Warm Brew – First Dual Cover Artists - Interviewed by Emily Berkey for ISSUE 06

The following interview with Warm Brew appears in print in ISSUE 06 of SUSPEND Magazine available to purchase here. Interview conducted by Emily Berkey and photography by William Azcona.

 Warm Brew photographed by Will Azcona for ISSUE 06 of SUSPEND Magazine.

Warm Brew photographed by Will Azcona for ISSUE 06 of SUSPEND Magazine.

It’s a Saturday night and I’ve arrived at the Paramount Recording Studios in Hollywood. I’m told, “Don’t go into Studio X, Party Next Door is in there…We’re next door.” I’m led by the studio’s security to the back patio where I spy music producer and DJ, Al B Smoov, Warm Brew member Ray Wright, and a few others over near the restroom, huddled together laughing. Eventually, Manu Li emerges from the bathroom, pencil and pad in hand. 

“Did you just open-door-studio-poo?” someone asks. Manu eyes me and shrugs, “Yeah.” 

After dishing out side-hug-hello’s, we sit around an oversized table illuminated by the amber string lights above us. Manu takes drags of a hand rolled cigarette and scratches his pencil on his notebook, scrawling lyrics as they come to him. A spliff is passed around as Ray tells stories and Manu mumbles to himself, giving life to the words on his page. 

 Warm Brew photographed by Will Azcona for ISSUE 06 of SUSPEND Magazine.

Warm Brew photographed by Will Azcona for ISSUE 06 of SUSPEND Magazine.

Once the spliff turns to ash, we head upstairs to their studio space. The dim magenta lit room is filled with a laid back, soulful, base heavy beat you’d want to bump on your ride to the beach with the top down. 

I check Serk’s (third member of Warm Brew) beer – It’s cold. 

Ray fetches me a beer and the guys sink back into their groove.

Serk sits on a stool across the room, he’s already laid his verse. Ray sways to the beat as he looks at lyrics on his phone and melodically raps his verse to himself. Manu finishes his verse, pauses, puts his pencil down, and does a celebratory jig. 

 Warm Brew photographed by Will Azcona for ISSUE 06 of SUSPEND Magazine.

Warm Brew photographed by Will Azcona for ISSUE 06 of SUSPEND Magazine.

The music stops, and after a discussion on “doing wax” (survey says they don’t necessarily enjoy dabbing) commences, Manu steps into the dark recording booth. With his notebook in hand, he lays his 16. 

“He’s all about going to the beach in his raps,” Ray announces.

“Remember when he was into the jacuzzi? He was in the jacuzzi in every rap,” Serk laughs.

In the booth, Manu raps, “We don’t watch movies anymore ‘cuz my life a movie.” 

I survey the room and concur, this could be a scene out of a movie.

Al B Smoov bobs his head to a beat he’s creating on his computer while he grinds weed and rolls it into a backwoods; as the room shares the blunt, I sip my warm brew and let the skunky air and the base of the beat fill my chest. 

 Warm Brew photographed by Will Azcona for ISSUE 06 of SUSPEND Magazine.

Warm Brew photographed by Will Azcona for ISSUE 06 of SUSPEND Magazine.

In perfect straight-out-of-a movie timing, a studio runner enters the room with warm chocolate chip cookies. The crew moves their seats closer to the plate and digs in. Within five minutes, all twelve cookies have disappeared. This is the second plate of their ten-hour studio session.

Ray enters the booth and fumbles over his first few takes, grunting in frustration after every verbal misstep. Eventually, he sinks into a comfortable space and, with a melodic cadence, lets his double time raps flow freely. The entire vibe of the song is transformed once he lays his 16, adding a Nate-Dogg-sounding soulfulness to the already laid-back track. 

After a self-congratulatory spliff is smoked, we step across the hall and Warm Brew sinks into a leather couch where we discuss their personalities, their recent trip to Paris for Be Street, run-ins with the police, and what they’re recording. Here’s what went down.

 Warm Brew photographed by Will Azcona for ISSUE 06 of SUSPEND Magazine.

Warm Brew photographed by Will Azcona for ISSUE 06 of SUSPEND Magazine.

Purchase ISSUE 06 here to read the entire interview with Warm Brew on pgs. 114-125.


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Emily Berkey Emily is a Contributing Writer at SUSPEND Magazine.