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by
11 November, 2003@12:00 am
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   Sometimes Hip Hop needs to stop taking itself so damn serious. With all the negative images, wack emcees, and cliched terms of endearment, hip hop just isn’t fun anymore. Who else could make a clever joke out of the industry than somebody who doesn’t have a deal, somebody who is hungry, somebody who just doesn’t have shit else to do with their time. Enter Phonte (Of Little Brother). Three years ago, before 9th Wonder, Big Pooh, and himself would go on to form the much heralded Little Brother, Phonte was just like anybody else. With constant aggravation within the industry, including futile attempts to get put on, Phonte decided that when frustration sets in you may as well make light out of a dark situation. So with a clever head full of ideas he and producer Eccentric (AKA “Fuckin Jerrold” from “The Getup”) sat in the studio
and created what he thought would be a hilarious concept album. In the same vein as spoof albums such as De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising and Prince Paul’s Psychoanalysis, he would create The Story of the U.S. and release it on Roy Lee’s Records and Tapes (The Roy Lee personality was featured on Little Brother’s debut, The Listening). So with a bag of tricks and a healthy dose of comedic covers and expressions. Phonte set out to make an album him and
his boys could laugh at for years to come, who would have thought that three years later we would be laughing too.

    Nobody, from Eminem and Dr. Dre, Cash Money Millionaires, RZA, even Aaron Nevile, can escape the hilarious wrath known as Phonte’s sense of humor. The narrative is surrounding Unheralded Symmetrics, two emcees from West Bubblefuck, Idaho, who are in search for every aspiring emcee’s holy grail, a record deal. Spanning twenty tracks in length, The Story of U.S follows the emcees as they travel from label to label trying to dumb down their “underground” image and become more like their commercial hip hop counterparts. Not only is it ridiculously whimsical but also has a clever take on hip hop as a whole. U.S. represents the “underground” following, potential emcees with unlimited vocabularies from places that are generally unheralded trying to reach out to the rest of the hip-hop community not knowing the hurdles and bullshit that record labels can and will put them through. The journey in itself is worth the listen. After lending an ear to the Wu-Tang Clan spoof “69th Chamber Intercourse”, it is apparent that this is a bellyache in itself as Phonte covers the whole Wu oh so well (take note of Ol’ Dirty Bastard and the infamous RZA impression). The listener can’t escape Phonte’s comical covers of Cash Money on “Whoadies On Fire”. Not only does Phonte impersonate the voices of the emcees to an immaculate tee, the production from Eccentric effectively recreates the atmosphere of each emcee’s working environment. Check how well “Tay-M-X” works it out on “Pain 4 My Dogz” and tell this critic that that ain’t some Ruff Ryder ish. As the intricate tale weaves to a close spanning the numerous record labels who do nothing more than attempt to use U.S. to regurgitate what already has been heard, U.S. finally nails their attempt with a country record. “The Time Has Come” features Aaron Neville collaborating with Eminem and Dr. Dre to knee-slapping results. As the U.S. finally achieve superstardom they are finally featured with Slum Village on “Micocosmic” where Phonte’ combines the U.S. with a hilarious portrayal of Jay Dee and company feat. Sadat X (circa 1999). The jokes aren’t over yet folks as Phonte’ includes some impressive bonus cuts of the already notable “Atari 2600″ and an over the top cover of the whole Dungeon Family on “All Night”. “Atari 2600″ features Phonte’s
spotless imitation of the RZA as he urges all the video game players to go analog with old school faves such as Q-Bert, Pong and Frogger instead of being Bobby Digital with a PS2. Absolute genius in all of its hilarity. As the album comes to a close, most will be left with tears in their eyes and sidesplitting results from this incredibly clever release.

   After being bombed with twenty tracks of amusement given in its “horribly mixed and unmastered glory” an attentive ear will appreciate what Phonte has done. What began as “two broke niggas with no deals who didn’t have shit else to do with their time” becomes one of those gems that any single human being with a glint of a funny bone should add to their collection. Those who like their hip hop more serious and street look elsewhere but for those who need a little comedy about the current state of hip hop in their life look no further. What was made in 2-3 days and done completely off the head is a treat for hip hoppers
everywhere. Enjoy!

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