Warm Brew is quintessentially West Coast – the two are synonymous. Their lyrics, though, are anonymous. (you’ll never hear ‘em copy! Top Notch Baby! Never coming less, sky’s the limit, you gots to believe up in… the Brew!) Their songs are riddled with personal experiences, never boasting of falsified encounters, and mainly speaking of their growth amid the sea spray of the Pacific and the concrete edges of the greater surrounding L.A. county. Since their first EP in 2010 – Natural Spirit – they’ve purely embodied their humble, Ghetto Beach Boyz roots. Native to beautiful Santa Monica and Venice, CA, the trio consists of Manu Li (pronounced Manu “Lee” not Manu “L-eye!”), Serk Spliff(ton), and Ray Wright. Manu and Ray grew up together and met in middle school, I believe, the two later linking up with Serk in high school. Shout out SaMoHi, rivals of my alma mater El Segundo High. While Manu was contemplating a future in politics, Ray and Serk were respectively leading their football and soccer clubs to famed victory, Serk himself winning a state championship and Ray earning himself a spot on the Toreros football lineup (Univ. of San Diego).
This temporary split halted the trio’s progression, but upon Ray’s decision to return home they decided to channel all their energy and talent into sculpting a greater sound and presence in Los Angeles. Early on as a group they frequented backyard shows and house parties, wrecking shop and turning the hell up as per usual. Put that on hold…
As a historian, I’ll be taking you through their discography, beginning with Natural Spirit. N.P (July, 2010), featuring the George Benson-Breezy track “Doin’ It Right”, is riddled with terrific samples, scratches, and lyrics that solidified the group’s recognition in the area. This project included Wright’s good friend, Espy, who produced and handled the keys on various tracks. Espy, your production is legit man, bravo. Give it a listen on: www.espy.bandcamp.com/album/natural-spirit As they put it, the album is, “Fun. It’s hard hitting, it’s devastating, it’s mind blowing, and it’s what we make. Straight hip hop, but always fresh and new. Ain’t no half steppin’ on this record.” Word to Big Daddy Kane, they weren’t bluffing. It smacks! My favorite tracks are: “I Know I Got It”, “Natural Spirit”, “Nineteen”, and an instrumental track that finishes off the album… “Now, Los Angeles”. Moving onward, the Brew’s sophomore release was Warm Brew the EP (June, 2011) in which the group diversified their portfolio and explored the realms of contemporary alternative hip hop, but nonetheless had to spring it allll the way back to Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik & Outkast’s famous “Crumblin’ Erb”, a 420 favorite, on their track “Boilin’ Bud (Dungeon Family Tribute)”. Peep “Tommy Pickles” as well. Here’s the album: www.espy.bandcamp.com/album/warm-brew-ep.
In 2012 Warm Brew released a couple more albums: Kottabos (May, 2012) & Sippin All Day Last Night (December, 2012). Kottabos features a new array of producers including Al B Smoov (current DJ and extensive producer), DeUno, DJ Dahi, the TeQnitionZ, Danny Dee. The group maintains their lyrical fluidity, while experimenting further with tracks like “Get It,” to get that booty shaking, “Creep” where Serk and Ray get CrazySexyandCool to the classic “Creep” track by TLC, and a smooth track “DGPG” which the Brew wrecks on, inspired by The Alchemist’s “Tick Tock” ft. Nas & Prodigy. They get together with South Carolina natives OxyMoron on “SC 2 SC”, in which both groups with similar stories flow off one another tremendously. Check it out: http://warmbrew.bandcamp.com/album/kottabos.
Sippin All Day Last Night carries a similar vibe as Kottabos, another feel-good record by Warm Brew that opens up with birdies chirpin’ in “Hear Ya Say”. This album doesn’t get much recognition, and I’ve noticed that various articles on the group have overshadowed this album for one reason or another. Find it here: http://warmbrew.bandcamp.com/album/sippin-all-day-last-night. I view this album as essential to Warm Brew’s evolution. They mention how early on they were having as much fun as they could, making money, spending money, doing shows, etc. But as we see, the next album Warm Brew would release would go on to get them signed, and I find that Sippin All Day Last Night marks the group’s transition into professional work. My picks: “Hear Ya Say”, “Booze Cruise”, “World Wide International”, “Proper Amount”.
Continuing on their ride, the group released, hah, The Ride (July, 2013) their longest release to date which included an array of features from familiar friends and new faces alike – vocals from Hugh Augustine, Natia, Azizi Gibson, along with production from Al B Smoov, The Teqnitionz, DJ Dahi, Danny Dee, Joe Brown, and Lord Quest. Their track “Wanna Get High” feat. Hugh Augustine would later earn them great recognition by L.A. native Dom Kennedy (see: From the Westside with Love: II) who had been recently holding it down for L.A. on the hip hop scene along with T.D.E. pioneer Kendrick Lamar. After hours of working together, vibing off one another during studio sessions, and getting to know one another more personally, Dom would have Warm Brew sign onto his independent label OPM (Other People’s Money). Here’s The Ride: http://warmbrew.bandcamp.com/ . My personal favorites from the album: “Good Morning”, “The Ride”, “Wanna Get High”, “Word”, “Lightbulb Effect”, “We Don’t Know”, “Loungin”… heck just listen through!
The group took a bit of a break until releasing last year’s Ghetto Beach Boyz (January, 2015) under Dom’s guidance. They attribute the album’s fuller feel to his mentorship. He versed them on ways to create a body of work that, from beginning to end, holds up against, arguably, many of the hip hop albums that were up for album of the year (in which J. Cole took home the crown at the BET Hip Hop awards). That may be saying a lot, but this album solidified Warm Brew’s influence in the Los Angeles hip hop scene. They began to receive greater recognition, performing overseas in France (Paris I believe), while turning heads throughout the States. Through this all they have continually stuck to their roots, properly representing where they come from on each track. Over past albums, like Sippin, Warm Brew meddled with G Funk, a sub-genre of hip hop that was incredibly popular during the 90’s on the West Coast (Warren G, Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, that trio as 213, DPG, Dr. Dre, DJ Quik, Hi-C, 2nd II None, list goes on.) Their track “W$ Phonk” is purely G-Funk, from the synths, to Ray Wright’s Nate Dogg-esque crooning, to Manu Li’s playful and insightful (text your mother before others, straight up, she’s takes priority over most! It makes me chuckle, but he’s being real!) imagery. The track is golden. But personally, I prefer “We Can Do It”. The track is graciously layered, mellows you down into a distinct and smooth rhythm, and delivers humbled lyrics that reflect on the group’s journey up to this point. Perhaps “A1Day1” serves a better example of them holding it down for those who have stuck it out with them (including family, friends, a big finger to the naysayers), but “We Can Do It” is a living testament that Warm Brew has continually gotten it done, whether you’ve known it or not, and their business here is unfinished. Check out the album on Spotify, I confidently approve of each track, no half steppin’!
Their latest album Diagnosis (July, 2016) is their first album under Redbull Records. They are actually the first hip hop group on the label, so props guys! The album is on the shorter side, but it serves as a teaser for their coming works, so don’t stress out. Nevertheless, they continue to deliver the goods, teaming up with Swiff D (who has produced for Schoolboy Q), Buddy, SiR (who is on the rise himself as well), and longtime friend Hugh Augustine. Hugh Augustine is also a terrific artist, I recommend his works (see Word is Bond, Massimo Ciabatta, Hurry Up and Wait). Hugh was featured on Isaiah Rashad’s latest album, Sun’s Tirade (see: “Tity and Dolla”) which Al B Smoov also produced on (see: “Wat’s Wrong,” co-produced by Smoov). Warm Brew lets us know that they’re sticking to the path they view ahead of them: one of wide recognition, anxious and loyal fans, and further development. “Hallelujah” serves the purpose of thanking the one above for allowing the three, after years and years of hard work, struggling to make money, hopping from one job to another early on to save cash, to still be together after it all. They also pay tribute to L.A. legend Kobe Bryant [we’ll miss you Kobe :’( . Mamba forever ] who retired this past season with their track “24 Pivot”. You can listen on Spotify or on SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/warmbrew
With all that being said, it’s safe to say that I’ve followed the group for quite some time and am anxious to see what the future has in store for Warm Brew. They have the ultimate potential to become one of the best hip hop groups out of Los Angeles, they have some great expectations to fulfill but I believe they can exceed them all. Best of luck for the future, Warm Brew. They’ve already been acknowledged by various esteemed L.A. hip hoppers like Dom Kennedy, The Alchemist, People Under the Stairs, and members of T.D.E. The future looks bright for them, keep your eyes peeled folks.
Warm Brew will be in Santa Cruz tomorrow night, get tickets online at http://www.catalystclub.com/ or Ticketmaster. I’ll be there mobbing with my crew, it’s gonna get rowdy. Also, check out their music videos which they’ve been coming out with throughout the years, just look ‘em up on the Tube! www.youtube.com or go to http://warmbrewla.com/westsidechristmas/
Tune in to Beats, Rhymes & Life tonight – midnight to 1am – to hear some of my picks live on KZSC Santa Cruz, 88.1FM. Also stay tuned for an interview with Warm Brew I got scheduled. Peace!
– The Tone