warm brew

WARM BREW! Tracing their Footsteps…

     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).

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     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.

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     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

Phew…

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/

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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

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Why We Should Be Listening to the Female Voices of Hip Hop

Hip hop is uniquely powerful because it sits comfortably at the borderline between poetry and song. It bridges the gap between the two, and in turn contains the qualities of both song and spoken word.  Unlike poems (or any other word based message), music has the upper hand of getting caught in your head for long periods of time. This is a vital tool for those trying to spread a political message–– having the power to keep words in someone’s head is just about the best way to spread a political agenda. Just think, what if on the same day, at the same time, the whole world (including all the world leaders), had the chorus to Queen Latifah’s Black on Black Love repeating in their head? What about Salt n Peppa’s feminist anthem None of Your Business? Would political decision making be affected? Similar to poetry however, rap is much more lyric based than any other musical genre. Because of it’s fast paced nature, rap is able to squeeze an immense amount of lyrical content into a short two minute song. It is not tied to traditional song structures in the same way as other music often is, and in turn, rap can really pack a punch.

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With so much political power, hip hop is the perfect art form to be leading many of today’s revolutionary movements. It reclaims oppressive spaces through its loud, commanding, and aggressive nature, creating a genre of wildly popular music. Unfortunately, most artists in modern mainstream hip hop have very little interest in women’s issues. First and foremost rap addresses racism–– a critical issue for men and women both nationally and globally. Too often however, these political anthems are not intersectional. I’m sure most of us know the feeling of thinking we’ve found a great new rap song until about thirty seconds in when the artist starts describing how he’s going to force women to have sex with him. Suddenly your foot stops tapping and you’re not feeling as empowered as you were a second ago. Of course there are countless male rappers out there who don’t do this, but I think we can agree this is an all too familiar feeling for those of us who seek out rap in our day to day lives. Which is why, now more than ever, it is time for female hip hop artists to finally have their time in the limelight.

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It’s interesting to note that, generally speaking, female rappers are much more likely to include political lyrics in their songs than male rappers. There are many possible reasons for this, but one of them is simply that women have to work much harder than their male peers to get the mic in the first place, so are probably more inclined to say something that really needs to be heard. Unlike what was mentioned earlier, female rappers are consistently intersectional and most songs will engage with both gender and race, rarely choosing one. One of the most common threads in hip hop by women is the idea of ownership over their own body and sexuality, two things which are often portrayed as under male control in mainstream media. There is little more refreshing to me as a woman in the United States than seeing another woman stand up, take control, get angry, and rile up a crowd all while being sexy as hell.

With all of this said, now more than ever it is time for us, as hip hop consumers, to support and nurture female rappers. They stand strong in solidarity against sexist and racist rhetoric that is too often a structure for our society. Female rappers are a triple threat: they are women, they are usually people of color, and they refuse to be silenced. They are prepared and capable to be our generation’s revolutionary leaders––if only we would open our ears and listen to what they have to say! The hip hop industry has been paving the way to produce political leaders for years, it’s now time to give these women the platform for their own voices and a fan base to support them.

So where do we begin?

For starters, tune in to Queen Beats every Tuesday night from 12-2am on KZSC, Santa Cruz. (88.1FM or kzsc.org) Next, like Queen Beats on Facebook and stay updated with what women are up to in the hip hop industry: https://www.facebook.com/QueenBeatsKZSC/

Call in! Make requests! Enjoy! We are the generation that is going to give these women their space, so let’s start now!

*artists shown in included images– top: Alphamama, bottom: Akua Naru, featured image: Soom T

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(Dis)engaging Conversations: Reflections from SXSW

Six months ago, I purchased a plane ticket to Austin, Texas. I prepared as much as I could to complete my finals early, and hopped on a red-eye out of SFO.

Looking back, I would have done SXSW differently. Though my three colleagues and I suffered through minimal sleep and constant exhaustion, the knowledge we had come for was waiting inside the Austin Convention Center, each day promising new seeds necessary for the growth of our college radio, media-making minds. I must admit – I was thoroughly underwhelmed.

The music industry, from SXSW’s corporate standpoint, is dwindling. With record and CD sales at all-time lows, streaming services ripping musicians off, labels unimpressed with unfocused bands, and commercial radio promotion as calculated as a pregnant woman’s hospital-room delivery, even Tony Visconti remarked, “20 million streams equals one steak dinner.” SXSW taught me that our only solace lies not in the middle of our analog-turned-tech universe, but the extremes: from preserving record archives, to utilizing 3D printing for musical instruments and other media, we can only look to the past and the future. And believe it or not, I think that’s what college radio had figured out all along.

Unable to let go of our 30,000 LP and 45,000 CD collections, KZSC has largely solved its own problems without the help of SXSW “experts.” We will protect our archive through the elements, or whatever else could harm our sacred collection. But we will also utilize what the digital age has to offer, backing up our collection, our documents, our on-air archives, all to say: do what you will with your audio streaming services and commercial radio frequencies. College radio, as long as I can affect my predecessors, will remain live and analog on-air, but the business behind your stereo will stay up-to-date in the rapidly changing techno-21st century.

So what would I have done differently? I would have asked these panelists and moderators about us: where does college radio stand on your radar? Are we simply a means to your end, or are we as on the map as we think we are? This next weekend, I will be traveling to Southern California with a car full of UCSC students to attend the University of California Radio Network Conference. California college radio junkies will discuss what matters most to us, and through this problem-solving, restate what we’ve always known: we are on the map; we are on your phone apps and your online web stream; we are on your radio dial, and we’re not going anywhere.

Written by Shay Stoklos

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New KZSC merch is here!

It’s here! It’s finally here! During our Fall Pledge Drive (now through October 20th) you can pledge to the Great 88 and receive our new special edition KZSC shirt and a new take on our old favorite KZSC “peel slowly and see” design: a tote bag!

Our new tee shirt comes in a navy blue, with contrasting white and orange print to display your love of KZSC. The design is a nod to a legendary college radio station in NYC that provided early exposure for what became some of the biggest names in hip-hop. The design is printed on a 50/50 blend that won’t shrink!

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And, we’re bringing the tote bag back! A canvas bag with our beloved Andy Warhol/Velvet Underground-inspired banana slug shows off both your love of music, and appreciation of the Santa Cruz banana slug. The 11-inch, over-the-shoulder handles and 15.5″ x 14.5″ x 7″ size allows you to haul your LPs, CDs, cassettes, groceries, or any other items! Rep your favorite local, non-commerical, community radio station everywhere you go.

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Make a pledge now to KZSC online, or by calling (831) 459-2811 to show your support!

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Fall Schedule is a Go!

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Lots of great music, news, and community creativity is on tap for KZSC’s fall program schedule. We’ve got everything from Minimal to Metal — and that’s just our Monday lineup!

We’re live now with this line up, through January 15th, 2017. We’ll mail out copies to all of our donors from the past two fundraisers, thanks! Don’t forget, the Fall Fundraiser that starts Tuesday October 11th – show us you care about creative community radio with a donation!

If you want to print your own copy now, here’s a link to a nicely formatted pdf version.

 

KZSC’s Fall Schedule [Oct 3 2016 through Jan 15, 2017]

 

KZSC's Odessey and Oracle LP - now autographed!!

Hear The Zombies interviewed on KZSC

On September 7th, Carol from KZSC’s Test of Time and Keith from Moon Majoon spoke with 1960s pop legends, The Zombies. It was hours before their show at The Catalyst with Bruce Sudano opening that they visited our studios. The Zombies regularly get named, alongside The Beatles and The Beach Boys, as the having the best songs and vocal harmonies of the 1960s. In the interview they speak about how those other two bands’ studio innovations directly benefitted the recording of The Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle.

Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone, who together represent more than 100 years of professional musicianship, also share the story of the founding and dissolution of the Zombies and traced some of the impact that British jazz and choral music had on their songwriting and performing. We also learned what it was like to work with the infamously tyrannical director Otto Preminger, and how the Zombies stood up to him.