by: Rahul Reddy
Possibly the most slept on major album all year, Little Brother comes through with The Minstrel Show. Even KUCI hasn't spoken on this album, until now. If you have been hiding under the proverbial Hip-Hop rock, Little Brother is North Carolina's blessing to the Hip-Hop world. Comprised of producer 9th Wonder and lyricists Phonte and Big Pooh, Little Brother has been making noise since they dropped The Listening a few years back. The Minstrel Show has been getting rave reviews in Hip-Hop magazines as if it was Titanic reviewed by a group of old white women. Ridiculous metaphors aside, this album is just simply dope.
The theme of the album is in its title, a TV show that some might consider an attack on mainstream music, but I see it as a cry to listen to the music you like without MTV or BET telling you what's hot. The album starts with the absolute heater "Beautiful Morning," where 9th's violin sample gets your soul stirrin' and your hands pumpin' in the air. Phonte and Big Pooh drop some real dope lyrics on this joint, with Phonte going off about how hard the grind was, and how he wouldn't trade it for anything. The album continues into the guitar-laden "The Becoming," which is Phonte's solo joint on the album. This track is especially for people who only heard of Little Brother after they got signed to Atlantic, as Phonte lyrically traverses through their career. This nicely transitions into "Not Enough" which is probably the anthem of Little Brother's career.
"Dope beats, dope rhymes what more do ya'll want?" laments Phonte on this slick 9th Wonder beat. The chorus on "Not Enough" features Darrien Brockington, who is kind of what like John Legend is to Kanye for Little Brother. This group has faced a lot of obstacles with such an amazing album, and this song truly reflects this struggle of not getting appreciated for the kind of Hip-Hop they create.
"Lovin It" is the 1st single from this album, and it ends up being one of the most slept on for that same reason. Underground Hip-Hop heads are stingy with their music, and it seemed to me this song got backlash because it did get some MTV airplay. Back story aside, this is just another smooth 9th Wonder joint with a great chorus and head nod factor. However, the underground Hip-Hop head will definitely find something special in "Hiding Places." As an underground Hip-Hop groupie, this is my track of choice on the LP. Phonte does his "damn thing like a Beaver," while Elzhi makes the best guest appearance on an album this year. His dizzying flow makes Elzhi one of the rappers to look out for in the near future.
Don't worry, Little Brother doesn't spend the majority of the album just rhyming with no purpose, "All for You" is one of the more introspective tracks a la Jay-Z on "Moment of Clarity." Phonte and Big Pooh discuss their fathers in their lyrics on this track, and what is so interesting is their divergent relationships with their fathers. Phonte's verse correlates his own situation on how he can forgive his father for his divorce. Little Brother also packs a comedic punch. Phonte's alter singing ego, Percy Miracles makes his voice heard on the hilarious "Cheatin'." His parody of modern R&B is funny and sad at the same time, because of the state of R&B.
I have had trouble putting my words to describing this album, because it's so damn good. There have been plenty of reviews that have given Little Brother their just due. This album will establish Little Brother as one of the premier rap groups for true Hip-Hop fans. They might not push units like G-Unit, but fans like me will be purchasing albums from Little Brother for a long time to come. This group hasn't made the noise it deserves to make. Maybe because they did not follow the traditional cookie cutter sound, but I think that's what makes them so much better than most of what's on MTV and BET. Until they get their justified amount of spins like ATCQ and De La Soul did in their heyday, they remain rap's most famous, yet best kept secret.