So the morning this Little Brother album came out I sat down and listened to it. While I listened to it, I wrote about it in real time. This is what I wrote...
Little Brother sets off their grand return a little less grand than it could have been. Why? The absence of 9th Wonder. Everyone is thinking it. Everyone is feeling it. We miss the original Little Brother trio. However, we don’t get to decide who Little Brother is. They decide. And that decision may not match our expectations, but it is not a let down either.
Phonte & Big Rapper Pooh come back together as Little Brother and get right into with an incredibly well mixed song, “The Feel.” Just two verses and an apt hook,
“If I go to far, reel me in. Just making it real again. Tell me how to get back to the feel again.” They are back and with this first song I’m getting excited.
Following is the sorrowful announcement skit that the fictional character Percy Miracles has died. We then jump into the bouncy track, “Everything,” with scattered instrumentation on top of scattered drums complete with a low-key singing hook.
“Right on Time”is another bouncy track with positivity coming from Tay and Pooh as well as the instrumental sounds. The baseline rides around the kick and snare inviting, no, demanding the listeners nod their heads. It also features some sultry singing on the hook.
“Black Magic (Make it Better)”is next and early in the song you here “you really bout that life or are you hashtaggin?” It is so simple but so strong and challenging. This is easily my favorite track on the album so far. Tay and Pooh trade some insightful lines on this short, but effective track.
“Good Morning Sunshine”is two emcees crooning over a 1,2 beat. But who or what are they talking about? They leave it somewhat vague for the listener which I appreciate. You can take from it what you will.
I know we already stated that 9th Wonder is not present on this album, but you can hear his influence on “What I Came For.”The beat is another 1-2 punch and the kick, baseline, and drums are reminiscent of 9th Wonder. So is the soulful instrumentation on top of the drums. Add Tay and Pooh and you have a song that could sound exactly like what the trio might record in 2019. This might be my new favorite song on the album thus far. I don’t know. Black Magic,although short, is really dope.
I haven’t mentioned the skits much yet, and won’t say too much about them other than that they are entertaining. However, any Roots fan must know Questlove shows up on this skit, “Inside the Producer’s Studio”where he introduces a guest to interview only to find out it is the wrong guest!
I don’t know who produced the next song “Sittin Alone,”but my guess is Nottz. This beat has the VA producer written all over it. The choppy drums, the stirring baseline, and the piano with synthesizer all scream Nottz. Oh, and the fact that the beat is dope makes me think of him too. This is another feel good song. Phonte raps “After 35 the club is a different kind of torment.” Lines like these are sprinkled throughout the album giving it a very grown up feel, which I really appreciate. One, they are grown up. Two, I am grown up. So it works well for me. Not much in way of partying and nonsense. But the skits give the serious themes some levity.
“Picture This”might be the most cinematic song on the album thus far. The beat although kind of laid back also has a larger than life feel. The instrumentation is lush and seemingly more complex than the rest of the production, but it all works. It does not feel over produced at all. It is just right. Then, Phonte raps “Its soundboming for the downtrodden.” Tay might be the best at landing very simple, yet very effective one-liners. And he definitely has one of my favorite voices in the world of Hip-hop.
“All in a Day”continues with the cinematic music. The instrumentation on this song is also lush over some very approachable boom bap drums. Phonte pretty much sums up the lyrical vibe of the album with these lines,“…memories of a different past, a different bag, in the bathroom checkin my reflection in the tempered glass. Finally accepting what I see and it's a different swag. My definition of freedom is real tight. You ask me what I’m doing tomorrow, my only response is whatever the ** I feel like.” That’s it - a hefty dose of self-reflection, self-confidence, and self-determination whether we like it or not. I just happen to like itJ
Oh, and we are not done just yet. “All in a Day”flows seamlessly into the final song of the album, “Work Through Me”where Phonte and Pooh spit back and forth for the last few minutes of the album. Now this might be my favorite song on the album as I love how they tag team over the beat. I also really like the beat. It has a great soulful Hip-hop feel to it also reminiscent of something 9th Wonder might do. But this is Little Brother without 9th and that’s okay because this is a very good album. And I’m confident this is not the last of these guys. The final line on the album is “Work through me Lord” and it is repeated a few times. Let’s hope the Lord continues to work!
Overall, after one listen, I’m comfortable saying this is a really good album. Phonte and Big Rapper Pooh are excellent lyrically spitting self-reflection and other mature themes. The production is solid from beginning to end. I think this album has mass appeal, as it should be able to attract the accolades from both underground purists and casual mainstream listeners. 9th or no 9th, Little Brother is back and they are as dope as ever.
That’s how I feel. What about you?