Home Breew
Second-hand copies of Home Brew’s EP Last Week is demanding big bucks on vinyl. Image: Tina Tiller

Pop CultureNovember 20, 2021

‘People froth it’: Inside the craze for Aotearoa’s most sought-after record

Home Breew
Second-hand copies of Home Brew’s EP Last Week is demanding big bucks on vinyl. Image: Tina Tiller

Home Brew’s debut EP has sparked a craze amongst collectors who are willing to pay big bucks for it. How high will they go?

Real Groovy, Tāmaki Makaurau’s most recognisable record store, is where the year’s first sale was made. A second-hand copy of Last Week, the debut EP from Tom Scott’s Aotearoa rap trio Home Brew, was up for sale. Written and recorded in a quickfire two weeks, the celebrated seven-track record was initially released in 2010, including a limited edition vinyl pressing.

Now, that record, and its songs, ‘Monday,’ ‘Tuesday,’ ‘Wednesday,’ ‘Thursday,’ ‘Friday,’ ‘Saturday,’ and, ‘Sunday,’ is collecting big bucks. When it was first released, it cost just $23.95 on vinyl. But someone rifling through Real Groovy’s crates earlier this year found a second-hand copy for sale, and snapped it up. “It went for $250,” confirms the store’s owner, Chris Hart.

That’s close to a 1000% increase. Yet, in the months since then, Hart thinks its value has climbed even higher. “I’m sure it’s worth more than that now,” he says.

He’s right. In August, a few weeks into the most recent level four lockdown, a member of the group, Harry ‘Haz Beats’ Huavi, who crafted the album’s summery soundscapes, sold his own copy for $400 via Instagram Stories. “I needed some money,” he says. “I didn’t get the [government] subsidy.”

Huavi has another copy in his possession, but he’s keeping that, and regrets selling the first. He thinks he could have got more for it. “Every month I’ll get a ‘waxhead’ [vinyl collector] hitting me up,” he says. “I might just hold onto it.”

Home Brew’s Last Week comes with blue vinyl and artwork by Guy Brock. (Image via Trade Me)

It’s a good idea. Just a few weeks later, on October 8, another copy – “KEPT IN PLASTIC COVER FOR ITS ENTIRE LIFE; A SIDE, PLAYED ONCE, B SIDE NEVER PLAYED” – was sold on Trade Me for $754. This one included an added bonus of the original purchase price, a Real Groovy sticker for “$23.95.”

That information fired up at least one viewer of the auction, who asked the seller: “What percentage of this Trade Me sale is going towards the artists?” The seller replied: “When you sell a house, do you give a % of your profit to the person who built it?”

The auction caught the attention of someone else. On Twitter, Home Brew’s outspoken front man Tom Scott suggested the seller — a Trade Me user who went by the name ‘scottmac3’ — might be former Warner Music New Zealand boss Scott Maclachlan, Lorde’s ex manager, who left his job after years of “harassing behaviour” was exposed by Alison Mau in the Sunday Star-Times.

The Spinoff tried, but wasn’t able to confirm this.

On Twitter, Scott called the seller a “prick”.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Demand kept rising. So did prices. In response to the $754 sale, Spinoff contributor Dan Taipua listed his copy of Last Week — “Complete and unplayed (with) a tiny ding in the top-left corner” — and promised to donate all proceeds to the City Mission.

After 61 bids, it sold, on October 21, for $1310 – a 5000% increase on the original retail price. Trade Me refunded his success fee so it could all go to charity. A clearly shellshocked Taipua thanked “all of Home Brew Crew” on Twitter after the listing closed. “They made a record to stand the test of time.”

Forlorn fans hunting for their own copy have turned to Discogs, the website where collectors buy and sell rare vinyl. “No one messages me yet? Still chasing for months now!” writes one on a message board. “Msg me if you have this for sale and if we can work something out!” says another. Last Week’s last confirmed sale on Discogs was for $521.04. A wait list of 215 people have indicated they want a copy. Only 200 exist.

The craze hasn’t stopped there. Two weeks after Taipua’s charity auction, another seller attempted to list a signed, second-hand copy of Last Week — “Autographed … stain on the bottom right corner of the cover” — for $10,000. It is, the seller says, his most precious possession.

Last Week was made during a burst of creativity in 2010. According to Sam Wicks’ in-depth report on the EP’s creation for The Spinoff, Scott had been ripping Huavi’s beats from MySpace and rapping over them. “When I first heard his rhymes I was like, ‘How is he not one of my friends?'” Huavi told Wicks. “‘How have we not crossed paths and created music together?'”

They soon would. In a “piece of shit washhouse” turned into a studio in a Sandringham flat, the trio, including MC Lui Gumaka, crafted everyday events — buying liquor from a nearby Pak N Save, and cigarettes at the local dairy — into compelling stories full of mundane detail. One night, Gumaka got hit by a courier van and woke up in hospital. That became the song ‘Wednesday’.

“The next day I wrote about what happened to us [on] Thursday,” Scott said, “and then the Friday, till we had this whole week’s worth of work.”

They named each song after a day of the week, and called their EP Last Week. In less than two weeks, it was done. A few days later, once songs were mastered, Home Brew released them, for free download, across the internet, spreading word by spamming MySpace and forums.

It quickly blew up. “People just started relating to it and I guess it was because it was unfiltered and it was relatable,” Scott said. “We were just telling our story and in doing so accidentally telling everyone else’s.”

A few weeks later, the trio argued about doing something special to release their EP properly. In an age dominated by CDs, they considered releasing Last Week on cassette tape to give fans something physical to hold. Instead, they decided a limited edition vinyl release would do the trick. Home Brew pressed just 200 of them, and offered them for sale in early November 2010. “We knew they would sell,” Huavi told me.

What they didn’t know was, 10 years later, just how in-demand they would become.

Esoligh has debts. The North Shore musician, who asked for his full name not to be revealed in this story, is worried about debt collectors knocking at his door. He even owes money to Huavi, for beats supplied for an upcoming album he’s working on. “I pay him painfully, $25 a week,” he says, “when I can afford it.”

That’s why he initially listed his copy of Last Week on Trade Me for $10,000. That amount would clear his debt and help fund studio time to record new music. “I was like, ‘What’s my most precious and valuable taonga that I can shift?’ It’s [Last Week],” he says. “If I don’t sell this I’m going to go bankrupt.”

He’s been criticised for the price, but doesn’t think that’s fair. Esoligh bought his copy of Last Week for $40 directly from Scott. To pay for it, he scrimped on food, and skipped a couple of meals. Later, he asked Scott to sign the vinyl protective sleeve in bright yellow vivid. It’s still there, along with the words, “For Esoligh,” and “Home Brew YGB,” the letters standing for Scott’s old record label, Young Gifted & Broke.

Still, $10,000 seems unlikely. Esoligh bristled when someone called him the “Shkreli of New Zealand hip-hop,” a reference to Martin Shkreli, the “Pharma-bro” who used funds made by hiking the price of life-saving drugs to purchase Wu-Tang Clan’s one-of-a-kind album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.

An auction for Home Brew’s EP Last Week asks for $10,000. Image: Trade Me

He doesn’t want to sell the record, but money talks, and Esoligh is desperate. “This represents what it means to me – not what it’s worth,” he says. During our interview, he expressed doubts, telling me: “I don’t want to sell it.” But, last Friday night, he lowered the price and let it go for $900, plus $12 postage. He pledged to give a third of that to Huavi to pay off his beat debt.

Ask any local hip-hop fan why Last Week is demanding such high prices, and they’ll all say the same thing. “That cat’s a genius, straight up,” says Esoligh about Scott. He’s not the only one who thinks that. While Scott has a new project these days, the jazz-rap collective Avantdale Bowling Club, and Huavi’s an in-demand producer, Home Brew still tours, often playing summer festivals together.

While they’ve released plenty of new music since 2010, including a full-length double album, it’s the songs from Last Week that crowds go craziest for. “I don’t need to do any of the words because the fans are pretty much singing the whole song,” says Huavi about Home Brew’s live performances. He sees fans in the crowd so young they would have been little kids when Last Week came out. “People froth it.” Those songs stand the test of time.

Unlike Scott, Huavi doesn’t mind seeing Last Week being resold by people like Esoligh. “If it’s going to make you that much money, why not?” he says. “In these sorts of times, money’s pretty scarce.” It’s ironic that the EP’s pink cover art, drawn by the artist Guy Brock, depicts Scott as a Mer-man clutching a wad of bank notes.

But Huavi has a warning: lately, he and Scott have been discussing re-pressing Last Week, potentially dampening all that enthusiasm from the big spenders desperate to nab a copy for themselves.

“Maybe we’ll do speckled vinyl with new artwork,” Huavi suggests. “I’ll talk to Tom. Who knows man!”

Read more: Want your favourite album on vinyl? It’s probably sold out

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