Review Summary: "Warm Brew stay alive, you don't stop"
A fact of history: Kottabos was a drinking game played in ancient Greece during the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. Given that, and seeing as they’re unsurprisingly no strangers to alcohol, Los Angeles hip-hop group Warm Brew cheekily titled their latest mixtape in homage of this “beer pong” of classic antiquity.
Last year’s Warm Brew
EP featured the Espy-produced “Go To School,” a track of monumental proportions featuring a hard-as-fu
ck beat to go along with the hard-as-fu
ck lyrics that cut to the quick as a reproach of the rap industry as a whole. “Go to School” was easily one of the best, and unfortunately most overlooked, rap songs of the year.
The release of Kottabos
at the end of the April has proven to be the apex of the second year in a row where Warm Brew have been making big
moves (other 2012 highlights include their first major U.S. tour and opening for, perhaps most notably, Black Hippy member Schoolboy Q). The tape continues where Warm Brew’s last two releases left off, albeit minus any production from sorta-kinda member Espy. At first the lack of the mind behind the scathing “Go to School” may seem alarming, but all was not even close to lost. Kottabos
is chockfull of the personable beats and soulful hooks that assure the listener that the “brew is [still] warm.”
Opener “4 Life,” serves to re-introduce the group to the public as well as affirm that this is what Straight Outta Compton
might have sounded like if it were made by a less violent breed of people and was released post-California medical marijuana regulation. The song’s hook is a medley of MCs Ray Wright, Manu Li, and Serk Spliff declaring “whether we at home or on the road…my niggas is my niggas for life” and “Warm Brew for life.” There’s a certain authenticity to Warm Brew’s throwback sound not found in similar artists, and it helps to broaden their appeal a hundredfold, even if it means they never really step outside of their comfort zone.
“So we crawlin’ down the block bumpin’ bangers past the cops/Cuz I don’t want to see this real ass hip-hop stop” says Ray Wright on “DGPG,” a song that pays tribute to 2pac in classy fashion, banging over rollicking bass as deep as the Marianas trench. “Creep” is a song for all the “right hand bitches” as boldly proclaimed by Serk Spliff. “You know what I mean,” he says, “for when a nigga’s at home and he doesn’t wanna use his right hand, he just calls y’all.” These two songs are the best on the album for a reason: they play to Warm Brew's strengths as heralds of a nostalgic-era rarely pulled off so successfully in modern hip-hop.
At eleven tracks plus one bonus, Kottabos
eschews the modern rap trend of stuffing mixtapes practically to CD capacity, making it a completely dauntless listen. The only real misstep on the tape is the DeUno produced “Get It” which is dragged down by an annoying sample that resembles a sound effect from a Sega Genesis game. Aside from that, Warm Brew’s trio of MCs carry themselves with executable synergy that strongly knits Kottabos
together. This may well be exactly what Warm Brew needed to break through the barrier of unknown to at least somewhat known. They deserve it.