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Throwback Review: Phonte, Big Pooh and 9th Wonder aka Little Brother

Throwback Review: Phonte, Big Pooh and 9th Wonder aka Little Brother

Hip hop is nothing if not inspired by its own history. The ghosts of the legendary genre’s past have the capacity to be as influential as any existing entity. 15 years ago the state of rap music was very much alive. The 90s and early 2000s saw mainstream acts like 2pac, Andre 3000, Phife Dawg, 50 cent and many more rise to a distinguished level of prominence within the hip hop zeitgeist.

Beneath the surface, however, in the underground currents was hip hop group Little Brother, helping pioneer a sound that melded together what was previously mutually exclusive: Substantive lyrical content along with sleek, polished flow and delivery. Little Brother consisted of rappers Big Pooh and Phonte, and legendary resident producer 9th Wonder. Together they walked in the footsteps of noted hip hop acts like Tribe Called Quest, Slum Village and De La Soul in a very real way.

LB2 660x371 Throwback Review: Phonte, Big Pooh and 9th Wonder aka Little Brother

Phonte, 9th Wonder and Big Pooh

What these groups shared in common with Little Brother is that they collectively took part in leading the way for the rapping art form’s evolution out of its (endearingly) elementary roots, which dominated in the preluding decades (Stylistically think: Sugarhill Gang, Ice Cube, Eazy E, etc…).

Will smith 660x448 Throwback Review: Phonte, Big Pooh and 9th Wonder aka Little Brother

Big Willie Style

What it then morphed into is the more modernized, flow-oriented rapping exhibited by major artists today. Of course, this emerging, flow-focused delivery is at its best when supplemented by adequate lyrical content.

In some cases now, the trend is that rappers will sometimes emphasize the flow of their words disproportionately, more so than their actual content. This shift started in the early to mid 90s, before the scales were tipped, and its origins were being tastefully fueled in part by none other than Little Brother

If you’ve never been introduced, Little Brother’s 2003 release The Listening possibly captures the most spirited essence of what these men were out to do. Tracks like “The Listening” feature 9th Wonder’s production in arguably its optimal form; memorable, delightful yet haunting, solemn but somehow upbeat, and distinctly melodic. This instrumentation is attached to a devious pairing of artful flows with thoughtful content laid down courtesy of the group’s leading men.

9th 660x371 Throwback Review: Phonte, Big Pooh and 9th Wonder aka Little Brother

Famed Producer 9th Wonder

“The Getup”, my personal favorite Little Brother song, features one of Phonte’s most infectious verses, followed by an equally smooth but hard hitting 16 bars by Big Pooh. Of course, the effect of these verses would be diminished without the underlying funky yet serious 9th Wonder production.

My own personal stance is this: Anyone who has ever alluded to the fact that they like “good music” owes it to themselves, if not just their ears, to give Little Brother, the lesser known 90s and 00s hip hop titans, a fair listen.

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