Home Brew’s needle-shifting Last Week EP was released 10 years ago in October. Sam Wicks talks to the people who brought the unapologetically local project to life.
‘This is our 7 track EP we wrote last week about the shit we did last week. We call it Last Week.’
With those unadorned words, Tom Scott announced a record that would introduce Home Brew to New Zealand and inspire a new generation of hip-hop artists to favour Kiwi vowels over tired Americanisms. Drip-fed via the hub that was hiphopnz.com, Last Week presented a bog-standard week in exquisite detail. Here’s how Home Brew found beauty in the mundane.
Tom Scott (Avantdale Bowling Club, Home Brew, Average Rap Band, @Peace, YGB): I guess it started in Avondale with me and Shaun Hopkins (SoulChef) doing our little rap thing. We would drop CDs in people’s letterboxes and that. Try to take it up to Beat Merchants to give it to Sir-Vere and he’d be like, ‘yeah, yeah, I’ll listen’. We weren’t getting anywhere with our shit.
Eventually, I was like, fuck this, I’m going to go study. I went down to Dunedin to study neuroscience and I was full into it. But every week I’d go to Real Groovy and spend my course-related costs. I found this album by Jean Grae called This Week and I was like, wow, this must be about every day of her week! I took it home and it wasn’t that, but the concept stuck.
Haz ‘Haz Beats’ Huavi (Home Brew, Team Dynamite, YGB): I met Tom on hiphopnz.com and then he found my MySpace. I don’t know how he did it, but he ripped my music from there and was recording to it. It wasn’t till like a month later when I started listening that I was like, ‘wow, this guy’s actually got content that I want to listen to’.
I began sending him music through the internet. We hadn’t met yet, but he had [Last Week] planned out. Because he already had a plan, I was just a vehicle for him to spit his rhymes over.
Tom Scott: In those days everyone was trying to be Premier and everything was real regimented. Haz’s stuff was soulful and off-kilter. There was something about his drums, they just swung differently.
Haz Huavi: It was like I had been friends with Tom for years, to be honest. When I first heard his rhymes I was like, how is he not one of my friends? How have we not crossed paths and created music together? By the time him and Lui [Silk] moved to Aroha Ave in Sandringham, I used to go there all the time.
Lance ‘Lucky Lance’ Fepuleai (Team Dynamite, YGB): The Shack, that’s where it all began. It was a tiny shed at the back of Tom and Lui’s place. It was filled with egg cartons, a washing machine and a bench. I don’t know how we fit in there. It was tiny, but it was the shit.
Tom Scott: Haz was also making music with Lucky Lance and Tony Tz, Team Dynamite. Saia from Usual Suspects would come around to rhyme, Christoph El’ Truento would be making beats with Brandon Haru. It was just like our little studio, a piece of shit washhouse that we made into our little hub.
Lui ‘Lui Silk’ Gumaka (Home Brew, YGB): I came home from work and Tom, Haz and some really tall guy were in The Shack drinking and freestyling. That was the day I met Lucky Lance.
We kept drinking for a while and then Tom went to bed, and then I borrowed our flatmate’s bike to go and buy some smokes. I rode down the road drunk, that’s all I remember. The police report says I came out of a side street and the courier van didn’t see me, ran me over and then called an ambulance. I woke up in hospital thinking it was some warped dream.
Lance Fepuleai: The next day, me and Haz were heading into town on the bus and Tom called and was like, ‘fah, Lui Silk got run over by a courier van last night’. All that shit was true and it became part of ‘Wednesday’ on the Last Week EP. The whole idea was Tom’s and I remember thinking, ‘what a fuckin’ mean idea’.
Tom Scott: I wrote ‘Wednesday’ in one sitting and I was like, shit, I remember that idea I had for an EP. And so the next day I wrote about what happened to us Thursday, and then the Friday, till we had this whole week’s worth of work. I told Haz what we were going to do and he basically sent me a beat for every day of the week after that.
It just so happened that everything we were living at the time found its way into the music – things like us sitting in our shitty little shack, drinking and freestyling all night, BBQing in the summer, just average shit.
Lui Gumaka: It just worked, it never sounded forced or like it had to be made to suit. Tom and Haz have this thing where they both know how to meet in the middle of a track and have it sound natural. Last Week just sounds like any other week we were living back then.
Tom Scott: We wrote it all in The Shack but Glen [Davison] had this apartment with a mic in the city and we recorded it up there. He was like our Yoda, he was a bit older and he looked out for us.
Rap to me has always been a window into different communities and stuff. I don’t want to hear a guy from Compton rapping like someone from the Bronx because it’s not authentic.
Haz Huavi: Everyone at that time was still Americanised and no one was talking about everyday topics in New Zealand. Tom was writing about stuff like being on the benefit or being broke, and I think that’s what people related to.
Tom Scott: I just wanted to write about average, normal New Zealand shit because the culture that my generation of hip-hop is from is about ‘keep it real’. You’d get called out if you were claiming to be someone you weren’t, so I was trying to be myself as much as possible.
Lance Fepuleai: On the track ‘Friday’ Tom shouts out a roll call of local DJs like Manuel Bundy and Julien Dyne. I thought that was the smartest thing ever. As time went on, I started to become friends with guys like Chip Matthews and all these people in the song and I was like, ‘Tom was on to it before I even knew what the fuck was going on’.
Tom Scott: I think ‘Sunday’ was the last track that I wrote for it. I would have been thinking about a conclusion from the get-go. When I went around to my girlfriend-at-the-time’s place for dinner, I was sitting around watching what was happening like, yeah, this is material. It’s moments like that that make you think, you know what, this is actually it.
Glen Davison: Home Brew were saying the shit that we say and getting over that culture cringe of, ‘I have to rap as if I’m from New York or from somewhere that I’m not’. Tom even says it on ‘Sunday’ – ‘That’s when I sparked up my bright idea / I should write about stuff like this night right here.’
Tom Scott: When I look back at it now I cringe because it’s so raw. That EP was us without enough time to make anything special, just whatever was on our mind that day. We wrote it in seven days, put it out I think a week later after we mixed and mastered it, just because we wanted the current events to be in it – Manu Vatuvei dropping the ball and all those kind of things that were timestamps.
I think the beauty of the poet is they find something interesting in the mundane. I’m not saying I did that with this record, but I need to remind myself 10 years on that it’s still the recipe for good music.
Glen Davison: We had the concept of releasing a song a day through hiphopnz.com. It was filled with keyboard warriors, so anybody who didn’t like it was perfectly happy to say so. That was cool though because it was a barometer of truth for what it’s worth.
Haz Huavi: Tom got us to post the songs up on social media; it was us doing promo without even knowing it. It was on Bebo, it was on MySpace, it was on hiphopnz.com, and the rest was just word of mouth. That’s what killed everybody ’cause people were like, these guys actually use social media to promote their shit. That’s how people do it now but back then no one was doing it.
Tom Scott: I was desperate for acceptance on hiphopnz.com. It was make it or break it, they were ruthless. Everyone was able to hide behind their screen and say whatever. I think that sharpened a lot of people on there. I remember checking the feedback and it being good and being stoked.
Glen Davison: When I started getting jaded industry people or people who aren’t rap fans asking me ‘where’s my song today?’, I knew we were on to something.
Haz Huavi: I didn’t know what to expect at first but once I saw people commenting – there were over 1000 comments with people asking, ‘who the fuck are these guys?’, ‘this guy’s voice is so good’, ‘I didn’t know Haz was working with people’.
Lance Fepuleai: I remember it blew up. I just remember thinking, ‘man, I’m glad I’m on ‘Wednesday’’. Everyone was lapping it up because there was nothing like it before. It was hori but it was sophisticated at the same time. It wasn’t like being a mongrel, it was being a well-spoken mongrel.
Tom Scott: To be honest, I never thought that I would be recognised, I never thought New Zealand hip-hop would let us in. We never had dreams of being around for the Boost Mobile tour or anything. We didn’t have baggy white T-shirts. Even on the first EP, I said, ‘I’ll never be as cool as Con Psy’. I never thought our shit would fit into that. It still bugs me out.
People just started relating to it and I guess it was because it was unfiltered and it was relatable. We were just telling our story and in doing so accidently telling everyone else’s.
Haz Huavi: Last Week brought so many people in from the darkness, from sitting in their bedrooms and thinking they can’t do it. So many people have told me that EP made them become a musician. We flew that flag and everyone else followed through. Tom rapped about our surroundings and now everyone else is sort of following suit. People used to be ashamed about rapping about being broke, nowadays they love it. It’s like being broke is the new cool thing.
Lance Fepuleai: It’s definitely up there as a classic. After that, a lot of people felt like it’s okay to be from New Zealand. They got that if you could say something that the people can relate to, that’s going to get you further than just trying to act cool. If you can figure out how to express the struggle that everyone’s going through, shit, you’re on a goldmine.
Tom Scott: My bro Christoph El’ Truento once said to me you can’t be ahead of your time and timeless. I know for damn sure that to my ear Last Week is not timeless, but at the same time, I know that it was something that hadn’t been done before. When I look back at it, I just tell myself that’s how fearless you should be, that’s how honest you should be.