Little Brother’s Phonte
Talk to Me

phonte1.jpgBeing a man of the people has its drawbacks. Acting friendly to the press, communicating with your fans, watching your every word—it can all grow tiresome. Sometimes you just wanna spit on the cameraman following you into the strip club, punch an autograph seeker in the face and tell the media training consultant your record company hired to go fuck himself. Luckily, Phonte has his temper under control, so even when he reads blogs questioning the music and motivations of his North Carolina rap trio, Little Brother, he stays cool.

A frequent visitor to MySpace and Okayplayer.com, Phonte is no stranger to a little back-and-forth banter with the online hip-hop community. But recently things were taken to another level when Phonte wrote about a bad show Little Brother had in their home state (HERE). XXLMAG.COM’s bloggers caught onto it, and Noz was quick to give his two cents (HERE). Byron Crawford responded too (HERE), and later Tara Henley took him to task for referring to Canadian female rapper Eternia as “Tit-ernia” (HERE). Hoping that no love was lost, XXLMAG.COM reached out to ’Tay to give him a chance to vent. And with Little Brother hard at work on the follow-up to their major-label debut The Minstrel Show, Internet bickering seems to be the last thing on his mind.

With him and Big Pooh’s new Mick Boogie mixtape called And Justice For All about to drop, Phonte has his eyes on the prize. After the lukewarm reception to their last album, they have plans to work with outside producers like DJ Premier, Denaum Porter of D12, Nottz and The Alchemist on their back-to-basics follow-up Getback, due out in 2007. First!

So after all the back and forth, do you have Internet beef with XXL now? You gonna hack into somebody’s blog?
Man, for me, it ain’t even that major. [Laughs.] I know what the game is. Muthafuckas trying to get paid for this, man. It’s not about liking or disliking, agreeing or disagreeing…just as long as you tune the fuck in. And that’s what it’s about, and I realize that, so when I saw that first joint by noz, I was like, “Ehh, okay.” And then Byron Crawford came in…He’s definitely the most interesting writer on there. He can be kind of wild. He can be out of line with some of the stuff he says, but he makes interesting points at times, I’ll give him that. He is an enjoyable read. But it’s good to see people talking, and it’s good to see people thinking. I was just surprised to see it cause that much trouble, because I never really thought of myself as a voice of authority. I never thought I was making comments like, “Hello, this is your cult leader speaking. Today’s color is red.” It’s just me discussing music, just like any other fan. The shit, when your girl came at me, Tara Henley, I was like, What the fuck? That was about the whole Eternia thing, where I called the girl “Tit-ernia.”

You had performed with Eternia before. How well did you know her?
I thought we were cool. I would never joke with a female I didn’t know like that. I’m not going to assume that I could just talk about your titties. But I was thinking we was cool, and as I found out via Myspace, that wasn’t the case. But probably the most ironic thing about the whole shit happening was that I’m not even a titty man. [Laughs.] That’s the thing. I ain’t even a titty dude! I’m an ass and thigh man. For me to get blasted about referring to some titties, it was kind of amusing. That shit is funny to me, man. It just shows how much I guess perception or what people perceive you to be effects how they react. Me and Rhymefest was talking about this the other day. The audience wants the “conscious rapper” or underground rap artist to be asexual. I got two kids. Kweli has two kids.

Somebody’s getting laid.
Yeah, exactly! I didn’t get the kids from discussing the five elements! [Laughs.] We want some pussy! I hate to burst people’s bubbles, but to the female rap fans: yes, your favorite underground rapper wants to fuck you. They ask you to come to they room after the show, they don’t want to talk about the culture, they don’t wanna play you their new album, they wanna fuck. It’s just funny to see that go down.

But if they played it right, it seems like that perception could work to the advantage of the “conscious” rapper trying to get some, no?
Well, I’m married so…

What about the people around you?
Yeah, it does. The females that do come to the shows, they feel more comfortable, so they’re willing to let their guards down a little more than they would for someone else. Funny thing is, after that same show where the “Tit-ernia” incident happened at in Brooklyn, I had a white girl come up to me like, “Phonte, I just want to thank you so much for everything you’re doing for women.” Swear to God, man. Gave me a hug, kissed me on the cheek, and walked off. I don’t even know what I did for women! [Laughs.] If a woman sees females half naked in a video, they think that Nelly might disrespect them. But [in reality], they could be together and Nelly could be the coolest dude ever. Likewise, when they meet me and they hear my music and think, He’s such a nice guy, and then I say something about some titties, then they ready to throw a goddamn witch-hunt. [Laughs.] But luckily I’m married, I got two kids, so I ain’t even out there like that.

A lot of people were surprised you didn’t pull out some big surprises and get some famous names on The Minstrel Show. What was your plan going into that album?
Going into the record, my main thing was, We got to make the record to solidify the faith in the people that Little Brother is not going to quote-unquote “sell out.” We can still do us on a major label. I put myself in the position of a listener. If my favorite underground group signs to a big label, yeah, I want them to go for the glory, but at the same time, I don’t want them to lose what made me fall in love with them from the jump. On The Minstrel Show, that was kind of the plan, just to reconnect and reaffirm our vision for the fans like, the old LB that you know and love is still here and we ain’t changed for the most part. Did it work? [Laughs.] That’s up for discussion. I can’t say. I made a record that I’m proud of and, shit, that’s really all you can do.

phonte3.jpgWhy wasn’t there a second single off The Minstrel Show?
The album came out in September, they put out “Lovin It’ in August of ’05. The response was cool. It just wasn’t no blow-you-through-the-roof joint, but at the same time, it didn’t get a bad response either. We got mixtape DJs up on it, we got some commercial spins. Cats was looking for it. So this album comes out this September, video finally comes out in certain places, and then the whole BET shit hits, where they say we’re “too intelligent” for BET. The video is not getting played on BET, so by this time we had pretty much exposed all of our outlets. VH1 Soul had been running the video like crazy, MTV had been running the video like crazy, so by the time when BET finally played it, it was too little, too late. By that time it was already fuckin’ December. The album had been out for two months, single been out for three.

In like January ’06, we’re getting ready to go on tour with Fort Minor and then do another back-to-back tour with Dilated Peoples, so we go up to Atlantic to talk about second singles. We were like, “Look there needs to be a second single. ‘Slow it Down’ needs to be the second single. People go crazy when we do it at shows, everybody relates to that shit.” To which they respond, “Well, we think there’s some more life in ‘Lovin’ It.’” Are you fuckin’ serious? You can’t ask the DJs to go back and replay a record that they been playing four months ago. It’s not going to happen. “Well, we think that’s what’s going to work, you guys are going to be on tour, we’re going to make it work.” So sometimes you just gotta let muthafuckas see what it is. I’m sitting in there trying to argue ‘til I’m blue in the face it’s a wrong fuckin’ move, but it’s just one of them cases where they wasn’t trying to hear niggas. They re-service “Lovin’ It” and the shit flops. So finally, around March or April, they toss out a “Say it Again” single, just to see how it does. It’s too fuckin’ late, man.

But with the new record, we just had meetings with the label and Sickamore and shit, so it finally looks like everybody’s a little more in the loop. The Minstrel Show came out at a time when the label was going through a whole bunch of changes with muthafuckas getting axed left and right because they going through the merger. Things should be better now. But I’m preparing myself for the shit storm just in case. That’s mean, but we’ll see what happens.

Somewhere along the line, it seems like actively trying to make a hit record became synonymous with “selling out.” Do you ever feel like they’re the same thing?

We got caught in a funny position. Our audience, they want you to make a hit record, but they don’t want it to look like you’re trying. They want you to make hits, but they don’t want you to fuckin’ pander to radio. Neither do we. If you were to see Little Brother featuring Omarion, you would be like, “What?” Omarion got some jams, I ain’t knocking him, but that mixed with Little Brother just doesn’t make sense in the minds of the listener. So that’s why for me, man, I just keep on making the music I can and seeing where it lands. Because the minute you try to make a hit, bro, you’re fuckin’ done. It’s a wrap. I could pay 50, 60 thousand dollars for that T.I. collabo, but would that really work for us? I’m not being rhetorical here, I’m really asking. People don’t even really have a sense about who Little Brother is. Even if I went and got a song with the biggest name, would that really work for Little Brother? Would it make sense to the average listener to see a Little Brother with a T.I.? Even though I’m a huge T.I. fan and had the chance to meet him a few times. We originally wanted to have him on The Minstrel Show, but would it even translate?

You don’t feel like rapping next to a dude like T.I. would make your own style even more pronounced?
That’s honestly one of those things where you just have to kind of make the music and see what happens. We did some shit with Bun B for the mixtape, it came out dope. I think it is possible. For this new record, Getback, we’re going to be working with some outside producers and bringing in some outside artists into the fold. There’s definitely going to be some of our peoples on the new record, but we’re also going to have more “What the Fuck?” collaborations. Some more “I never saw that coming” type shit. That’s part of the plan. I’m just all about having things make some kind of sense. Our fan base, man, they can smell a lie. They can see that shit from a mile away, so you gotta be more creative with your shit.

Why do you think a Little Brother record hasn’t gotten the type of video and radio push that some of these other artists have gotten?

There is no image connected to Little Brother. You can’t just look at cats and say, “Okay, well they dope boys,” or, “They skaters,” or, “Oh, they dress real fly,” or, “They pimps.” It’s not really an image you can identify with, it’s all about the music. None of me, Pooh or 9th are fucking any celebrities or had any high profile video shoots. We’re not from a state that really has any musical precedence in the business, with the exception of Petey Pablo. We’re not really down with any clique or any particular brand or big name dudes. Those are all the things that affect us before niggas even hear one note of music. The game now is more about affiliation and association. Shit is like high school. [Laughs.] If you don’t really have those things, then it’s going to be an uphill battle. I guess what most people don’t realize about me is that I realize all of this, but still I just keep moving forward. That’s all you can ever do, really.

  • http://xxlmag.com Bol
  • http://www.myspace.com/southpeezy Maurice G. Garland

    Fuck it, one of yall DJs out there need to make a mixtape with Killer Mike, Clipse and Little Brother. Dont know what to name it, but fuck it, do it…kidna like how Drama did the Power 5 in ’04

  • http://xxlmag.com exo

    “Yeah, exactly! I didn’t get the kids from discussing the five elements! [Laughs.] We want some pussy! I hate to burst people’s bubbles, but to the female rap fans: yes, your favorite underground rapper wants to fuck you. They ask you to come to they room after the show, they don’t want to talk about the culture, they don’t wanna play you their new album, they wanna fuck.”

    I am now an LB fan. For life.

  • http://xxl.com fletcher

    1st nigga

  • so hood

    first

  • so hood

    dang it not first that sucks oh well good read

  • yaboy

    read up xxl bloggers, then comment. nah, dont.

  • LBDII

    Yea im gonna bo buy the LB albums and Im gonna ride with them.

  • Jay

    you need to stop bullshitting on the internet and start a movement on the streets
    you got a team of producers and emcees in the justus league that are hot..where they at?

  • I Fux

    I like little brother in the nostalgic sense but they still are not as good as BlackStar or ATCQ …. What they need is to get a good none 9th Wonder beat cuz dude is done his sound is wack right about now…. Get some shit that will thump and spit something great…… not alot to ask but yet a very difficult task for most MC’s

  • http://myspace.com/5threpresenter daGENERAL

    Im on the same shit as phonte. you gotta do you and let shit fall into place. Niggas be comin to me with that “you making that old pete rock, no i.d. bullshit” and I tell ‘em I got something new for ‘em. Then I play ‘em the same shit…

    check ‘em out http://myspace.com/5threpresenter

  • Definition

    *Waits for the LB and Jay-Z collaboration*

  • Belize

    I feeling Lil brother now simply cuz he said “We want some pussy!”..as real as it gets…U GOT A NEW FAN just for that
    OnE

  • http://www.myspace.com/captainbluntinc CAPT BLUNT/WILD ALL DA TIME

    KAKALAK STAND THE FUCK UP.

  • Chad

    What Little Brother needs to do is just join up with other underdogs so its equal love. They still have a chance of getting major label appeal. Its all about afilliations now. They could do some singles with Dilated, Field Mob, Lupe, or Rhymefest. Maybe even BEP.

    Look how genius it was for Chingy and Tyrese to come together. Both recording careers were fading so they came together and sided up. Its like the kids being jumped at school. If all of them came together, they could bust some ass get respect. Phonte a deep nigga because it is just like high school. No name artist trying to be seen with big artist can straight backfire.

  • Average black Joe

    I’m wondering why the only props people is giving dude is because he likes pussy (though it was a good point).

    It kills me when some rap fan has to be a know-it-all and show off they’re supposed knowledge saying, “they still are not as good as BlackStar or ATCQ…”….WTF? Who said they were trying to be? Many people may disagree, or some people only agree because they blindly follow the “older-is-better” sentiment, which is stupid as hell.

    Gottdamnit just listen to the music. Fuck who a nigga is trying to sound like, who he’s not better than, using the same drums, etc. Blogging was at first a good thing. Then Bol came and made shit funny. Now everybody is copying, and the rap blogosphere is a giant hatefest.

    Sad.

    And don’t even get me started on gossip blogs.

  • http://www.myspace.com/princeunseen unseen

    keep doing you thing !!!!!!!!!

    UNSEEN INVADES ITUNES

    http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewAlbum?playListId=167992474

  • jon jon–23

    Actually the independent artists make more money than artists on majors. The major label artists only have more fame. If you don’t have the money, fame is only worth a pile of rat shit floating away on a raft made of do-do.

  • Knowledge Speaks

    *LB and Nas*

  • INTERSCOPE JACKSON

    fuck little brother, move some unit’s first, maybe we’ll pay attention

  • INTERSCOPE JACKSON

    fuck little brother, move some unit’s first, maybe then we’ll pay attention

  • Big Jake

    LB and nas or jayz would be crazy, that would get them the numbers they deserve.

    Norf Cack Stand UP

  • Definition

    to Big Jake, i was joking with the Jay-Z thing. having him on your track gets you nothing but hate if you’re in LB’s position. look at Dead Prez, thats why i said it in the first place.

  • EMG

    I just wanted to say that I have been a L.B. fan since I heard The Listening, and been rockin with em ever since. I go to school in N.C. but reside in Mississippi, and I took them cats’ cd back to the ‘Sip to put other niggas on it. I really feel that Little Brother is the direction that hip-hop needs to go in, and I’ma be a fuckin fan for life. Phonte, Big Pooh, 9th, yall keep doin the damn thang.

  • Boner jams 03

    LB!!!! I love them niggas man! I think i have every justus league album to ever drop…let me run off the list:
    lb-the listening-(TOO many fav tracks on there for me to list one)
    lb-the chittlin circuit mixtape – (loved the nicolay remixes on there)
    lb-the chitlin circuit mixtape 1.5
    lb-separate but equal gangsta grillz
    (why u think muthafuckas like to feed peigeons but try to shoot eagles?…PROFOUND line right there phonte!)
    lb-the minstrel show (Phonte’s verse on “All for u”- best verse of ’05)
    median-the relief ep (love the luther vandross looped track – “comfortable” 9th U are a genius!)
    Foreign Exchange-Connected (again too many fav tracks to list)
    Big Pooh- Sleepers (fav track: “scars” Median KILLED that shit…with the American Pimp references…his verse was *M.O.P. voice* FIIIIYAH!!)
    L.E.G.A.C.Y- Project Mayhem (fav track- “cold as a butcher” and the whole Fight Club theme was fresh 2 def)
    Away Team – National Anthem (fav track- “don’t u worry”)
    9th Wonder Dream Merchant Vol I.- (Love that “Righteous Way to Go” and the Defcon joint)
    Edgar Allan Floe – Flow Almighty ( fav track- ‘the righteous way to go” rmx)…I think thats about it…I know i’, lookin like a rea stan right now but those are my fav niggas in the game right now..
    I think the only album i’m missin is cesar comanche’s Woodne nickels..i can t find that shit nowhere! stay tuned for my fav 9th wonder tracks comin soon!

  • God Himself

    1ST N FLITE LEGACY!!! (We are a monumental movement)

    http://WWW.MYSPACE.COM/LOOTTENANT

    INDUSTRY RULE MIXTAPE OUT NOW!!!!

    SHADY GUYS FOREVER!!!!

    original kings of NC

  • N. CHARLOTTE

    LB is the most progressive group (excluding Outkast) in all of hip-hop and “Minstrel” was a classic LP… Specifically speaking Phonte is one of the livest MC’s out right now… A record with TI would be a terrific idea… TIP is more of an MC than most would credit so a callabo is not that far fetched

  • marlon

    Interscope Jackson has gotta be the dumbest muh’ fucker ‘move some numbers than we’ll pay attention’? basically you just said I’ll wait until everyone elses doin it before i pay attention, fuckin follower. LB been solid.

  • 11kap

    See? North Carolina is definitely on the East Coast even tho it is down south. I see Miami and Atl the same way. You’re dirty south, but don’t forget you’re East Coast too.

  • the realest

    Fuck what Interscope Jackson’s talkin’ about.

    “If skills sold, truth be told, I’d probably be lyrically Talib Kweli/Truthfully I want to rhyme like Common Sense/But I did five mil, I ain’t been rhyming like Common since.”

    Selling records doesn’t always make u a hot MC, and hot MCs don’t always sell records.

    I guess since they didn’t get shot nine times or rap about killing other niggaz in the streets it’s fuck Little Brother then huh?

  • http://rockthedub.blogspot.com khal

    “The game now is more about affiliation and association. Shit is like high school.”

    that’s real talk.

  • http://www.mobetta-music.com Keef

    LB is the truth people. Phonte is very opinionated, and that’s how mu’fuckas should be. That produces good music. Who wants to hear the same old shit from these niggas who don’t have opinions about anything. Phonte keep spittin what you spit.

  • john cochran

    If its not about numbers for you , thats cool. Stay indy and be happy. But, on a major label all they want to do is sell records so you have to meet them half way. Im sure everybody at the roc wasnt feelin Kanye shit at first, and I’m also sure everybody at arista didnt feel Outkast(the greatest rap group ever) but look at them. Throwin in a few name features wouldnt hurt. Dont go too out there though. Try Nas(step ya bars up though cause he may shit on you)Mos def, Pharrell, and Id love to hear yall on a cool and dre beat.

  • http://ww.xxlmag.com Chi-Town Representor

    Phonte is one of the realest niggas I kno rite now.I wanna pay mo attention 2 little brother cuz they bringin dat real hip-hop

  • INTERSCOPE JACKSON

    The game now is more about affiliation and association. Shit is like high school.”

    that’s real talk.

    ^^^^^^^^^CO-SIGN – %100

  • drethegreat

    I respect LB it’s the first CD I’ve actually bought in years. You have to understand what it’s like to love rap music & at the same time be courageous enough not too talk about what everyone else is talking about. The industry is producing photo copies & spoon feeding people their idea of what is hot. Good music is good music but right now it’s only good if the label can figure out what to do with. Y’all LB cats keep doin’ what ya do the uncompromised paper will come as you stay true.

  • TOTAL PACKAGE

    ” We want some pussy! I hate to burst people’s bubbles, but to the female rap fans: yes, your favorite underground rapper wants to fuck you.” real talk u got 1 mo fan

  • Pingback: » I Ain’t Asking You To Follow - XXL

  • KastOut

    LB is the truth. I love them niggaz music. But that association thing don’t work for everybody, look what happened to Mobb Deep. ——Just keep doing your thing he said, say no more.

  • The Tinman

    LB could, on a artistic level, coulddo collaborations with a lot of artists. T.I. was on the ‘Drive Slow’remix. Jay could definately drop a decent verse, Kanye and Little Brother have already done some shit, there are a ton of opportunities, it’s just a matter of maintaining their credibility. They shouldn’t force it though, they’re doing the right thing by just letting it happen. Com had a ton of minor successes, but then signed with Kanye and they had a natural chemistry and look how it worked out.

  • Raleigh

    These cats are have put some of the best hiphop music out since tribe, de la, pete & CL,and slum vill. The way they get treated is mindblowing they should be at the top of the charts, its time for a different side of music to be shown. be on the look out for Blac Soap from Tampa,Fl. Tampa7000@yahoo.com

  • Michelle

    I say they should stay “underground” artists. Eventually, hopefully, people will start to get sick of the BS that’s out now and gravitate towards REAL hip-hop.

    I have the Minstrel Show. I don’t know where I can get The Listening though…

  • http://chopdezol.com ovawit

    man fuck this bullshit…phonte and em sposed to be so damn college educated and shit..why the fuck cant they figure out how to make a decent song then? the golden era is gone….leave that shit alone and get some bass in yalll music then maybe niggas like me would pay more attention to what youre saying…i do recognize that they can rap..that’s half the battle they need somethin that bumps though otherwise they sould like a million other mufukas round here that rep that eastcoast aesthetic….BOOOOOOORRRRINNNNGGGGG!!!!

  • Fred D

    – Man I dont know why people have not caught on to LB for?? They are fucking hot and have a alot to speak on plus they got one of the hottest Producers making all there beats?? I guess if your not Dick ridin w/ HOV or Snappin n Shit then u gets no love!! “Dope beats Dope rhymes, what more da ya’ll want”

  • books booze booty and bluntz

    phonte/lb keep doing your thing. working w/ new producers is a good move just to keep ni99as guessing. there is no overnight success. jay z was rhyming fast. kanye was getting dissed. “nobody” was feeling common when he was making sound efx w/ his voice. id rather be like an epmd and go gold everytime i spoke than be young joc or one of these one hit milli vanilli clowns saying ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. fcuk the sheep. they’ll be following AS THEY ALWAYS DO. you when you blow up.

  • WK

    LB….listening to them will give you some knowledge these brothas are spitters 1st.

  • H-man

    The game now is more about affiliation and association. Shit is like high school.”

    that’s real talk.

  • FM Denz

    Phonte is sure the best lyricist in there, but dont forget, Big Pooh is the strongest man. Get me?

  • http://www.myspace.com/lewystylez LewStylez

    could care less bout a little brother album.. havent felt em since the listening, rather hear a new foreign exchange joint

  • RDouble

    Interscope Jackson better check the numbers on Mobb Depps Blood Money album

    “The game now is more about affiliation and association. Shit is like high school.”

    that’s real talk. I guess that’s why Lupe mentions his album is executive produced by Jay-Z EVERY CHANCE HE GETS.

  • stevenson the prophet

    little brother is the best group from the south and probably one of the best groups period

  • Tarheel-Greensboro/336

    Them LB finally gonna get noticed nationally in ‘O7 i think. They need to keep doin wut they doin, and i like how they mixin up wit new producers, 9th the best producer in the game, but its good they mixin it up. But I really like these boys cus they dont change just 2 please people, they gonna always do their thing. I like how even on a slow song like Luvin It, they still reppin the North Kak and got boyz in the video wearin Carolina cities and shii. Yall just keep doin ya thing and yall will blow up soon. Keep Reppin North Carolina and shoutin out Greensboro/K-Ville and Winston(Tre-Fo) On Ya songs and get them boys to wear a G-Boro shirt in the video, yeaaaaa!!!

  • Icey G!

    I’ve supporting Little Brother for a long time, and heads still ain’t ready for these brothers.

  • Punchline Nique

    Little brother collab with artist like TIP Jay-Z or NAS won’t be bad for them. Them 3 are what you consider real Mc’s and with them flowing with Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh with 9th on production will be crazy. Little brother in my opinion is Real Hip Hop. I stay a big fan of LB and the Justice League.

  • e

    Buy all Little Brother items support real hip hop