RIP Little Brother
I received my special music critics version of Little Brother’s LeftBack when it hit the Internets towards the end of last week, listened to it once, and haven’t thought about it since. Probably wouldn’t have just now, if it wasn’t a slow news day, and I didn’t think it might save me from having to listen to any of those godawful new Shyne songs.
Part of it’s that I’ve been spending a shedload of time working like a Hebrew slave at the BGM – which gets that much harder not to view as some sort of subsidy I’m providing to hip-hop journalism, when it gets to be tax season. Once I get done cutting a check to Uncle Sam, most of which I’m sure is just forwarded to Israel, I’m left with the kind of money kids make to sew soccer balls together in India. Just now, I saw that infographic that’s been rounding the Innanets about how many times someone has to stream your song on Spotify in order to make the national minimum wage here in the US (probably more times than any song has been streamed on Spotify), and I was like, Seriously? People who make minimum wage are bringing in $1,160 a month? Not that I’m complaining. I’m just saying. If homeless shelters had the Internets, plus a private booth where people couldn’t see what I might be looking at, I’d have an important decision to make.
But I digress.
If I wanted to, I probably could have made LeftBack the soundtrack to one of the self-medicinal benders that took place between Friday and now, but I figured why bother. It’s not like I have to hurry up and cover it before there’s a new Little Brother album to cover. There’s never gonna be another Little Brother album. LeftBack has been presented, in the press run-up to its release, as the last go-round for what’s left of Little Brother, and I’m tempted to believe that’s true.
You get the idea that there wouldn’t have been LeftBack, if it weren’t for the fact that Phonte felt obligated to make a clean, amicable split with his lightweight, Big Pooh. Lest he end up with a situation like the one he’s in with 9th Wonder. I saw the other day where Phonte leaked a song he’d once done with 9th Wonder, that 9th Wonder hadn’t approved of, and the two of them ended up going back and forth on Twitter, like a couple of fags arguing over what to order from the California Pizza Kitchen. (I’m not suggesting they’re gay. I’m just using a metaphor.)
9th Wonder couldn’t possibly have thought that there was any money to be made from what’s yet to be released of the stuff he did with Little Brother. If there was, I’m sure they’d be in the studio as we “speak,” regardless of whatever animosity exists between the three of them – which must be way more intense than they let on back when GetBack was released, snarky album title notwithstanding. I don’t doubt that Phonte is a different man from what he was 10 years ago, as discussed on LeftBack, but I’m at a loss for how that would preclude him from continuing to release albums as Little Brother any more than it precluded him from putting out LeftBack. Obviously, the main issue is that he can make way more (er, at least some) money catering to the grown and sexy crowd with Foreign Exchange than he can make with Little Brother, catering to broke dreaded n-words who are just gonna steal his shit anyway and then talk shit about him on the Internets.
I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same thing, if I thought there was any way I could make my writing more palatable to the hoodrat demographic, where all of the money is.
But it must suck for those other two. To think, there was a time when 9th Wonder’s split from Little Brother was viewed as a matter of him leaving the two fat guys behind, if only to lessen the probability of him dying in a plane crash, but also because he could make way more money producing records for other people. To his credit, I’m sure he made more money from that one beat he did on the Black Album – which somehow didn’t end up on the cutting room floor, despite the fact that Jay apparently turns down beats from guys like Pete Rock and Primo as if they were fat chicks – than Little Brother has made in its career to date. But what else has he done? I heard he landed a plum gig teaching spoiled children how to operate a sampler, which is the kind of career I’m looking into, even though I’ve never so much as been in the same room as a sampler, but it can’t compare to charging artists for beats. Let me guess, no one’s interested in buying.
Then there’s Big Pooh, whose situation is way more tragic than 9th Wonder’s, and not just because there’s nothing he can teach, unless colleges start offering a major in eating a ham sandwich. The reason is twofold: (1) Big Pooh outside the context of Little Brother is completely worthless; (2) Phonte the rapper is probably better in the context of Little Brother. The former obviously requires no explanation or further discussion. The latter is moot, if Phonte is done rapping for good. But what if he isn’t? I can’t say for certain that a Phonte solo album wouldn’t be the proverbial tits, but I do enjoy a Little Brother album – especially the last two. And there isn’t much of a precedent for rappers who were members of good groups who went on to have even better solo careers. Some rappers are clearly meant to be members of groups, and some rappers are clearly meant to go solo. The worst would be if Phonte ditched Big Pooh just to put out another rap album, without him, that wasn’t nearly as good as a Little Brother album. Even though Big Pooh doesn’t seem to contribute much to Little Brother, there could be a certain chemistry between the two of them. No homo.