Little Brother, the North Carolina trio of Phonte, Big Pooh and 9th Wonder were something of a revelation when they appeared on the scene in the early 2000s, heralded by many to be the torchbearers for meaningful hip-hop, the “little brother” to legendary groups from the past like A Tribe Called Quest. You see, back in the early 2000s there were quite a few rap fans who were fed up with the direction of the music. In the late ’90s the genre went through a period of extreme excess, the “shiny suit” era, with cash, clothes, and money in abundance, and many rappers had less to say outside of that. There was a push against this, with a new class of artists dedicated on progressing the art, or at least, hearkening back to the classic groups of the old school, and LB was part of that new wave. Good beats and good rhymes were the order of the day, and LB commanded a lot of attention and fervor well before their debut dropped, fueled by Phonte and Pooh’s inspired and introspective rhymes and the production of 9th Wonder, who caught a lot of attention thanks to his stellar, soul-infused sounds. Expectations were really high, with praise from rap figures such as Pete Rock and ?uestlove of The Roots, but the group knocked it out of the park with 2003’s The Listening, a strong record with plenty of truth, humor, and struggles from Phonte and Pooh over smooth beats from 9th.
Now, there’s much, much more to say about the group. After this record Little Brother went through controversies, struggles, and internal turmoil, speaking volumes about the state of rap, the music business, the fickleness of fans, and hell, even human nature…but that’s a story for another time.
But let’s get back to The Listening. When “Whatever You Say” started playing on my headphones it was a no-brainer that I had to put down some words about this joint. This was the first track to introduce me to the group many years ago, and it still rocks today. It’s simply Phonte and Pooh rhyming about women. Of course, that’s usual topic in rap, but they bring plenty of humor to it, bragging about their game and mentioning that while they aren’t quite celebrities yet, but they can still get some hugs and kisses, and 9th’s beat is sublime.