Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh have been doing their thing in the rap game for close to a decade. Tay and Pooh, along with producer 9th Wonder, introduced themselves as Little Brother to the world in 2001 with the song “Speed.” Not wasting any time letting their style be known, in that song Phonte instructs you to sit back, chill and relax. With a smooth, steady beat as the backdrop, Phonte eases in and begins to chronicle a life many of us are probably all too familiar with: “Another day to face, I’m sharecropping in the paper chase./Take a deep breath and clear my database./It’s afternoon I’m talking shit to my alarm clock/’Cause I gotta face this world of capitalistic onslaught.” Tay eventually fades out as 9th Wonder changes up the beat and the chorus kicks in. Big Pooh breaks in more sharply, bringing a heavier tone to the track and eventually describing the state of mind of nearly every Little Brother track you’d hear from then on almost perfectly: “Hypnotic tunes like this always do me in.” “Speed” would be featured on their critically acclaimed debut album “The Listening.” The North Carolina Central University alumni showed a completely different side of themselves on their clever and entertaining sophomore CD “The Minstrel Show.” One of my personal favorites of the decade, the concept album features Phonte, Big Pooh and 9th Wonder as various characters on fictional TV network “UBN”—what the “UBN” stands for would probably be best revealed elsewhere—satirically acting out far-too-prevalent minstrel show-esque aspects of black pop culture (hence the name). Ironically, the video for “Lovin’ It” was banned from BET—I wonder why that is? 2007’s “Getback” marked the beginning of the end for the trio, as Phonte and Pooh began working with other producers. The album still featured 9th, but the producer would eventually be cast out before the group’s most recent release, “Leftback.” Aptly named, Little Brother’s fourth will be their final album before Tay and Rapper Big Pooh venture off into solo careers. “24” definitely has the potential to send a crowd into a craze. That song, as does a big chunk of the album, features production from Khrysis. Despite what seemed like somewhat of a decline after “The Minstrel Show,” Phonte and Big Pooh can arguably be compared to legendary twosome Mos Def and Talib Kweli, in the sense that they should be considered one of the top emcee pairs purely based on the listenability of just a few albums (or just one, so far, in the case of Black Star). Don’t miss a chance to see one of our hip-hop generation’s most talented pairs for possibly the last time. (Darrel Sangster)
May 19 at Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, (773)489-3160, at 9pm. $20-$23.