Out of nowhere (North Carolina, to be exact), the trio of Phonte, Big Pooh, and producer 9th Wonder have taken the world of indy hip-hop by storm with their debut, The Listening, which first got props from ?uestlove, who not only crowned himself the king of the Little Brother fan club, but also claimed he was “jealous” of how dope they are! Coming from a Grammy man that’s big, but the buzz has spread like wildfire (like 50 Cent on a smaller scale), pushing an upwards of 700 units on this website alone, with not even a video or single receiving major play in any of the key markets. This has been one of the fastest word of mouth releases in a minute. But is it really all that?
Well, if you are fan of groups like De La Soul, Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest, Slum Village, or The Roots (y’know, Questlove’s group), then Little Brother is the next offspring in the post-Native Tongue era of hip-hop (thus explaining the name of the crew). While at first comparisons to these are only natural, and some might object to the level of homage paid to their forefathers through recitations of classic lyrics, by about the third way through The Listening, heads will feel right at home.
For the most part, this is standard regular-guy-rap, but 9th Wonder’s beautiful sonic backdrops make it stand out past every other indy record on the racks. What will first grab heads will be the 2003 “Camay” (or “Bonita Applebum”, if you please), “Whatever You Say”, with its infectious old-time female vocal inspiring suitors Phonte and Pooh. Dipping into realms of familiarity is the ultra-smooth “The Yo Yo”, where the duo humorously (and somewhat contradictorily) examines coffee-house rap saying “I’m about to kick some Trick Daddy next poetry night / like ‘my black queen…. don’t know naan nigga!” The album ends with a for once innovative look at hip-hop itself, on the incredible title track where the two actually make some poignant observations about the cliche’d “current state of hip-hop”, where Phonte laments “Trying to get your song pressed on vinyl / These motherfuckers buy your CD, but turnaround don’t even know the song titles / like track two is hot, track six is long / Ya’ll ain’ even listening I’ hopin’ that I can prove you wrong.”
And if these joints whet your appetite, tracks like “Love Joint Revisited”, “The Getup”, and “The Way You Do It” will seal the deal that this is the first great release of 2003. So what people really are buzzing about with Little Brother’s album is it’s consistency throughout, much like the hip-hop albums of yesteryear. It’s a record that you can let run through the whole way, discovering new elements to its sound with each listen. So fabulous.
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