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Fans of Little Brother will probably agree that the group’s history is like a microcosm of most of the last two decades in the rap game. After all, they’ve already had label trouble, video controversy, people trying to pigeonhole their sound and internal strife – and all of it has happened since 2003.

Now it seems like Phonte and Big Pooh have moved on to the final act in this career arc with Leftback, their fourth full length group effort. Any new LB album is cause for anticipation, but this time it feels slightly bittersweet because it sure doesn’t seem like we’ll be getting any more after this.

That’s apparent from the very first song (and lead single ) “Curtain Call.” Though it features both lyricists in top form over a breezy Khrysis beat that calls to mind the good old days alongside 9th Wonder, the chorus pretty much says it all: “Don’t stop, you know it don’t quit, but when it’s curtain call then that’s all you gonna get.”

Other choice cuts showcase the versatility that makes Little Brother stand out from the crowd while remaining so difficult to categorize. The guys from North Carolina can comfortably drop smoothed out rhymes about a night on the town with their best lady friends on “Table For Two,” then come back two songs later and smack the listener in the head with more aggressive lyrics with guest stars Truck North and Median on “Revenge.”

The excitement level dips a little bit in the middle of the album with several tracks where the production lets the rappers down a bit, plus two remixes of songs we’ve heard before (“After The Party” and “Two Step Blues”). But things return to form on the last two cuts, the almost hypnotic “Before The Night Is Over” and the hard-hitting “24,” which once again show off the group’s two sides perfectly.

As a whole, Leftback isn’t going to unseat The Minstrel Show as LB’s finest work, but it’s clear the duo can still make dope music. So is it simply the lack of commercial success that’s forcing the group to call it quits?

Phonte gives an unabashedly earnest answer to that question on “Tigallo For Dolo”: “I always spit whenever the spirit hits me, but fuck if I’ma be doing this shit when I’m 60. / And that’s no disrespect to KRS, I’m just trying to make my art and do what’s smart. / I’m saying, rapping ‘Te four-and-a-half mic honoree, or singing ‘Te first time Grammy nominee? / Nigga you do the math, nigga you add it up. That’s on my mind when I press record. / A lot of niggas probably mad at me, but I would rather be a lonely wolf than a sheep that’s bored.” That’s real talk.

So this really does look like the final bow for Little Brother, unless the guys really want to follow the career template to the fullest and do a comeback album someday. And even if there’s never another chapter in the LB saga, as Big Pooh says, “You can always press rewind and relive it again.”

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3 Responses to "Little Brother – "LeftBack" – @@@1/2 (Review) (*sticky*)"
  • E Major says:

    Nice review. I’m pretty much on board with everything you wrote. As a fan and an artist that was heavily influenced by LB, they’ll definitely be missed but I’m sure they’ll both go on to make great music together and separately.

  • Nick Tylwalk says:

    Thanks E. The thing that makes me confident that you are correct is that I thought LB might lose its mojo when 9th left, but they still kept going strong. I too will be following whatever Phonte and Pooh do next.

  • dj_osiris says:

    3.5 is a little high for this album to me. It’s a 2.5, maybe 3. I was disappointed.

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