Small Brother: The Listening Album Evaluation

Phonte, Rapper Major Pooh, and 9th Wonder have always been ’90s rap babies at heart. The two rappers and producer, respectively, grew up idolizing rap functions from the genre’s Golden Age: A Tribe Identified as Quest and their Indigenous Tongues cohorts, EPMD, Pete Rock & CL Clean, and Hieroglyphics. “We considered them our significant brothers,” Phonte told the Star-Information for the duration of press for The Listening in 2004. “So we had been like their minor brothers,” Pooh replied. This was the philosophy the trio brought with them to North Carolina Central University in Durham in 1998.

Phonte and 9th Ponder have been both of those born and raised in small North Carolina towns Pooh grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, and was drawn to North Carolina by a deacon at his church who proposed he go to NC-Central for the reason that it was an HBCU. Phonte and 9th 1st achieved though transferring into their dorm rooms: 9th was carrying a copy of The Supply. “At that time, if you noticed any individual with a Source magazine, it was like a Jedi assembly a further Jedi,” Phonte defined in 2019. Pooh arrived into the fold when he and Phonte fulfilled in the course of freestyle periods in the place of their RA, Joe Drama. That place would turn into an incubator for the collective acknowledged as the Justus League: eight rappers (Phonte, Pooh, Chaundon, Cesar Comanche, Median, L.E.G.A.C.Y., Edgar Allen Floe, and Sean Boog), five producers (9th, Significant Dho, Khrysis, Eccentric, and Son of Yorel), a DJ (DJ Flash), and a “Minister of Opinion” (Mike Burvick). They would crack jokes and kick rhymes and indulge in each and every other’s vast-ranging musical preferences, from the Roots to Led Zeppelin. Bonds formed as Joe Drama’s room grew to become the Dagobah to around a dozen Jedi-in-schooling.

Their arrangement was casual, small a lot more than buddies having fun recording songs, until eventually a fateful evening in 2001. Phonte and Median ended up scheduled to rap around a 9th beat identified as “Speed” but, at the very last minute, Median didn’t display up. Pooh was there, although, so he and Phonte joined forces alternatively to create what would turn out to be the very first Very little Brother music. 9th’s beat is steady and soulful, ideal for uneasy morning commutes throughout the Raleigh Beltline. Phonte’s composing is vivid and impressionistic, conjuring his place as a slave to a dead-conclude job (“I’m sharecropping in this paper chase”) that keeps him from seeing his toddler son for times at a time. Pooh counters with bars that bluntly lay out wherever his brain is at for the duration of excursions as a result of the arteries of North Carolina highways: “I enable my daily life shine in amongst these paper’s strains/I publish rhymes to incite minds/Paying time on this pipeline, 85 North.” They present two distinct perspectives on this pink-slip paranoia or, as Phonte places it, “I was the chisel, Pooh was the sledgehammer.” “Speed” highlights the relatable yin and yang of Phonte and Pooh—direct descendants of Tribe’s Q-Suggestion and Phife Dawg or EPMD’s Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith—over 9th’s pro manipulation of Bobby Womack and Mobb Deep samples. In an exertion to deliver the Triangle of North Carolina to the planet, Small Brother was officially born.