Today I’m keeping it real. No, not “the only thing bigger than my dick is my gun,” real,...
DJBooth Album Review
So where’s my hip-hop? Where’s the hip-hop that rhymes about going to my Grandma’s house on the weekend to build her a wheelchair ramp? Little Brother, the pride of North Carolina, has the answer with their latest offering Get Back, a musical ode to real people who love good music. The album drops after some serious industry drama, namely their departure from Atlantic and the break-up of their partnership with super-producer 9th Wonder. So the bad news is they’re no longer on a major label, but ironically that’s also the good news.
Little Brother now consists of Big Pooh and Phonte, two MCs determined to write unflinchingly honest music that wouldn’t make it past the execs at Atlantic. Get Back opens with a soft and soothing piano melody, which is promptly destroyed by the pounding beat of Sirens, a track so politically angry it could be a Dead Prez cut. Phonte and Pooh display the same no-holds-barred lyricism that made them underground favorites. Phonte declares “I refuse to be hip-hop’s pallbearer,” and Sirens’ kinetic production and crushing rhymes is proof of the culture’s still-beating heart. The throttle remains fully gunned on the next track, Can’t Win for Losing. The track’s production is Valium-coated compared to Sirens with soulful and clapping production (no it isn’t a 9th Wonder track) but the lyrical honesty is equally brutal. Little Brother’s only too willing to break down their place in the hip-hop game: too big for the underground, too artistic for mainstream. Man, sometimes you just can’t win.
Little Brother’s got more on their mind than fighting the system – mostly women. Breakin’ My Heart is a soulful and clapping beat (now this one is courtesy of 9th Wonder) that demands driving with the windows rolled down. Thematically the track’s an apology to all the women Little Brother has, or will, cheat on. Men will be men after all, and who knows it better than guest artist Lil Wayne. Weezy’s genius is flashing his vulnerability as often as his gun, he rhymes “I don’t want a broken heart because I lose the pieces,” and Little Brother’s genius is coming lyrically strong enough to prevent Weezy from taking over the track. Not an easy task. If you’re going to cheat on your girl you’re probably going to do it After The Party. On the sometime hilarious, sometime mildy depressing track Phonte attempts to go home with the best booty in the club, but his “I’m a famous rapper” lines only end up with him making a late night waffles and a banana milkshake run, alone. Plus the beat’s as smooth as that banana milkshake (anyone else getting hungry?). Did I mention Get Back’s fearless honesty?
As After The Party points out it’s not hard to attract women with a huge bankroll, but on the real most of us can’t even afford Good Clothes, Little Brother’s ode to looking sharp on a less-than-Diddy budget, or when you have to shop in the “husky” section (they don’t call the man Big Pooh for nothing). The production simmers with a brass-blasted beat that’s as catchy as it is simple. It feels good to hear production that does more than sell ring tones. But all this realness, or realocity if I can copywrite the phrase, leaves one question: why Get Back? Are they getting back to their roots? A little, but in many ways this is a forward-looking album. Maybe they’re getting back at those who tried to derail their musical mission (a.k.a. 9th Wonder)? The last few tracks, most notably That Ain’t Love, would seem to suggest so. But I prefer to think of the album as getting back to reality. Getting back to a world where we’re not afraid to admit we don’t all own private jets, the world of Little Brother.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 10/21/07
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