Every couple of years a group with enormous talent comes on the scene and captures the hearts of hip-hop aficionados. Then something happens, usually label problems. This is followed by the creative differences within the group leading to the departure of a member or the destruction of the group as a whole. Well this time it is Little Brother in the hot seat with their well-known label issues and, to make matters worst, 9th Wonder and the remaining members decided to part ways, leaving Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh holding the mantle of the LB legacy. This had many to wonder if the group could carry on and still put out great music or would they end up in the same position as those who came before them. With the marvelous Getback, they not only prove that they still got it, but that they are better than ever.
Shockingly, the departure of 9th Wonder comes as a blessing. Not discrediting 9th Wonder in any way, but the use of different producers actually enhances the album and corrects the monotony of production they were highly criticized for on The Minstrel Show. This is not the only correction they seemed to have made since the last album. The use of skits not only serves as entertainment, but also as a great transition between tracks. On their last LP, some individual tracks were devoted to skits that were irrelevant and at times annoying, where as on Getback the skits are relatively short and only appear as an extension of a song. This clever usage of skits has not been seen since De La Soul’s De La Soul Is Dead.
While listening to the album, you also become reminded of A Tribe Called Quest’s Low End Theory in the way a “minor member” steps up to the plate. Big Pooh was never a terrible emcee by any account, but it is here that he has his coming out party. He seems to be more comfortable with himself where before it seemed as if he wasn’t too sure and felt he had to prove it through every line he rhymed. This is most evident on one of the album’s best tracks, the Mr. Porter produced “Extra Hard,” where Pooh’s confidence shines in verses like, “Say I’m good/ Say I’m great/Couple niggas took shots/But they both late/They both cake/Soft like a Styrofoam plate/You wanna see the camp/Better get into shape…”
As Pooh finds his groove, this is complimented by Phonte’s laid back and sharp-witted flow. In fact, Phonte is a gifted emcee in his own right that has a unique way of bringing a point home in a sensitive way. A pure example is on “Dreams” where he says, “I still go to the crib and see my niggas on the corner/Pounds on their waist/Getting old/Getting round in the face/So when I hang with them/They ask me if The Minstrel Show means I’m ashamed of them…” With the departure of 9th Wonder, these two display a chemistry and camaraderie that was not as prolific on their first two LPs. When listening to them, once again you become reminded of another group with superior interaction, EPMD.
What separates this album from being put in the same category as the classics mentioned amongst others are a couple factors. One is that some of the hooks come off a little flat, best examples being the Lil’ Wayne featured “Breakin’ My Heart” and “When Everything Is New.” Secondly, there is the whole impact factor. Although this album is great, it isn’t exactly groundbreaking. Yes, the subject matter on the album and the viewpoint from which they are rhyming is refreshing, but it is not new. Plus, the group does not push the boundaries of hip-hop. It doesn’t have the essential elements that would change the scope of music. By all means, this album’s qualities cannot be denied. But being able to enter the same class as their older brothers, LB has just a little farther to go. – Ryan Harrison
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