Every group has that one guy that everyone knew was a star and could (or would) go solo. Naughty By Nature had Treach, Leaders of the New School had Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest had Q-Tip, etc. Little Brother has been making a great deal of noise lately. But most of the fingers have been pointed in the direction of producer wunderkind 9th Wonder and emcee extraordinaire Phonte. But there is someone else in that group. While many may think he suffers from “the other guy” syndrome (ask Phife, Charlie Brown, Vinnie and others about this) Rapper Big Pooh is out to prove that he just isn’t the “other guy” and that he is more than just a slightly relevant factor in the bubbling success of Little Brother. So what’s Pooh to do? He plants his feet firmly in the ground and attempts to prove his position with his debut solo LP, entitled Sleepers.
With the rest of the Justus League not too far behind, Rapper Big Pooh attempts to make a stand as a solo artist. From the outset Pooh showcases above average wordplay with the nonchalant “I Don’t Care”. While Pooh could have easily relied on the strength of 9th Wonder and Khrysis to carry him through the album, Pooh instead hones his craft behind the mic and comes off harder than many would expect. “Strongest Man” is the perfect blend of 9th Wonder-ism and Pooh-etics and shows that Rapper Big Pooh can hold his ground as a solo artist. The 9th Wonder bangers continue with “Heart of the City” as Pooh describes his environment to a tee. Now many would think that the beautiful production displayed alone would carry the track, but Pooh comes correct lyrically and upon multiple listens this becomes a true gem of a track. Even though Pooh has proven that he can stand on his own two, this doesn’t cause the listener to forget how wonderful it is to hear him rock the mic alongside partner Phonte. “Every Block” resonates of that unbelievable Little Brother chemistry as the two bound off of each other with superb energy. But from there on out it is truly all eyes on Pooh as he projects his outlook on relationships that should have just remained friendly (“Just Friends”) and the soulfully uplifting elements of life (“Live Life”). This is definitely Pooh’s coming out party as a solo artist.
On a production tip, Khrysis steps out of the tremendous shadow that 9th wonder has cast from behind the boards with production that rivals his Justus League cohort. It almost seems as if Khrysis and 9th trade blows with ridiculous production. Whether it be 9th head rocker “Cut Me Deep” or the Murs assisted Khrysis banger “Now” it seems as if the production has just as much to prove as the emcee. But the best thing about Sleepers is that Pooh will not take a backseat and gaze at the production heavyweight battle….not by a long shot. Pooh polishes off each joint as if they were meant for him to tear apart. Like a defiant but mature child fighting for prodigal recognition, Pooh fights the modern man struggle and achieves with brilliant success.
If there is one complaint that could be brought up about the album, it would have to be the fact that it feels as if the listener is cut short. Just when the album really gets rolling, it ends almost abruptly. It also could have lost the “Dash Interlude” because at this point all everybody really wants is Pooh with no interruptions. Though no fault of his own, Pooh would have benefited by a slightly longer album. But honestly that’s a tough thing to complain about. With so many albums wearing the listeners ears thin, it’s hard nowadays to complain about an album that leaves the listener wanting more. Nonetheless, Sleepers accomplishes two vitally important things. One, it proves that Rapper Big Pooh can easily stand on his own two and deliver a nice pimp slap for those who slept on his skill. Two, it definitively keeps the listener salivating over another successful release from the Little Brother camp that is sure to lead up to the group’s defining moment. Until The Minstrel Show hits later this year, we have to all be contempt with great albums from within the camp. And who can complain about that?
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