"Buffalo Stance"? Probably not, as the song is massive and sort of overshadowed whatever Neneh put out further---which is where Homebrew comes in. Raw Like Sushi, Neneh's 1989 debut album, is a landmark entry in alternative hip-hop for women. In fact, I would dare say further that Neneh Cherry also had a hand in mixing soul, down-tempo, and jazz into hip-hop to produce an earthier tone to where The Roots, Erykah Badu, and Common (hell, most of the Soulquarians) carried that tradition in later years.
1992's Homebrew is a different affair from Raw Like Sushi. Sushi rocks on a poppier plane and possesses a real spunky and tough B-Girl attitude to where Neneh strode alongside Queen Latifah and MC Lyte. Homebrew, on the other hand, lounges around in it's ambiance snatching glimpses of R&B, trip-hop, and smoky Jazz (no doubt a homage towards her step-dad, Jazz trumpeter, Don Cherry), and really everything in-between. With guest spots from Gang Starr, R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, and Lenny Kravitz, the eclecticness is what makes Homebrew such an overlooked batch that does indeed cast light on the fact that Neneh had actually outgrown "Buffalo Stance" and was headed into refined and cerebral material. Yet, *sigh* you know how this story goes, when an artist tries to escape that one big hit album/single, and dares to be different on the sophomore set---it tends to go over some people's heads.
Homebrew extends on Neneh's past, taking some from her early punk rock days and enhancing the moody moods that made up the filler material on Sushi. It's not really hip-hop, until Gang Starr's DJ Premier and the late Guru show up on the gritty opener "Sassy"---or whenever Neneh finds herself in a spoken word state. There are a multitude of textures that bubble up on this set in very unexpected (yet awesome) ways.
"Money Love" is accessible, funky and quite Janet Jackson "Black Cat"-esque, but the real craft comes in with "Move With Me". A seductive stunner that steps into the same vein of Madonna's "Justify My Love" in all of it's smolder and sex---and well, no wonder considering that Lenny Kravitz had a hand in co-writing it as well. It mirrors the same grimy tunnel sound of "Justify", but in some ways (and I know I'm committing Material Girl Sin), I prefer "Move With Me" over "Justify" any day. Something about it's gradual climb and Neneh's vocal performance just feels more fulfilling and enjoyable.
Move With Me
Neneh and Michael Stipe sound exceptional together on "Trout", and it's really criminal that this song didn't go past the college radio circuit and hit the mainstream back in '92, well, maybe because the song hinted at safe-sex---and in the 90's there were enough of those PSA's going around, still it was a quaint merging of the minds. On another hand, there are a few songs on this that I wish I could have written, as Neneh shines when she gets on her feminist soapbox, like when the guys of Gang Starr return to add some dimension to "I Ain't Going Under Yet", and rides it on a killer sparse Jazz beat. Also "Peace Of Mine" in it's thick smog of a groove has poignant things to say, as does my favorite, "Red Paint" that is a brightly done soulful bounce that is a contrast to the song's topic of loss before it's time. Another guest spot to note is future Portishead member, Geoff Burrows, who pens the trip-hop stunner, "Somedays" and is yet another gem of a moment on this set as well as is a nice precursor to what was to come of the trip-hop movement.
Speaking of Kravitz, "Buddy X" is notable not only in it's minor hit status (it barely cracked the Top 30), but also because Neneh wrote the track about Kravitz himself, alluding to the fact that he's well...a cheating bed sheet romper. Note that this song was released probably around the time Kravitz was on the skids with wife, Lisa Bonet (Denise Huxtable to all you TV heads), so in a snarky way Neneh is probably just calling a brother out on his cheating game, and in the most catchiest and funkiest way possible.
Neneh and her husband, producer Cameron McVey (known as Booga Bear) managed to successfully pull together all genres on this, yet Homebrew doesn't feel bogged down with them, and the flow of it makes for great listening. In all of her eclectic style, Neneh is definately a game changer whose name, to my ear, never gets mentioned in the mix of other female MC's and innovators of the "neo-soul" movement. Maybe she was hard to classify in one genre? Or maybe folks wanted the same type of vibe and sass of "Buffalo Stance" and got put-off by the variance on Homebrew enough to warrant it a chart bomb? Or maybe people just didn't pursue Neneh's music beyond Raw Like Sushi? Whatever the (lame) reasons, Neneh's Homebrew is really something to drink up, or to take another sip of if it didn't give you a nice buzz the first time.