Where’s Big Pooh at? It’s a fair question considering two-thirds of North Carolina’s Little Brother are slated for an appearance this Saturday. Since its inception during the late nineties, the trio seemed like a vehicle determined to expose its principal players to a national audience in order for each then to flourish independently. That’s happened. Kinda. Little Brother always dealt in productions weighted down with soul crooners on the hook. It was a practice that served the group well and set up 9th Wonder for collaborations with everyone from Jay-Z to Destiny’s Child and MURS. With such entrenched conceptions of sonic backing, Phonte venturing into the Foreign Exchange for some straight neu-soul shouldn’t have been a huge surprise, neither should have been the group’s acclaim. Likewise, as Phonte and 9th Wonder embarked on preparation for the MC’s “Charity Starts at Home,” fans awaiting the end-product should have been prepared for the handful of songs interspersing raps and sung passages. If Little Brother was an underground act capable of pushing into the mainstream, Phonte’s solo effort should have the same broad appeal. It does. On most tracks the MC’s joined by collaborators, taking some of the pressure off the avowed star of the recording. Of course, since Phonte’s capable of wrapping up his influences in four words (“From Marvin to Basquiat…”), “Charity Starts” could have easily dispensed with the guest spots and allowed the North Carolina MC to say as much as possible during the disc’s forty-three-minute runtime. Conversely, 9th Wonder, a purely behind-the-boards phenomenon on his “Wonder Years,” pulled in guest raps from Wu Tang’s Raekwon, Blu and a number of other notable MCs. This pair’s been at it for well over a decade at this point. And despite Pooh’s rather apparent absence, the remaining duo won’t be hampered by having more musical room to move around in. (Dave Cantor)
December 17 at the Abbey Pub, 3420 West Grace, (773)478-4408, 8pm. $20.