This album was released on August 20th this year. Honestly, this is one of the best things that’s happened in 2019. Earlier this year, Rapper Big Pooh & Phonte reunited for the first time in almost a decade for a borderline impromptu performance at the Art of Cool festival in my hometown of Durham, North Carolina. Or maybe it was late last year. I’m almost positive it was this year though. It doesn’t matter. Anyway, I was super excited when this news came out because I’m obviously a huge fan of the duo. Perhaps I’m a little biased since they’re from my hometown, but I genuinely think their music is amazing. I also feel like they’re super underrated. It annoys the shit outta me that people act like Outkast is the only good Southern rap group. Not only do I like every Little Brother album more than almost every Outkast album, but I even like the solo work from Phonte & Pooh more than almost every Outkast album. That’s beside the point though. This album was announced less than 24 hours before it dropped, and I was shocked in the best way possible when I found out about it. I really should’ve seen it coming. There were a lot of signs hinting towards another project. I guess I just didn’t expect them to release it so soon. Real quick, I wanna give a shoutout to Holland Randolph Gallagher. He’s the producer of a web series called Hype that takes place in Durham, and he’s been working with Phonte on it. He also put together this short film documenting the Little Brother reunion.
It came out a little over a week before the album dropped. It’s a really entertaining video, and it’s cool seeing areas I used to frequent as a little kid in it. Little Brother really put Durham on the map for Hip Hop, and not a lot of other artists have been making noise in the city, so I’m not used to seeing this much attention around it. In fact, Durham has really been a very small, kind of obscure city for most of my life. If you’re not from NC you most likely haven’t even heard of it. There’s been a shit ton of gentrification in recent years though, and it’s becoming a really popular place for white hipsters. It looks almost completely different from how it was when I was younger, and they kinda explored that in the Hype web series. Some of the dialogue in the series is a little awkward, and you’re not gonna be getting Oscar-worthy performances, but overall it’s an entertaining watch. Anyway, I saw that some people were kinda disappointed that 9th Wonder wasn’t involved in the composition of this record, and to an extent I understand why. However, he had very little involvement on the previous two records from Little Brother, so I really didn’t mind his absence at all personally. It’s not like Little Brother’s work took a severe drop in quality when 9th Wonder left. Their later albums are just as good in my opinion. Anyway, let me stop dickin’ around and tell y’all why this is one of the best albums I’ve heard all decade.
1. The Feel produced by Khrysis
The album immediately injects nostalgia directly into my veins with a callback to the U.B.N. Network from The Minstrel Show. “U Black Niggas Network: Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill.” The album really feels like a love letter to North Carolina. The production from Khrysis is absolutely amazing too. This beat alone is better than any instrumental that appeared on that first Jericho Jackson album. I seriously hope the next Jericho Jackson project has production this good. I love this piano-driven beat. Really, there’s not a single aspect of this song that I don’t love. The first verse from Phonte is spectacular, and I love the hook. I really don’t know how Phonte could’ve started this project off any better. When he said “flexin’ on an old bike; I never forgot how to ride,” I literally yelled out “YES!” the first time I heard it. The uncredited female vocals sound fantastic on the hook by the way. I’m not sure who they belong to, but I know that Bobby McFerrin’s daughter, Madison McFerrin, is featured on track 5. Maybe she did all the uncredited vocals for this project. Anyway, the second verse from Big Pooh was awesome too. I love the way he ended it. When he said “another one!” I… Well… My reaction was pretty much the same as it was when I heard that Phonte line that I just quoted. This song is amazing. Get used to reading that because I’m gonna be writing those words a lot in this review. I have zero nitpicks. This shit is dope af.
2. A Word from the President
It wouldn’t be a Little Brother album without these comical skits that have insanely high production value. I usually feel like skits are a waste of time, but that was never the case with Little Brother’s albums. They were always entertaining, and the skits on this album are no different. This skit in particular is an announcement of the death of Percy Miracles, who was a character from Little Brother’s earlier work. The president of U.B.N., Peter Rosenberg, announced that his memorial services will be broadcasted live from the Clifton Powell Center for the Performing Arts in Ahoskie, NC. The “long awaited reunion concert from Little Brother” is supposed to have occurred at this memorial service. Even if you don’t give a shit about what Peter Rosenberg is saying, it’s still an entertaining skit because the music in the background sounds great. It transitions into the following track really well too.
3. Everything produced by Khrysis
This song has another incredible beat. It’s honestly one of my favorite beats on the whole project. It sounds amazing. It kinda gives me the same feeling that Fear by Drake gave me, and I personally think that’s the best beat Drake has ever rapped over. The first verse from Phonte is amazing too. The way he expresses what’s on his mind just seems so effortless. I love how Pooh comes in right behind him too. They’re kinda describing the process of mending a damaged relationship. I really don’t know who this female vocalist is, but she sounds angelic on this chorus. After the first recital of the hook, the structure of the first verse is repeated, but in opposite order, so Big Pooh goes first, and then Phonte finishes it off. The chemistry these dudes have is just perfect. This is another flawless song for me. Just from these first two songs on this album, I’m already struggling to choose a favorite track. I’ve been listening to this album for days, and I still haven’t chosen a favorite song. They’re all amazing to me, and this one is obviously no exception. It’s dope af.
4. Right on Time produced by Nottz
So, these days when I listen to an album, I’ll write little notes about each track in the “comments” box in iTunes. After a few tracks I just stopped taking notes for this album because I was pretty much saying the same thing for every song, and that’s probably how this whole review is gonna seem to be honest. The production is incredible, and Pooh & ‘Te are rapping at top condition. I really love how they brought back this U.B.N. theme for this album. The first verse from Pooh is really awesome. He was rapping about how these days he’s driving for Uber, and how it’s bittersweet when people don’t recognize who he is. It’s a great verse, and Phonte’s singing on the hook is glorious. I love the way Phonte was flowing on the second verse too. This song is amazing. I have no issues with it at all. This shit is dope af.
5. Black Magic (Make It Better) featuring Madison McFerrin produced by Focus…
This song has yet another phenomenal instrumental. The way it starts is really similar to the intro of DNA by Danny Brown. I kinda wanna say that this song has some of the best rapping on the album, but I feel like I want to say that about every track. Every song has top tier rapping. That ASCAP line from Phonte was fire. I fucking love this hook too. This is one of the best hooks on the album in my opinion. Well, it’s hard to say since there aren’t really any hooks that I don’t love on this project. I’m sorry if this review ends up sounding redundant. I’ve noticed that when I have literally zero gripes at all, there’s not really much for me to say. I think this shit is perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s dope af.
6. Life After Blackface
This skit is amazing. Y’all remember that white dude Joe Scudda who was featured on Lovin’ It from The Minstrel Show? He was performing in blackface to fit in with Phonte & Pooh. This skit is all about how he regained his whiteness. The way this skit ends with Phonte singing “It’s so good to be a white man again!” is hilarious. Seriously, the skits on this album are genuinely funny. Y’all don’t understand how fucking rare it is for me to actually enjoy a skit on an album this much. I literally never listen to the skits. I play this entire album without skipping them though because they’re just as enjoyable as the music itself. I love this shit.
7. Goodmorning Sunshine produced by Focus…
This song has yet another phenomenal instrumental. Every producer on this project really came through. These beats are fantastic. The first verse from Pooh is awesome too.
I was taught men ain’t really supposed to have no feelings
But Lil Wayne said I shouldn’t have no ceilings
I was raised on Rap music, I’ma need some healing
The way Phonte came in right behind him was fantastic too. Everything about the way they’re rapping together is just awesome. That hard drive line that Phonte had was great.
Punch up the data, man; it’s rather tough
To stand strong if you ain’t man enough
I’m just out here bein’ happy, baby; why they mad at us?
Work ethic and a hard drive, now back it up
Wait, back it up
I also love how they keep using “BLACKNESS” as an ad-lib any time one of them says something that’s typically associated with black American culture. Phonte’s singing on the hook is fucking incredible too. I love that hook so much. The very minimal record scratches that come in after each line sound great. Phonte’s verses are so well written too. Pooh rapped his ass off on that last verse as well.
I’m addicted to her
She my down ass offensive-slur
Louis Vuitton, that’s picture perfect
It’s a beautifully written song. I generally don’t fuck with love songs like this unless they’re really well written. They really pulled it off. Little Brother has always been good at this kind of track though. This shit is dope af.
8. Dyana Change My Life
This is another hilarious skit. It’s basically a commercial for a fake soap-opera. It sounds like a commercial I’d hear on the radio in a Grand Theft Auto game. That’s a good thing by the way. One of my favorite aspects of the GTA games is the hilarious radio content. The voice acting is perfect too. I love this shit.
9. What I Came For produced by Khrysis
Once again, the production here is marvelous. The first verse from Big Pooh on this song is great, and this track has one of the smoothest hooks on the whole project. It sounds like sugar in the form of music. Not in a bad way though. Phonte fucking murdered that second verse too. The way he was rhyming was insane. It’s such a great dedication to NC too. That’s definitely one of the better verses on the whole project.
Man, life is marvelous
Word to Paul Wall, I’m with all the shits
No matter how narrow the margin is
For the art of it, not the artifice
Gotta stay forthright
‘Cause 2020 ain’t shit without foresight
County boy: Wake, Durham, Guilford, and Forsyth
Where you can hear some Bill Withers under porch lights
Man, I really wish I could just quote the entire verse. His flow is fantastic. The Fortnite line was great, and I loved that Eddie Griffin bar too.
The fight goes on; the nights is long & regimented
So I can go on a run that’s unprecedented
Them bars is comedy, king; nigga, you Eddie Griffin
Two pools & a sip; now here’s to better livin’
Again, I have no fucking clue how I’m gonna choose a favorite song. I wish I knew who this uncredited female vocalist was. She sounds great. Overall, this is yet another amazing song that I have no gripes with. The record scratches at the end of the song were great too. This shit is dope af.
10. Inside the Producer’s Studio
This is another fantastic skit in which ?uestlove interviews Roy Lee, who, as you may remember from his skit on The Listening, is the fictional producer played by Phonte. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that ?uestlove made an appearance on this album, but I wasn’t expecting it at all, despite his appearance in the documentary that I mentioned in the preamble. I’m not gonna say exactly what happened in this interview, but it’s very entertaining, just like all of the other skits.
11. Sittin’ Alone produced by Nottz
The way the previous track transitions into this one is very clever. Again, this production is fucking phenomenal. It sounds cheerful, yet somber at the same time. It’s one of those beats that sounds really happy, but it’s the kind of happy that you really need when you’re feeling depressed in order to lift your mood. It kinda puts me in the same mood as Family Business by Kanye West. I definitely like this song more than that one though. This first verse from Big Pooh is super relatable too.
My new normal ain’t normal at all
Scrolling through my contacts, like “who can I call?”
Now I’m on Instagram, “damn, they havin’ a ball.”
That was me once upon a time back in my prime; now I’m happy to fall
Fast asleep; sound of rain on repeat
Instead of counting sheep
I’m counting all the likes from the newest post
Then the toast with the magnum bottles
Then the picture with the IG models
Wide awake, rockin’ envy goggles
He’s basically expressing the whole “fomo” idea in a verse. Not only can I relate to the verse in that aspect, but I also have literally been falling asleep to the sound of rain the past few days. I just feel like that verse is so well written. People always praise Phonte, but I don’t know why they act like Pooh isn’t a great rapper in his own right. I guess he’s seen as the Big Boi to Phonte’s Andre. I like Pooh way more than Big Boi though, especially when it comes to their solo discographies. Anyway, the sample that Nottz flipped for the hook sounds really great. The second verse from Phonte is awesome too.
My mans hit me up and said “tonight, dog, we celebratin’
My son is goin’ to college.” I said congratulations
He said “nah, you don’t get it; it’s two graduations
Him from high school & me from child support payments” (BLACKNESS)
Man, in terms of the content alone, this might actually be my favorite song on the whole album. I fucking love this shit. Once again, there’s an uncredited female vocalist who sounds great. Fuck, man. FUCK. This shit is incredible. It’s dope af.
12. Picture This produced by Black Milk
This is another amazing song. The beat from Black Milk is gorgeous, and Phonte’s singing, my nigga? That shit is fucking incredible. I swear to god, I have no fucking clue how I’m gonna choose a favorite song. I don’t use this term often because I think it’s corny as hell, but I really don’t know how to describe this song without saying “eargasmic.” This shit is amazing. The first verse from Pooh in which he recounts his pre-Little Brother history is great. Phonte killed it too. He ended his verse with what’s already become the most quoted line on the whole album.
So fresh, so independent
So free, so me while you in your feelings
I needed shelter and I couldn’t find the antidote
So god gave me the words to let me pen a ceiling
I’m tellin’ y’all, man. These niggas don’t play. People need to start recognizing these dudes as the legends they are. They’re the best rappers from North Carolina. I know these mainstream listeners love DaBaby & J. Cole, but there are a shit ton of NC rappers that are better rappers than them, and Little Brother are at the top of that list. Also, the skit at the end of this song made me so fucking happy. It’s a parody of Bill O’Reilly’s infamous “DO IT LIVE” meltdown that he had when he was on Inside Edition. That dude has to be one of the biggest fucking idiots in the country. How the fuck does a grown man not know what “to play us out” means, especially given the context? Dude is a fucking idiot. Anyway, if I haven’t already made it clear enough, this song is dope af.
13. Niggas Hollering
As the title of this track indicates, it’s a bunch of niggas hollering and arguing about basketball in what I assume is a barbershop because where else do niggas congregate and have these types of discussions? The best line is from the dude who said that Bill Russell singlehandedly defeated the Lakers and racism at the same time. This is yet another fantastic skit. I swear, U.B.N. is such a brilliant theme for an album. I love it.
14. All in a Day produced by King Karnov
This King Karnov guy may seem unfamiliar to some of you, but he actually has placements with a lot of very esteemed artists such as Anderson .Paak & Busta Rhymes. He had placements on the previous Little Brother album, as well as Phonte’s amazing solo album from last year. According to his website, he even worked on Dr. Dre’s Detox, which we’ll never hear. Even if Detox does come out some day, it probably won’t feature the songs that King Karnov helped produce. Anyway, his beat on this track is fucking extraordinary. It’s definitely one of my favorite beats on the album. Jesus fucking Christ man. I’m really not gonna be able to choose a favorite song. The uncredited female vocalist returns for this song, and she sounds great. The way Pooh starts the first verse is so dope. He killed that shit.
Y’all can Cirque du Soleil all day
Word to Yahweh, I’m good on whatever y’all say
So whenever y’all play my quotes
jot their notes, examine the things I wrote
Just get the story right; I brought my lunch pail to work every day
You decide to walk away, that’s when they wanna sing your praises
Like (BLACKNESS), “we always loved that nigga”
And the next week nobody remembers; it’s like that
The second verse from Phonte was fantastic too. Should I quote that Spotify bar he had, or do y’all already know it? I feel like that’s another one of the most quoted lines on the album. Fuck it; I’ll write it just in case y’all aren’t aware of it.
Streamed your little album; shit was inconsistent
Meh… Spotty fire
Bruh, I’m not gonna be able to choose a favorite song. I’m just not. Fuck, man. This shit is incredible.
15. Work Through Me produced by Blaaq Gold & Focus…
This track is a really stellar finale for the album. Once again, the production is wonderful. The beat actually kinda reminds me of Free Baby by Mr. Carmack. The way Pooh & ‘Te are trading verses on this one is fucking awesome. When these niggas said “WONDER TWINS: ACTIVATE” at the same time, maaaan…
I wish y’all could’ve seen my reaction the first time I heard that shit. They fucking rapped their asses off on this shit, man. I was super excited when I caught that reference from Phonte about Company Flow’s Mr. Len.
It’s showtime when my Company Flow just like Mr. Len
Throw me off my game; I just smile, tell ’em “do your best”
Scratch that, go fish, nigga, bouillabaisse
It’s fucking perfect. I love this shit so much. I can’t praise it enough. It’s a genuinely beautiful end to the album. I fucking love it. It’s amazing.
This album is incredible. This is easily the best album I’ve heard this year, and it’s honestly one of the best albums I’ve heard period. I don’t have any gripes with a single track on this thing. It’s literally perfect to me. The beats are incredible. The verses are amazing. The hooks are superb. These are some of the best skits I’ve ever heard on an album. I saw someone say that there were too many skits, but it really wouldn’t be a proper Little Brother album without them. They’ve always had great skits. I’ve also seen people say that this isn’t a true Little Brother album since 9th Wonder wasn’t involved, and, to put it bluntly, I think that’s bullshit. To me Little Brother is a duo. Yes, 9th Wonder produced their two classic records, but it’s not like they didn’t continue as a group without him. Saying Pooh & Phonte rapping without 9th Wonder isn’t a true reunion would be like saying an album by Slug & Ant without Spawn isn’t a true Atmosphere album. It’s bullshit. Would it have been cool to see a placement from 9th Wonder? Of course. It’s not like the production isn’t amazing without him though. He’s an amazing producer, but they frankly don’t need him if they’re getting beats like this from other people. 9th Wonder isn’t the only person who can make amazing beats for them. This record is flawless to me as it is. Literally every second of the album is entertaining. The sequencing is perfect. It’s emotional, nostalgic, and even humorous. I couldn’t have asked for a better product. I love Little Brother, and I was excited for this project, but I certainly was not expecting it to be this good. I forget which one of them said this—it might have been Pooh—but they wrote the entire album together, and you can really tell. They didn’t just email verses back and forth. This is a true collaborative effort, and the chemistry between these two is undeniable. Oh, by the way… I know I kinda brought up Outkast and threw them under the bus a couple times, and I really hope nobody gets upset about that. I obviously really like Outkast. I may not love them as much as most other Hip Hop fans do, but by no means do I think they’re wack. I just prefer a lot of other artists and it gets on my nerves that people act like they’re the only talented Southern group. This is a Little Brother review though, so maybe I shouldn’t have brought Outkast up. Anyway, if it wasn’t clear enough, I think this is the best possible work of art Little Brother could’ve possibly released after all these years. I couldn’t imagine myself enjoying an album more than I enjoy this one. It’s like they never left. I always choose a favorite and least favorite song when I write reviews, but honestly you shouldn’t take it too seriously here because I genuinely love every single track on the project. I’ve literally been listening to this motherfucker multiple times a day since it came out. This album is a masterpiece to me.
Favorite Song: All in a Day
Least Favorite Song: Right on Time
Watch the videos below for more thoughts on this album