Phonte – Charity Starts At Home

2003: An era in hip hop where fans were holding the ‘Roc’ sign with their hands proudly, the art form was fully merged with the corny so called R&B, so called MC’s were ‘singing’ hooks and R&B artists trying to be all ‘thugged’ out and cursing in their songs, and a certain Unit emerged on the scene with new heat, only to be dissected and exposed as lightweights in just a few years. Amidst all of this hip hop confusion a hip hop trio arrived on the scene with fresh sounds, true lyrics that everyone could identify and relate to since A Tribe Called Quest, and soulful beats that touched your heart produced by one man. This formula in hip hop was sadly missed since the golden era. With that particular debut album, they exposed the fact that heads aren’t listening.

2011: The trio I speak of is of course Little BrotherPhonte- Charity Starts At Home Album Cover. Since then there has been several group releases and mix tapes. 9th Wonder did leave the group, however the careers of all three seemed parallel as they have solo projects that happened to be released around the same time. Rapper Big Pooh has a project coming very soon, 9th Wonder’s The Wonder Years is finally released, and maybe the most charismatic of the trio finally releases his solo, Charity Begins At Home, so let’s get into it and see how this album fares….” New Tigallo New Tigallo New Tigallo New Tigallo….”

So with that in mind let us all get this show on the road and ‘Dance in the Reign’ with this album… this is a great intro. This is Phonte’s story. Sounds like producer Swiff D robbed the studios of Dr Dre and Just Blaze and crafted a joyous celebration. No wonder Andre Young is struggling to release ‘Detox’, and so ‘The Good Fight’ begins. The Justus League’s DJ Flash and 9th Wonder’s allies Halo and Actual Proof join forces to make this b!tch happy…well I can tell you that this track will make the listener happy. Track 3 and the Justus League are already in full swing. With producer Khrysis on the track ‘Everything is Falling Down,’ Phonte uses a popular Jay-Z song title and makes it a hot line as well as a hot song, “See where I come frometh/you and yours are up in arms like gun runners/and you are confronted with/99 problems and can’t keep it 100/and when the days end you ain’t really done nuttin…”

The album’s lead single ‘Not Here Anymore’, features 2011’s hip hop history moment, Elzhi…I mean that by him releasing a mix tape that was free to download but after critical acclaim became available to be purchased on CD and vinyl format. To prove that 9th  is a good man, he could have featured this on his album, and chose not to do that.  This is an amazing collaboration that should be encouraged more. The soulful flow leads into the track entitled ‘Eternally’ featuring Median. Phonte pays homage to Busta Rhymes with the ‘ziggy-ziggy-ziggy’ intro that Busta used into his track ‘So Hardcore’ from When Disaster Strikes’album, whereas Median says he has no need for twitter to air out all his business. Together they are showing that the real hip hop will live eternally. Carlitta Durand joins Phonte in a stunning track. Entitled ‘Gonna Be a Beautiful Night’, this is that zone out track when you are with your queen, not just any and any female. Kanye’s production company, Very Good Beats Inc, are proving their worth here and they say exactly what it says on the tin.

Phonte teams up with arguably hip hop’s most consistent artist, Pharoahe Monch in ‘We Go Off’, and that is exactly what they do here. Phonte starts the match: “Yeah n!**@, I go boss, ’cause once the buzzer go off/Don’t nobody give a f**k what you ranked as/It’s only wins and losses, Benz and Porsches/So pardon if I offend any friends or sources/that never seen the hunger, no, meager portions…” Then Pharoahe gets the tag: “Pharoahe the god strike the mic hard like Ty Cobb with a bat/Physicist, the antithesis of Steve Jobs when he raps/Smack, sick gonorrhoea, CLAP, Onomatopoeia /Smack the sh!t out you, you have no idea…”However just like a real life street fight, it ends so suddenly…

In the beginning, we are all Kings. Don’t make no gooders try to tell you any different as Phonte, Evidence and Big K.R.I.T. will tell you in the 9th assisted marvel that is ‘The Life Of Kings’. You cannot find a better sample than DMC’s “I’m a KIIIIIIIIIIIIING!!!!!” to help express your status on this earth. To end the 12 track delight, Phonte goes into storytelling with ‘Who Loves You More. Since Phonte appeared on Eric Roberson’s album, the synergy between the two on Roberson’s ‘Been In Love’ had to call for Roberson to return the favour. The album ends the way it started….in a joyous manner.

It seems to me that the best albums of 2011 have not lasted over 50 minutes at best and this is another example…the quality over quantity factor has been re-employed as of late and it leaves the listener satisfied yet disgruntled that artists could have added on, but why fix something that ain’t broke? Phonte has come indeed come with a winner here, and most hip hop heads like myself will cop both this and The Wonder Years
simultaneously. Throw in the upcoming Rapper Big Pooh album in your three disc CD changer, it will feel as though not only you feel as though you have a Little Brother double CD, but it could be strong signs that the group may come full circle.

(Mike Dogg)

9th Wonder: The Wonder Years

9th Wonder - The Wonder Years album coverSince 2011 hit,  quality hip hop albums have come out one after the other….it was just over half a year, I had to ‘Wonder’, what more greatness are in store for us for the rest of the year? I found out that 9th Wonder is finally dropping his long awaited album ‘The Wonder Years’. So is it worth the wait and worth wondering?

The album begins with 9th telling the listener about how a legacy should be defined, before Khrysis breaks down 9th’s storied career and how he was going to ‘Make It Big’. After that Phonte & Median join 9th in a track they call ‘Band Practice’. The only element missing is Rapper Big Pooh. Are they hinting that a Little Brother reformation is in the works?

If there is any MC in the game that knows about ‘Loyalty’, it’s Masta Killa. This is also featured on Masta’s upcoming album ‘Loyalty is Royalty’, however there are minor differences, this version sounds slightly unfinished, but has Halo bringing a third verse whereas Masta’s version has a
slightly extended hook in the track.

The R&B vocals of Mela Machinko had me immersed in this track, she sings about being in doubt and playing games with a guy who was interested in her, and then she admits that she was really feeling him and did not know how to handle it. The dude’s role is played by Median in the track ‘Now I’m Being Cool.’ 9th’s soulful production really shines here.

As 9th’s production shifts in a more, smooth jazzy feel, Terrace Martin wants back in on the action. He joins Talib Kweli in ‘Never Stop Loving You’, where the two use their wordplay on hip hop, referring the art form as ‘her’, first demonstrated by Common Sense.

The other half of Actual Proof, Sundown joins Blu speak on hip hop biters, better known as ‘Piranhas’. Like a lot of like minded readers on this site and the Unique Heat facebook group, Sundown & Blu still strongly feel that biting should NOT be allowed in hip hop EVER.

If you thought Floetry’s Marsha Ambrosius over a Dr. Dre produced track was magic, think again. ‘Peanut Butter & Jelly’ sees Marsha telling the listener that she feels better working with 9th here, and it definitely shows.

Terrace Martin, Phonte and Bird & The Midnight Falcons show these autotune abusers how it is REALLY done on the track ‘One Night’, sounding like an 80’s disco record, it sets the tone for when one is with their partner. Cue formation dancing in the club!!!! The soul flow continues as 9th Wonder remains on the grown and sexy club vibe with the track ‘Your Smile’, accompanied by Hollyweerd and Thee Tom Hardy.

Joining Masta Killa from the Wu-Tang on this album, Raekwon laces the 9th Wonderful beat ‘No Pretending’. He and Big Remo warn all the fake artists that it doesn’t look comfortable doing what they’re doing. 9th adds a few instruments that gives a hint of that RZA sound that 9th was so inspired by.

If doubters try to say that there are lack of female MCs in the game, 9th will beg to differ. Rapsody tells a tale of a situation where she got caught up but she had to be the bigger person out of it….she realises now she is ’20 Feet Tall’. Erykah Badu lends her vocals over the smooth remix.

It ain’t cool to make a love song….but 9th makes any track cool. Mac Miller says that love will get everybody in some point of their lives, no matter the life they lead…In ‘That’s Love’ featuring Heather Victoria, Mac explains how he has to fend of all the hoodrats now that he has a good woman by him.

Terrace Martin helps 9th close out the album with the track ‘A Star U R’ featuring Problem. If you ever wondered ‘pun intended’ what Michael Jackson would sound over a 9th beat, I think this track would be the answer.

The Wonder Years is more diverse than The Dream Merchant offerings, and yet 9th maintains the soulful flow throughout. This is that album that you rock in your room and zone out to….and if suits your mood then it is worth checking out. Hip Hop fans that strictly love those bangers will find that this may not be for them, but you can’t be all ‘fist and fire’ all the time…sometimes you need to chill and ‘wonder’ why these quality tunes are not promoted enough.

(Mike Dogg)

RANDOM AXE @ THE SCALA, LONDON OCTOBER 20, 2011

Supergroup Random Axe are Black Milk, Guilty Simpson and Sean Price. After many collaborations with each other on different occasions they decided to form this group for an album project to continually break boundaries in what Black Milk calls this ‘hip hop cancer’.

I first heard of Guilty Simpson from Black Milk’s Popular Demand album, then I heard him on J.Dilla’s ‘The Shining’ album. From there I was sold.

Sean Price has really came into his own as of late, with his ‘sadistic’ ‘Bernie Mac’ style and delivery. His ‘Heartburn’ track had so much memorable lines that made me instantly a fan.

However for me, the story began with Black Milk. I am not so familiar with his debut album ‘Sound Of The City’, but after hearing the tracks ‘So Gone’, ‘U’, and ‘Keep It Live’, I wanted to know more about this producer/artist that has been compared to the legendary J. Dilla. After three consistently dope albums (Popular Demand, Tronic and Album Of The Year), I was setting for Black Milk to come to the UK, but I missed the opportunity to see him live earlier this year. I somehow knew that with the Random Axe album soon to follow at the time, I knew he would be back, and so it led me to this point.

DJs on the ones and twos, were Mr Thing and SpinDoctor. They succeeded where DJ Semtex (in my view) failed at the Wu-Tang show: rocked the crowd with continuous hip hop anthems and bangers. They did such a great job that for a minute I thought they connected my MP3 player up with their system.

Supporting act Jehst did a great half hour set. Keeping the crowd going with their hits, before stunning the crowd with an a capella rendition of ‘England’ that had the capacity crowd’s ears in their hands.

Random Axe were introduced one by one….Black Milk on the ones and twos. Sean Price follows and opens the 90 minute set with ‘Figure Four’, as soon as he came out, he had the crowd chanting ‘PPPPPPPPPP’! throughout. Guilty Simpson followed just after, Guilty follows to perform his solo track before all three began their performances from the album. Two things became clear, one, Sean P was clearly the superstar out of the three, interacting with the fans in the most unique ways…one fan was eager to have his Jesus Price Superstar album signed, when Sean P stopped performing in the middle of a track to put his hands on his hips in disgust while exclaiming, “How dare you disrupt my show!!!! Wait til the end I’ll sign it then!!!” Another moment was Guilty’s track ‘Get Riches’ where Sean P was shaking every male’s hands and telling them to get riches….then looking on the girl towards the other side, kissing his teeth and walking off! Maybe my favourite moment was when Sean P did an a capella freestyle, putting his hand on the shoulders of a fan, look him in the eyes and proceeded to diss him about his dress sense! Unbelievable!!!

The other thing that became clear was that Black Milk was the DJ on the night, which meant he couldn’t perform as much as he wanted to, which was disappointing to me. I was really looking forward to hearing his catalogue of hits along with his fellow Random Mcs, but the tracks he did perform, ‘Deadly Medley and The Matrix’ hyped the crowd further. Good choices.

Guilty brought the presence of the late great J.Dilla performing Clap Your Hands, Jungle Love, and most notably ‘Baby’, where they had the crowd singing…..the wrong words!!! Only one girl in the crowd got it right, and lets just say she got ‘rewarded’.

Sean P treated the fans to a taster of his new album coming soon entitled ‘Mic Tyson’, with a track produced by the Alchemist. That tune alone is a good sign that the fans will be looking forward to more sadistic wordplay from P. The highlight has to go to ‘Onion Head’ and ‘Boom Bye Yeah’, where naturally, there was no way I could capture footage of that performance as a mosh pit quickly came into effect. one dude must have tripped over some spilt beer on the floor and lets just say he became the dance floor, or battlefield, if you will! It was great that even though Black Milk was more in the background, they moved as a unit, becoming hype men for each others solo tracks.

All in all it was a great show, only gripe is I wished there was a DJ that could accommodate the three MCs so that Black Milk could truly bring ‘Fire’ to the show, pun intended!!! With their future projects in effect (Black Milk & Danny Brown, Mic Tyson), the UK has not seen the last of this trio I can assure you.

(Mike Dogg)