hiphop

Calling out Names: BierWax’s Beer Name Playlist Volume 1 (Monkish)

My first piece here remarked on the essential connection between hip hop and craft beer, and clearly, we are not the only ones who feel this way. One of the exciting developments that reinforces our belief that BierWax reflects the cultural zeitgeist is the emergence of so many beers with names inspired by hip hop. One of the breweries leading the way in this regard in Monkish, out in Torrance, California. 

With this trend in mind, here’s a quick feature and playlist covering beers brewed by Monkish (some in collaboration with Other Half) with names inspired by rap lyrics. 

 

2-1 & Lewis

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Nate Dogg & Warren G – Regulate

Lyric: “So I hooks a left, on 2-1 and Lewis. Some brothers shooting dice, so I said, let’s do this”

“Regulate” is a classic guilty pleasure that was either the most unlikely or likely hit off the Above the Rim soundtrack. 2-1 and Lewis is the intersection at which poor Warren G gets got after a whimsical decision to enter a dice game. Now, Warren should have known never to enter a hood dice game on a whim; it can only end poorly. Luckily, his ace, the G-Funkdafied Nate D-O-double-G was there to bail him out. What are the chances that you’re cruising down 2-1 & Lewis, strapped with “16 in the clip and one in the hole,” while your homie is getting robbed on the same block? …Probably about the same chances that some dude who goes solely by “Leon” can throw down reverse dunks like Dominique at the ’87 Dunk Contest and pull up from half court like Steph Curry at the Rucker – all in in god damn couduroys and a thermal! But, great art sometimes requires the suspension of disbelief. Still, “Regulate” goes down as the only hip hop hit, in which the protagonist gets jacked, but saved by a gun-toting crooner. In the words of a much better rapper, I’d say that’s Rather Unique.

 

Biggie, Biggie, Biggie

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Notorious B.I.G. – Hypnotize

Lyric: “Biggie, Biggie, Biggie, can’t you see? Sometimes your words just hypnotize me”

Perhaps no hip hop artist was ever more capable of making hits for both the club and the streets, the radio and the Walkman, the stick-up kid and the nine-to-fiver, than the livest one from Bedford Stuyvesant. While “Hypnotize” is plenty guilty of ushering in the “shiny suit era” that dealt a major blow to boom bap, and largely shut the door on the golden era, it certainly gets people off their asses and can still turn a club out to this day. While it’s nowhere on my essential Biggie playlist, it’s an undisputed hit – so much so that it actually inspired a second Monkish beer, a standard IPA, entitled Days of Underoos.

 

Blowin’ up the Spot

Brewer: Monkish x Other Half

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Gangstarr – Blowin’ up the Spot

Lyric: “And you don’t wanna hear the burners go pop. Gangstarr, motherfucker, what?! Blowing up the Spot”

This is Monkish’s second collaboration with Other Half. Both titled after Gangstarr tracks, JFK 2 LAX (covered later in this entry) was the first collab. Driven by the success of the first collab, this beer was highly anticipated and drew quite long lines on release day. “Blowin’ up the Spot” was one of the standouts on Hard to Earn, which is one of several golden era classics from Gangstarr’s catalog. On this track, DJ Premier flips some funky George Clinton samples as Guru’s unmistakable voice and smooth cadence drops the lyrics, which are slightly more on the aggressive side, relative to Guru’s overall demeanor.

 

Bomb Atomically

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Wu Tang Clan – Triumph

Lyric: “I bomb atomically, Socrates philosophies and hypotheses can’t define how I be dropping these” (Inspectah Deck)

I first heard Deck spit this verse about a year prior to the release (promo or full) of this song, as he delivered it on the epic Tony Touch tape #50, which featured “freestyles” from 50 emcees. It got rewound several times on that tape (as did the Nine verse, in which he names checked tons of rappers), but when “Triumph” hit, it ascended the verse to a whole other level. The Wu Tang Forever album was quite possibly the most anticipated hip hop album of all time. It’s hard to conceptualize and compare pre-internet, but no hip hop artist or group was ever as big and omnipresent as Wu Tang Clan at their pinnacle. This is especially awe-inspiring given that there were tons of other incredibly dope artists in their primes at the same time. “Triumph” delivered on the hype and only further built expectations for the album. The premier of the “Triumph” video was like a national event; the video was the first rap video with a million-dollar budget. And, Deck led it off (as he did on “Protect Ya Neck”), spitting this verse while scaling a building. The verse inspiring this beer is the most memorable verse on hip hop’s most anticipated album, and one of the all-time best leadoff verses on a full-on posse track. …”Shackling the masses with drastic rap tactics; graphic displays melt the steel like blacksmiths” still gives me chills!

 

Eric C is President

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Eric B & Rakim – Eric B is President

Lyric: Title of song

There is simultaneously so much, yet not much to say here. Off possibly the most influential album in hip hop history, we have possibly the most influential song from the most influential emcee. You can barely go four bars anywhere in the song without a line that was subsequently scratched into a chorus, or referenced in a subsequent lyric, or song or album title. Eric B is on the cut, and Ra is on mic – really doesn’t get better than this!

 

Ghetto Style Proverbs

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Gangstarr feat Inspectah Deck – Above the Clouds

Lyric: “Heed the words. It’s like ghetto style proverbs. The righteous men sacrifice to get what they deserve.” (Guru)

An unexpected, yet welcome pairing, Guru and the Rebel INS trade verses over another Preemo masterpiece. I always thought Guru’s verse was extremely poetic – it’s not overly complex in lyric or flow, just well-composed and delivered, with each word carefully chosen. Deck follows in typical form, riding the beat with above average lyrical acumen, characteristics that make Deck well-suited for any and all guest features.

 

Intelligent Embellishment

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Blackstar – Re-Definition

Lyric: “Intelligent embellishment, follow the fire element from Flatbush settlement” (Mos Def)

It was very tempting to type out this entire verse. Though Mos Def’s peak as an emcee was somewhat short-lived, at his best he’s simply one of the most talented lyricists and performers to ever touch a microphone. This verse is a clinic on how to completely own the English language, as Mos finesses an educated form of braggadocio while modulating his voice and flow. This is on my short list of favorite Mos Def verses. Major props to Monkish for this one as well, because it’s a pretty deep and obscure reference.

 

JFK to LAX

Brewer: Monkish x Other Half

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Gangstarr – JFK to LAX

Lyric: “Nothing happened. Mind your business – yo, step. You know we connect – JFK to LAX:

Gangstarr’s Moment of Truth is a great album that is somewhat slept on. The duo is largely defined by a string of three albums that preceded this release, but it deserves the same reverence as the other classics in the catalog. “JFK 2 LAX” is a fairly short, chorus-less jam that showcases an essential, introspective and refined Guru over impeccable Preemo production. Few combos throughout hip hop history have ever delivered so reliably and consistently.

 

La Schmoove

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Fu-Schnickens – La Schmoove

Lyric: “La Schmoove! We ain’t got nothin’ to prove!”

Fu-Schnickens may be best known as the established group that basically launched Shaquille O’Neal’s rap career. They were also notably used as a de facto insult when Nas accused Jay-Z of emulating his style, claiming that prior his influence, Jay-Z “rapped like the Fu-Schnickens.” But, Fu-Schnickens had a short, yet relatively meteoric run in the early 90s, defined by their rapid fire, energetic flows. Along with “La Schmoove,” ‘What’s up Doc” (featuring Shaq), “True Fushnick,” and “Ring the Alarm” all made waves at time of release.

 

Relax your Mind

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: EPMD – You Gots to Chill

Lyric: “Relax your mind, let your conscience be free, and get down to the sounds of EPMD” (Erick Sermon)

EPMD is one of the greatest duos in hip hop history, and “You Gots to Chill” is one of their most classic jams, girded by one of the most recognizable and recycled samples/beats in the genre. I’ve always considered EPMD one of the best examples of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Neither Erick Sermon nor Parrish Smith are exceptionally talented emcees, and their efforts independent of the group are largely lackluster. However, the EPMD catalog contains multiple classic albums and many boom bap classics.

 

Sip the Juice

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Rakim – Juice (Know the Ledge)

Lyric: “Sip the juice, I got enough to go around. And, the thought takes place Uptown.”

The hood classic, Juice, was Tupac’s big screen breakout. The lead single off the Soundtrack was this banger from Rakim. Pretty impressive credentials, I’d say. “Deep Cover” is likely the most famous and celebrated hip hop track off a motion picture soundtrack, but this joint featuring the immortal Rakim, still in top form, has as good an argument as any for second place on that list.

 

Stampede the Globe

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Raekwon featuring Ghostface and Nas – Verbal Intercourse. 

Lyric: “Through the lights, cameras, action, glamour, glitter, and gold, I unfold a scroll. Plant seeds to stampede the globe.” (Nas)

Nas’s guest verse on Raekwon’s classic, Only Built for Cuban Linx, basically stole the show on the track, and is one of the standout verses on the entire album. Some might consider this Nas’s best guest appearance of his accomplished and prolific career. The period between Illmatic and It Was Written may be my personal favorite iteration of Nas. Die-hards will also recognize this verse from the once tough-to-find, unreleased track, “De Ja Vu” …I must have dubbed that track, along with some other Nas rarities, pre-internet, for more than two dozen people – because you know I was not actually lending out the original tape!

 

Have you had any of these gems from Monkish? If so, tell us which are your favorites. Next, we will feature some hip-hop inspired beer names from a selection of other breweries.

Broken Language

The “beer nerd” can be pretentious and annoying. Reading pedantic and bombastic beer reviews can be insufferable. But, the existence of this highfalutin drivel might actually serve a greater purpose.

Hip hop has grown to become the dominant global pop culture, yet despite the occasional Hamilton outlier, it remains relatively segregated to the artistic ghetto. Many still don’t consider rap to be “real music” and don’t see a lack of familiarity with even the most seminal artists as a cultural blind spot of note. Why is this?

I would argue that language itself is a significant factor in the gulf between hip hop’s cultural influence and artistic standing and acceptance. Specifically, the manner in which something is discussed greatly influences how it is perceived. Given the ubiquity of hip hop music and culture, there appears a relative dearth of scholarly, poetic, and critically analytical discourse surrounding it. There aren’t enough successful people in the mainstream speaking personally and passionately about the impact of hip hop in their lives.

While some of that kind of discussion can also ring a bit precious, it goes a long way to legitimize culture and art to the masses. We’ve seen this happen with previous generations of music, morphing from sex, drugs, and rock and roll to revered artistry, and birthing cultural touchpoints with which we are all supposed to be familiar. The evolution of the discourse around the music was a substantial driver of that transition.

Nowhere is the notion of language influencing perception more familiar than when it comes to food and drink. You can have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or a pureed nut spread with grape relish reduction on artisan brioche.

Food and drink is not only tasted, but experienced. So, the way a beer is represented is part of the priming of that experience. This is especially relevant for a restaurant or bar. Ideally, a description of a beer will communicate its vital stats as well as a bit of insight into its flavors in an accessible, descriptive, and succinct manner.

big_pun‘Language is fatal and it’s hypnotizing. I’m only emphasizing, I’m all about business and enterprising.” – Big Punisher

My last post touched on the fact that beer has remained in the alcoholic beverage underclass. The emergence and now unprecedented growth of the craft beer movement is a huge step in evolving the perception of beer, but the existence of these products is not enough on its own. Changing the discourse around beer is an important next step as well.

Have you ever been to a nice restaurant with an extensive wine list and asked your server about their beers, only to get a list of six generic, bland beers, five of which are the same varietal (usually lager)? Implicit in this kind of offering is the assumption that a beer is a beer. Some of the nerdy beer talk plays a role in forcing people to re-examine that naïve premise, which – in turn – leads to better and more diverse offerings for consumers.

So, when I read forced beer review that waxes poetic about notes of caramel, pure golden hues, aromatic complexity, and a crisp finish, I try to also keep in mind that if this was how we spoke about beer more broadly, it would be very rare to walk into a decent restaurant and be unable to get a good beer.

Wax Artifacts

I’m having a very difficult time writing about Afrika Bambaataa. Let’s say it’s writer’s block mixed with the pressure to not “f_ck it up.” What more can I say about a legend who has contributed so much to hip hop culture and music in general? The “Master of Records” had an impeccable ear for songs and sections of songs that would drive partygoers absolutely wild. I heard a lot about how he used tape to cover the labels of his record covers to prevent other DJs from finding out exactly what he was playing. I loved hearing about his ability to find funky sections of African records, children’s records, soundtracks, and other obscure or even commonplace records that people either overlooked or just never had access to before. Whenever I discover that sweet spot, a funky break on a record, I often think about Bambaataa.

Afrika Bambaataa recently donated his mammoth vinyl collection to Cornell University’s library. Before the 40,000 piece collection made its way upstate, Cornell archivist and curator  Johan Kugelberg linked up with gallery owner Gavin Brown to display the collection. While the collection was inventoried at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise (620 Greenwich Street), the public was invited to view Bambaataa’s historic collection firsthand. DJs were invited to spin using the holy grail of records. Unfortunately, I missed the boat on this. The 40,000 pieces of hip hop history on wax are now permanent residents of Cornell. Luckily, my fellow DJ cousin told me about it in time to catch the tail end of this incredible exhibit. You’ll see what I experienced below. I was able to take a few pieces of his vinyl collection home with me. The doubles, which were not needed in the Cornell archive, were for sale at $5 a piece. The three records I purchased will forever hold sentimental value for me, even if they are not the break-laden records I was hoping to score.

My definition of hip hop is taking elements from many other spheres of music to make hip hop. Whether it be breakbeat, whether it be the groove and grunt of James Brown or the pickle-pop sounds of Kraftwerk or Yellow Magic Orchestra, hip hop is also part of what they call hip-house now, or trip hop, or even parts of drum n’ bass.

                        –Afrika Bambaataa

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