To put it bluntly, hip-hop has fallen off. Once upon a time it was prized as an underground movement, a counter-culture genre – its fans valued above all else clever rhyme schemes and word play. Beats spilled emotion into your ears, and the meticulously layered samples and hooks that launched producers like Pete Rock and J Dilla to international fame kept real fans deeply devoted. Sadly, this is no longer the case. Hollow one-liners and spastic synths have become the norm, and what the general population now considers “hip-hop” is only a battered shell of its former self. This is why now, more than ever, artists like Warm Brew are needed to remedy the image that the genre has unfortunately adopted.
The young, LA based hip-hop collective Warm Brew features three versatile and talented rappers – Ray Wright, Manu Li, and Serk Spliffton, along with their producer and DJ, Espy. The group came together in 2009, rapping their few released singles at local parties and shows. They quickly acquired a devoted following and fan-base, making music that brought back the jazzy, laid-back hip-hop sounds that once brought the genre into the public eye.
Reminiscent of groups like A Tribe Called Quest and The Pharcyde, Warm Brew has managed to capture the vibe and essence of the classic, West Coast hip-hop scene. The raw talent of the group’s emcees shines through in tracks like “Natural Spirit”, where Ray flaunts his smooth voice and deft lyricism by singing a passionate chorus that, a few months ago, could be heard on the radio; and “Cheefin’ in Tha Streetz”, a 2 minute 30 second skit that ends with 45 seconds of extremely catchy and clever flow by Manu and Ray – the former utilizing the gaps and silences between the words to make them almost as poignant as the lyrics themselves. Warm Brew’s sole producer, Espy, has not only produced all the tracks for the album, but has also released several mixtapes which were received extremely well by fans and the internet.
While the growing fame of OFWGKTA is certainly receiving more attention critically, it must be kept in mind that they have been releasing tracks since ’08, and are only now being discovered. Warm Brew dropped their debut album halfway through ’10, and are already receiving attention from other states and on the Internet. Last week they were featured on 2dopeboyz – one of the Internet’s most respected hip-hop blogs – in a segment fittingly called “(2) dope to sleep on.” In recent months they have rocked shows at venues like the Key Club, which is only aiding them in their search for exposure.
In an era where one would be hard-pressed to find a track that is not centered around materialism, or a beat that incorporates actual piano samples instead of synths, Warm Brew skillfully reminds us where hip-hop’s roots actually lie – simultaneously bringing us back to the classic sound that we once fell in love with, as well as pushing us forward, away from the simple punchlines and the misleading image that the genre has become associated with in recent years.
[Read H-House Student Outreach Specialist Kimberly Nao's response here]