sworn off all substances, including alcohol and weed.

"I'm drinking this green tea here, I did yoga this morning. I just felt like a change this year. Nothing changes if nothing changes and all that."

The album title Run It Back is a basketball term, he says, which refers to the idea of living with no regrets.

"I came out the other end of another broken relationship to meet the mother of my children. And then I came out of that relationship to meet someone I'm deeply in love with now and I think this is how it goes. You can't really plan it. It just happens like that. So yeah, I wouldn't change the thing."

Although he still loves making music, Scott says he's also keen to "get out of the way" and pursue something else when the time comes.

"I've got a degree in psychology so I'm kind of thinking about maybe going back to school and getting a Masters and becoming a psychologist or clinical psychologist even or maybe starting a therapy group where it doesn't cost you an arm and a leg to go to it… I am thinking about exit strategies and for once in my life I'm like cool with maybe hanging it up. But then again I've still got something in me to say, I think.

"I just remember being young and looking at people that were a bit older than me and it just didn't look as cool anymore and they didn't have as much to say or they looked like they were holding on a bit too hard. And I wouldn't ever want to be that, so it's a battle."

(Left to right) Lui Gumaka, Tom Scott and Haz Beats of the NZ hip-hop group Home Brew

(Left to right) Lui Gumaka, Tom Scott and Haz Beats of the NZ hip-hop group Home Brew Photo: Supplied

Hip-hop artists get "washed quicker" than musicians in other genres, Scott says.

"You can be a blues musician and be doing it till you're 70 but this genre is not really an old man sport so it's confusing, to be honest. It's definitely a crisis I'm in at the moment, like wondering what I want to do... I would hate to be doing this for any other reason than that I love it. 

"Life's so short that I would love to try other things. Honestly, I would love to be a therapist or a psychologist or something like that, moving forward… We all change and evolve and I am really keen to keep doing it. I think music will always be in my life but I have been battling with like that, especially at the start of the year."

Then there's the fact of having two kids and bills to pay.

"This job is not sustainable forever. It's not ever meant to be that. I think I'd be a bit delusional to think that this job is one that lasts a lifetime.

"I don't really care about what else I could do with this. I've honestly done way more than I ever expected I'd do with this. My ego is not as driven as it used to be and I'd love to quell my ego and finally be like just happy waking up and going to work to be real.

"But then again, some days I'm like 'I have to get this out of me and I have to have to write this album'. Who knows, maybe I'll write a book.

"I'd like to keep my mind clear and free of substances and I'd like to just invest all my time into my children, like I always do. And yeah, maybe forgive my parents a bit more. Things like that… and make heaps of money!"

Tom Scott played:

'Have a Talk With God' by Stevie Wonder

Tom says that last year he found himself "talking to God" more than ever.

"Not a white guy in the sky with a robe stroking his beard necessarily, but just like… you might call it fate, or surrendering to the idea that we're just little ants on this rock in the middle of infinity and realising I have no power over things. Talking to God and that way, just letting whatever will be happen. And yeah, going through what I was going through, I did have to chat with God a bit more than I wanted to."

On Sundays in the Auckland suburb of Avondale - where "everyone was into some sort of Christianity or Catholicism" - Tom says he low-key wished he could go to church for something to do.

He's now decided there is "definitely something bigger" than what humans can comprehend.

"I don't think there's an afterlife. I don't think it cares about us. But I have definitely been looking for it a bit more... You get to that point that you go look at your ancestry and your whakapapa and then you wonder what's in the solar system, then you wonder what's outside of that. Even science these days is weirder than fiction.

"I'm more so just listening to things. I think we are like God manifesting itself in a way… We're all made of the same thing so essentially we are the universe itself. So there's something there… I haven't had too much acid or anything. I just think things are weirder than they look."

'I'm Still Standing' by Elton John

The Home Brew track 'Drinking in the Morning' pays homage to the "brilliant artist" that is Elton John and particularly this song, which is a favourite of Scott's kids.

"They would play this in the back seat, they'd be singing along, and I'd sort of be like 'Yo, I'm still standing, too'.

"Everything he's saying in it it's just it's the most life-affirming, inspiring song I've ever heard, especially when you're down, especially when your kids are singing it in the backseat.

"The kids would sing it in the back seat and [I'd] not have my glasses on. Sometimes I'd be crying. I'd just put my Ray Bans on.

"That song really got me through a lot of things. And it was kind of cool because we'd all sing it together. Because I'm sure that we're going through it as well, you know, and still are."

'Drinking in the Morning' also relates to the pain that fuelled Scott's dad's years of heavy drinking.

Alcohol was normalised in their house growing up but he now sees that it's a "depressant".

"Yeah, man, alcohol. Let's stop promoting it. Let's stop putting on music awards, celebrating everything, so that we can all get together and drink. Let's stop having the All Blacks promote it. And let's stop having Home Brew promote it. Alcohol is not cool. I'm not trying to say alcohol is cool. It's when you're at the lowest that you drink and I don't know why our whole country loves it so much. And I do love it… but I hate it, too."

'One Drop' by Bob Marley

Scott takes inspiration from Marley on the Home Brew track "Mum's Stash'.

"I sort of reference the first time I ever saw my mum in the backyard on the doorstep smoking [weed] with my stepdad. I was in the top bunk past my bedtime but everything's like happy.

"Every time I smelled that smell, everything was good. When that song was on, everyone was happy. Everything was cool.

"I still put that song on now and it just makes me feel irie."

'I Wouldn't Change A Thing' by Coke Escovedo

This song inspired the Home Brew track 'Run It Back'.

"I used to DJ in Melbourne, I had this little gig in a cocktail bar and in that period of my life, I would just do a lot of DJing. This was a song that I came across there, a lot of DJs will know it, but it's one of my favourite songs. It's just such a brilliant dance song, like a b-boy song, and it's got this positive message of 'man I wouldn't change nothing'. That was kind of like the exact message of our album and of the lead single from it - If I could do it all again I'd do it all again, run it back."


'Trouble Man' by Marvin Gaye

"Within the track 'Probably' I say only one thing that's definite is death and taxes and that's a reference from this song.

"I just always loved that quote. Marvin is just such a genius, taking these serious issues and putting a little bit of wit within the lyrics and he just always seems so cool. This particular album was one that my dad used to play me as well. It's a movie called Trouble Man, which is like a blaxploitation movie. It's a horrible movie, it's really shit, but the soundtrack is so good."

'Rim Shot' by Erykah Badu

"I saw her once at Splore and she legit made it rain. It might have been acid but I'm pretty sure she got the collective consciousness to manifest rain and there was. She's like the ultimate meteorologist."

Watch the two-part documentary Run It Back: