Rapper Big Pooh Tackles Social Issues on New EP ‘Words Paint Pictures’
Formerly one third of Durham, NC rap group Little Brother, Southern MC Rapper Big Pooh has honed his skills since his days alongside Phonte and 9th Wonder. Debuting his first solo album, Sleepers, in 2005, Pooh has cultivated a fan base all his own thanks to witty, pun-filled lyrics and smart production choices. Since signing to Mello Music Group in early 2014, Pooh has stayed under the radar while working on his debut project with the new label. March 24 brought that project to light.
In his new offering, Words Paint Pictures, Big Pooh speaks from the heart on situations that have grabbed headlines in recent months and to which a majority of his listeners can relate. One look at the EP’s cartoon cover art will tell you what’s been on Pooh’s mind: the cover depicts a young, handcuffed and bullet-riddled Black boy lying dead on a black backdrop while wearing a crown. In the Ferguson era of speed-of-light news sharing and social media activism, Pooh grieves for the dead and expects more from both his and the younger generation on his new EP.
Even though the project is short, clocking in at just under half an hour, the North Carolina rapper aims to make a lasting statement about today’s social landscape with this entirely Apollo Brown-produced release. To do so, Pooh touches on subjects that hit home for Black Americans as a whole. Issues like racial profiling by police, social media apathy and fellow MC’s diluting the art of rap come up over the project's nine cuts.
Words Paint Pictures very much echoes the fed up, despondent sentiments of Kendrick Lamar’s second major label album, To Pimp A Butterfly, which dropped a week prior. Although the lyrical content is in tune, the main difference between these two projects, other than the different rap styles each artist shows off, is that Words Paint Pictures is a concise, compact product created from boiling unrest. With seven original songs and two remixes, Words Paint Pictures is an EP you can get through quickly, leaving plenty of time to replay your favorites and pick up on all the one-liners. And trust, there are plenty of one-liners up for dissection and debate.
In “Stop,” Pooh chronicles a personal experience he had of being pulled over by the police for no apparent reason. In “Augmentation” he calls out greed-mongering MC’s who persuade us to value “chains” over “change” while assisted by a chopped up version of Edwinn Star and Blinky’s “Sweet Joy of Life.” And in “Kings,” Lute turns the mirror on the Black community as a part of the problem: “Whole lot of followers, a lot less leading/When you niggas gonna realize you can’t hashtag freedom?/Hashtag, ‘Free my nigga’ when you know he did it/Make us look ignant"; and later, "I’m just trying to get us on track like locomotives/Touch your soul, like what’s the motive?”
As a whole, Apollo Brown beautifully pays homage to Motown soul with samples on nearly every beat and Rapper Big Pooh eulogizes lives of those slain like Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, reminding us that just because a tragedy like theirs hasn’t made national news lately, that doesn’t mean the problem has gone away. Words Paint Pictures serves as both an audible snapshot of social unrest in 2015 and a kind of personal soapbox moment for Pooh, allowing him to add his two cents to the realm of conscious rap. —Sidney Madden