“The Listening” big hit for Little Brother

The name Little Brother may not be instantly recognizable to the music industry’s commercial public, but those with their underground ears wide open haven’t been able to dodge the deafening buzz created by this new trio hailing from North Carolina.

Being released independently through ABB Records without an accompanying single or video, Little Brother’s debut disc The Listening has rapidly gained a faithful cult following, made up of nameless hip-hop listeners as well as some of the industry’s top hip-hop figures. ?uestlove of The Roots has even declared himself the founder of the Little Brother fan club, and admitting jealousy over how talented these newcomers are.

Little Brother is made up of two MCs by the names of Big Pooh and Phonte, and a producer extraordinaire known as 9th Wonder. The high amount of love and respect each member possesses for the hip-hop culture is blatantly obvious after one listen to this refreshing 18-track delight. Big Pooh and Phonte both display impressive skill, relying on simplistic deliveries and easily relatable subject matter. Straying away from tired gangsta clich√©s and demeaning addresses towards adversaries, Little Brother’s front men spit entertaining braggadocio and discuss females over flawless production provided by 9th Wonder.

The Listening plays like a radio broadcast, with disc jockey mini-interludes between songs which help to provide continuity. The festivities begin with “Groupie Pt. 2”, calling attention to those who attempt to ride their rapper status. It has a moody yet laidback backdrop, which serves as a fitting indicator of what’s to come next. This track leads into “For You”, a neck-damaging blend of distorted organ keys and rolling bass showing just how jaw-dropping 9th Wonder’s production abilities really are. Big Pooh and Phonte attack “For You” aggressively, exhibiting a rougher-edged lyrical delivery than felt displayed elsewhere on the album.

When the topic of the female gender enters the minds of Little Brother, the results are hip-hop music at its best. “Whatever You Say” finds Big Pooh and Phonte kicking game to prospective partners with clever wordplay and undeniable confidence. 9th Wonder makes production seem effortless, layering the track with a soothing female vocal sample and jazz-filled horns, creating a beat like none heard since the prime days of legendary production guru Pete Rock. The rewind button on your tape deck will experience abuse once “Nobody But You” begins to exit the speakers. As 9th Wonder’s breezy vibe flaunts its ear-soothing score and hypnotizing R&B hook as love is proclaimed, this track is a must-listen for anyone who has been fortunate enough to find that special someone.

The album’s title track, “The Listening”, allows Big Pooh and Phonte to pledge their love for rap music, delivering accounts of times where hip-hop controlled their minds and made life seem beautiful. This track will bring a smile to the faces of hip-hop fans who feel that today’s artists have lost respect for the culture, and that 2003 rap music is made solely for financial purposes.

9th Wonder is easily the album’s shining star, providing all 18 tracks with production that makes one nostalgic. Imagine combining the beat-making talents of greats like Pete Rock, Large Professor and Jay Dee into one man. 9th Wonder is a much-needed and fresh talent for hip-hop music, a talent that will hopefully be recognized by the industry and will be allowed to spread his to commercially established artists.

The combination of 9th Wonder’s brilliant production capabilities, Big Pooh and Phonte’s talented microphone skills and soulfully sung hooks makes The Listening one of the most enjoyable albums that the hip-hop music genre has seen in years. The album could have been called “Easy Listening,” because that what it simply is. Listeners can only take so much of rap music’s hidden negativity on its commercial level, making Little Brother’s freshman release a refreshingly consistent experience from beginning to end.

Hopefully this is merely the beginning of a long career for Little Brother, a career which has the potential to inspire more true-to-life hip-hop music and pushing 9th Wonder into the A-list of sought-after album enhancer.