Interview: Warm Brew Are Hip-Hop's 'Ghetto Beach Boyz'
It’s a guilty pleasure that most of us indulge in. You turn on the most thugged out street anthems on your iPhone, put your headphones on and pretend your're trappin'. You know, those redundant tracks about moving work and buying rounds of Dom and Ciroc. But if everyone is copping bricks and champagne, then who’s buying the drugs and cheap bottles of beer?
This is where we introduce the young hip-hop collective Warm Brew. The Venice, Cali-bred hip-hop group are more reminiscent of groups like The Pharcyde, and Jurassic 5 (but rawer) over Death Row. Brew isn't moving tons of cocaine in their music, nor are they buying out the bar. Instead, they prefer to chill out with a 40 oz. of Billy D. Williams and Swishers. In fact, one of the ways the group came up with their namesake is c/o group member Serk Spliff, who used to have a habit of swiping 30-packs of beer.
But don’t be fooled. The Brew crew doesn't just rely on their Mary Jane and alcohol habits to make music. They offer a wide range of styles and subject matter. Listening to Warm Brew's latest album Ghetto Beach Boyz, which was released on Jan. 13, gives you that comfortable feeling of finally being home after a shitty day at work. Also, WB's effortless flow and style comes as second nature.
“We’ve seen a lot of people not wanting to be themselves,” Ray Wright, one-third of Warm Brew, said from his California home. “Everybody trying to be somebody else in some type of way. We been around Hollywood so we see that all the time. We're just trying to be recognized for who we are."
Group members Ray Wright and Manu Li began recording music together while in middle school, and Spliff joined the squad later in high school. After graduating from Santa Monica High, Li and Spliff continued banging out tracks in their parent’s garage while Ray found himself on a football scholarship at the University of San Diego. But after a year of busting heads on the gridiron, Ray purchased a microphone and reconnected with his squad in L.A.
Fast forward to 2013 and their album The Ride, which contained their potent 4/20 anthem "Wanna Get High." It was this song that got the attention of Dom Kennedy, who eventually signed the trio to his OPM label.
“We did 'Wanna Get High' about a year and a half ago. But we didn’t know that Dom knew our manager, or a couple of other people that we knew,” Manu said. “Dom contacted our manager, and told him that he just really wanted to come and vibe with us at a studio session.”
However, there are levels to inking record deals. Dom didn’t just offer a deal off one song and a studio session. The L.A. natives still had to prove themselves as consistent artists capable of banging out heat on the reg.
“It didn’t just happen over night. We were out here grinding,” Manu said of their first encounter with Dom Kennedy. “We started hanging out more, doing shows, making more music, and the music started becoming undeniable. Once that happened, he knew it was something that he wanted to be a part of, and it just went from there.”
After inking with OPM, the Brew crew recorded their nearly flawless 11-track project Ghetto Beach Boyz. In the midst of recording their OPM debut, the Brew picked up some valuable jewels from their new homie. “Some rappers say whatever, and you don’t take nothing out of it," Ray said. “Now I’m thinking and looking at every single word in every single verse.” Spliff added, “I learned more about the performance of rapping, and I’m learning to balance the difference between being the typical rapper and staying connected to the times.”
Warm Brew, who grew up on an array of music like Snoop Dogg, Guns N Roses, and A Tribe Called Quest, to name a few, approach studio sessions with a dose of healthy competitiveness, which they say is necessary and one of the best things that can happen to a team.
"Just knowing that everything you’re making is better than the last one," Ray said. "Based off that, it think it happens naturally even if we aren’t being competitive."
“A dream album would definitely be a version of G-Funk. Soulful and gangsta but it would still be progressive,” Manu said. "If you had Snoop Dogg in his prime, George Clinton in his prime, mixed with Nate Dogg is his prime, the highest form of G-funk. That would be the perfect Warm Brew album."
As they continue to prepare their perfect album, the boys are happy with being themselves and the positive feedback from the Ghetto Beach Boyz LP. “I like the attention that our album has been getting," Manu said. "I feel like it's in its own world. I can appreciate it more fully. We’ve got to release something to the world by being in our environment and being ourselves."—Darryl (@darryl_robertson)