The 10 Greatest Little Brother Recordings

Co-written by Deen from It Was Posted and George Bush Money.
I realize many fans have developed a deep seated resentment (mostly warranted) for Little Brother, so allow me to briefly justify my unwavering support for the trio. I can relate to the group on a personal level, and my relationship with their music is undoubtedly enhanced due to the fact we share remarkably similar backgrounds. We are roughly the same age, hail from the same region, alumni of historically black college universities, and often misunderstood.

When Phonte reminisces on cruising down Greensboro's Summit Avenue, working dead end jobs with uncompromising patrons, or retreating to Cookout after an unsuccessful night of club hopping, it resonates deeply because I've literally been there and done that. Similarly, when Big
Pooh reveals the unyielding chip on his shoulder, reflects on his awkward childhood encounters with the opposite sex, or expresses his penchant for personal space, he's telling my story.

With the exception of a few isolated efforts such as "Never Leave" and "The Fever", Phonte and Big Pooh rarely spoke in abstract terms or utilized clever extended metaphors. The bulk of the material they've released is based in reality and hardly ever offers escapism outside of Phonte's alter egos. While I don't feel Little Brother should be applauded for being unimaginative, their authenticity and directness has always been their bread and butter. They had a nice run, and I absolutely appreciate their contributions.

To celebrate their efforts, I've recruited Deen to assist in determining the cream of their discography. The process was definitely a compromise, as only two songs in our own personal lists overlapped. I gravitated toward songs that focused on betrayal and straight spitting. Meanwhile, Deen championed topics such as travails of everyday life, relationships, and love for their craft. After a few discussions, I scaled back multiple entries from Sleepers and we agreed to meet somewhere in the center. If you're already a-board the bandwagon, full stan ahead. If you could care less about Little Brother, I hope this provides you with an understanding of our appreciation. Enjoy.


One common and largely misguided assumption a lot of rap fans made about Little Brother was that they were stodgy rap classicists or strict revivalists. Or in more common terms, backpacking haters. This cut from their debut The Listening made it pretty clear that Little Brother intentions spanned beyond enlightening you and give you some shit to relate tothey were also interested in getting you to move those feet. 'So Fabulous' is stuffed full with all sorts of cool shita wonderfully danceable beat (from 9th no less), impressions of a slew of Old School MCs on the third verse, trade-off verses between Phonte and Pooh, smooth horns on the hook, beat boxing, and a contribution from someone I've always assumed to be Ladybug Mecca (from Digable Planets) in the form of an interpolation/transition into another song on this list. I'm guessing that the only reason no one has ever actually two-stepped to this song in a club is because Lil' Jon was at his ear drum impairing peak back in 2003. DEEN



In addition to employing one of the hardest Khrysis beats I've ever heard, "Doin Me" is notable due to Phonte's complete ethering of his own mother. Sure, Killa Cam slapped the shit out of Ma' Dukes, but that was business (you just don't thrash a grown man's crack platter). Little Brother always had a knack for spicing up fairly universal themes by unveiling the details within their own personal lives. Big Pooh's vitriol is reserved for their own modest fan-base. His verse isn't quite as effective as Guru's infamous Hard To Earn Intro, but it does successfully convey his appreciation for personal space. HL


There are many sentiments that aren't usually explored in rap songs. Or at least not explored without resorting to violence and violent fantasies. 'All For You' finds both MCs reflecting on the effects absentee fathers have had on their lives as adults. It's soul wrenching stuff, and an excellent example of Little Brother's ability to make a genuine emotional connection with the listener. Although several more songs of this nature are littered throughout their catalog, I happen to think it's the best song of that kind they've ever recorded. DEEN


I remember people accusing Kanye West of having a massive ego even during the College Dropout era. I never really prescribed to that line of thinking until the release of 'I See Now'. How dare he fix his face to so blatantly criticize the beautifully spacious female demographic?! Whatever. That's just more for me I guess. Even if I don't agree with Kanye's taste in women, I can't deny his rant is one of the most entertaining I've ever heard on record. Especially the bit about his check engine light, considering my own dashboard was 4th of July status back in 2004. However, the real highlight of the song is the effortless exchange between Consequence and Big Pooh.  HL


HL and I are equally guilty of deemphasizing the role that humor played in Little Brother's music. Simply put, these guys are fucking hilarious. 'Cheatin' is essentially a parody of the ridiculous excuses for R&B songs that were prevalent back in the middle of last decade. Specifically that stupid 'Trapped In The Closet' shit that R. Kelly used to distract people from the fact that he was doing an early simulation of the BP oil spill on teenage faces. Phonte slips into his Percy Miracles persona (with an assist from a vocalist who sounds suspiciously like Ronald "Mr. Biggs" Isley) to deliver a hilariously obscene dismantling of a cheating spouse. I'm honest enough to admit that I don't think I'm enough of a writer to describe how great 'Cheatin' truly is. You just have to hear it. The best part is that there's plenty more of this kind of this shit all throughout their discography. — DEEN


I'm not sure how well it was received by the blogosphere or hip-hop publications, but I've always considered Big Pooh's debut album to be an underground classic. Sleepers was a collection of great songs wrapped around a series of awesome movie excerpts, and featured what I believe to be the strongest production 9th Wonder and Khrysis have ever mustered. Pooh's verse serves as a reminder that the length of black life is still treated with short worth, but what really takes the song over the top is Median's contribution. Median has always been the Big Noyd of the Justice League. He's the ultimate team player, and his collaborations with Little Brother are always welcomed. Not only does he steal the show with a barrage of memorable lines (clown ass frown ass etc), he may have pulled off the most convincing giggle in the history of rap music (sorry Wayne).  HL


The brilliant writing staff of Chappelle Show once conceived a sketch which re-imagined the night club experience in real time, opposed to the slow motion myth routinely depicted in rap videos. 'After Party' shares a similar premise. Big Pooh documents a typical night out on the town in first person, while Phonte narrates the inevitable ensuing loneliness. Little Brother is often regarded as snobbish, but self-deprecation is a fairly common theme throughout their catalog. HL


'The Way You Do It' and 'So Fabolous' stand as tributes to the power of great sequencing on an album. Since the day I purchased my copy of The Listening, I don't think I've ever listened to this either song without its counterpart. More interestingly, the production (vocals and beats alike) on 'The Way You Do It' display hints of a really interesting musical direction that Little Brother never really explored within the confines of the group, although Phonte did continue to embrace this kind of stuff with Foreign Exchange. — DEEN


"This situation has too many layers for an outsider's input to really penetrate the train of thought. This ain't about money, women, or music...its about respect, loyalty, and ego." BIG POOH


I might be wrong about this, but I believe I read somewhere that 'Speed' was either the first song or first video that Little Brother ever made as a group. On the off chance that I'm actually correct, this was one hell of a first salvo from the Bull City representers. As always, Phonte dominates the song with his laments about the seemingly endless amount of hustling it takes to just to get by on a daily basis and our shared desire to find a minute to provide some respite from the grind, Big Pooh follows suit, and 9th Wonder provides an instrumental with those archetype snares he's become associated withlong before they became annoying. Little Brother was a multifaceted group, so there's no single song in their catalog that reflects everything you'd ever need to know about them as artists. However, 'Speed', despite not being particularly unique or catchy, strikes me as THE quintessential Little Brother song because it stands as a portrait of what they did best: capture the minutiae of everyday life in the most clever, determined, and inspiring ways possible for their listeners. — DEEN

21 comments:

  1. Phontes a pretentious cunt....

    But he a Bamma so I fuck with him...

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  2. hl.....

    run wit us.....

    or run from us.....

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  3. I'm kinda disappointed theirs no "Yo Yo" write up

    Speed is my easily my favorite of LB songs

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  4. @Nov I like "Yo Yo as well, but it didn't make the cut. Not really as big a fan of "Speed" as others are, but I understand the significance of the song. Next week I'll try to remember and post our original individual top ten lists.

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  5. Nice post, been a bit baffled of late with attitudes towards LB of late. Minus their last album they do have a solid catalogue (Tigallo for dolo was ridiculous though). Haven't heard Big Pooh's Sleepers though, will have to cop come my nxt student loan.

    Anyone else mildly excited by Phonte and 9th linkin up again for an album? They defo have more 'chemistry' than 9th and Buck.

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  6. @Victor I think "Sleepers" and "Get Back" are the best albums in their catalog. You should definitely check that out.

    I'm not really too excited for a 9th and Phonte reunion. I was happy to see the brothers finally settle their differences, but I can't see the collaboration working out too well for the simple fact 9th has seemed exhausted creatively for years now. But then again I suppose this could be the type of project that brings the best out of him. I'll definitely support the record, but I think it would yield better results if 9th wasn't involved and Phonte kept the crooning to a minimum (unless it's Percy).

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  7. I think history will smile kindly on LB's reputation. In my opinion, the first two are classics and the third comes mighty close.

    And I think pretentious is the wrong word to describe Phonte with. The nigga is just really hilarious and unafraid of the truth. Where's the pretense in that?

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  8. Gotta admit that this Cheatin' joint has got standing-under-a-waterfall swag just oozing out of it.

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  9. "One common and largely misguided assumption a lot of rap fans made about Little Brother was that they were stodgy rap classicists or strict revivalists."

    Well, making a song imitating golden age rappers+beatboxing doesn't in any way diminish that assumption.

    Not dissing the song or the group, just seems an odd time to bring up the sentiment.

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  10. I utterly, and I mean utterly despise this group, for several reasons, but this was so well written that I'm going to give these songs a chance...

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  11. I love any list shared by an LB enthusiast.Hopefully they all can work together again one day. For my money tho, Boondock Saints,Still Lives Through,What You Do and Gotta Get It w/ L.E.G.A.C.Y is some of the best hip hop ever.

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  12. "Well, making a song imitating golden age rappers+beatboxing doesn't in any way diminish that assumption."

    ^^^^^

    I agree. I think what Deen was referring to is the fact that Little Brother was capable of making dancable songs, opposed to Immortal Technique or someone. I personally cringed everytime LB would go on about Pete Rock, Tribe, etc. I feel the same way when I hear Big Krit do the same with Eightball & MJG and UGK. But "So Fabulous" is an exception, because it's just an incredibly fun and clever song IMO.

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  13. @hl Yeah I love Getback, but Minstrel Show just about pips it. Either way, I dont think they've ever come across to me as too whiny, they definitely owe a great deal to native tongues era hip hop but I think they updated the style without coming across as too derivative.

    Plus, I'm never gonna be personally too mad with native tongues style hip hop done at least reasonably well.

    9th has been makin the same beat for a while though (unless death of a pop star is some shit im sleeping on).

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  14. "One common and largely misguided assumption a lot of rap fans made about Little Brother was that they were stodgy rap classicists or strict revivalists."

    Well, making a song imitating golden age rappers+beatboxing doesn't in any way diminish that assumption.

    Not dissing the song or the group, just seems an odd time to bring up the sentiment.

    ^^^^

    Indeed.

    But you'll understand my meaning if you've heard the song...

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  15. the LB hate is hella cliche.

    I didn't really become a fan til right before the minstrel show dropped, but IMO it was one of those albums that came out at the right time for me. I needed to hear that album when I did. The Listening and other early projects are great but that is my top LB album.

    Getback is dope too though not as important for me personally.

    good write up. I also don't get why people hate 9th so much, yet Swizz is hailed as a GOAT at times. LOL. Swizz has made more money off one beat than almost any producer in history.

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