Few rap duos are truly ambidextrous. Half of the pair is either purely pedestrian or just pales in comparison to the other. Little Brother’s Big Pooh finds himself somewhere in between—his bouncy flow complements Phonte’s lyricism well, yet even after a well-received solo project, 2005’s Sleepers, he’s still striving for individual recognition. Looking to awaken more snoozing heads, he again goes for self, with the street LP The Delightful Bars.
Rapping with a chip on his shoulder, Pooh dismisses naysayers on the Jake One–produced “Something Like Stars” and then brushes off pesky up-and-coming, demo-pushing MCs on the easygoing “Move.” But Pooh’s braggadocious bark isn’t nearly as compelling as his reflective lines on the coming-of-age recollection “The Life” and the 9th Wonder–produced “Rearview Mirror.”
Sadly, though, Pooh comes off preachy when he ventures too deep, as with the real talk on the parenthood PSA “Step Up.” But the album’s biggest backfire is that, even with Phonte’s noticeable absence, Pooh’s inconsistent wordplay often allows cameos to steal his shine, as is the case on the Justus League get-together “Roll Call” and the Jay Rock–assisted “Nothing Less.”
The album’s shortcomings notwithstanding, Pooh continues his hip-hop maturation with The Delightful Bars. And he knows it, too, rhyming on the piano-tinged “Problems”: “After all this time, I couldn’t stay the same/Had to get a new picture, I just kept the frame.” With continued lyrical improvement and more-regular rewind-worthy moments, Pooh has the potential to one day raise the bar.