9 Dec 2023

Review: Run It Back by Home Brew

From The Sampler, 2:30 pm on 9 December 2023

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Home Brew

Photo: Bandcamp

Home Brew released several EPs, but just one album: their self-titled 2012 debut. The legacy they spawned looms so large, it’s easy to forget the hip-hop act were only around for seven years or so before calling it a day. 

Tom Scott went on to form @Peace and Avantdale Bowling Club, fielding award nominations and a Taite Prize win as he went, while Haz Beats’ trio Team Dynamite proved similarly awards-friendly, as did his duo Haz and Miloux.

These acts and Scott’s record label Years Gone By, (formerly known as Young, Gifted and Broke), have involved an assortment of NZ’s finest musicians, from rap and RnB to jazz and beyond. The last ten years of our musical history is heavily informed by the collective, something which I doubt they saw coming. 

And now, over ten years on from their debut, Home Brew have made another album. By and large, their concerns are the same. But a lot has changed too. 

In a note attached to the release, Scott explains “running it back” as a chance to do things over, specifically in basketball. He says he realised he didn’t have to be the same person to make another Home Brew album. There’s a lot in here about making mistakes, and redemption, which you can hear on the title track.

Haz and Scott do most of the writing, and are joined by a large roster of guest musicians, including bass extraordinaire Chip Matthews, Cory Champion and Tom Broome on drums, JY Lee on horns, guest bars from Brandn Shiraz and Rizvan Tui’tahi, and mixing from NZ hip-hop’s secret weapon, Ben Lawson.

‘Probably’ finds Scott ruminating over mistakes he’s made, and might make again, on a stripped down track featuring just Haz’s production, and harmonies from Miloux. 

Melody has crept into Scott’s rapping occasionally, but I think this album features the most singing he’s ever done. It’s there on the title track, and even more so on ‘Tears Gone Dry’, a full-on soul ballad. He’s joined on backing vocals by Tyra Hammond, and notably, the track features co-writing and guitar from Louis Baker.   

After their first album Home Brew became identified with lyrics about substance abuse, alcohol, and political agitation, and those are still plentiful here. The first two in particular. But there’s no doubt this is a more mature album, much as I doubt they’d appreciate that descriptor. 

Some of the nihilistic humour has been replaced by other concerns, like lines about being a father to young kids. As Tom Scott says in the liner notes, he’s changed. Run It Back isn’t about atoning, necessarily, but it is about the passage of time, and learning things along the way. What’s clear is that the partnership between him and Haz Beats is still strong, and creatively fertile, and they’re still orbited by a wide array of equally talented people.