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 Brother. 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.