littlebrother.jpgWhen Little Brother emerged from North Carolina in ’03 with their critically acclaimed gem The Listening, their throwback style was a welcome breath of fresh air. However, after the group’s major-label follow-up, 2005’s The Minstrel Show, failed to crack 90,000 on SoundScan, a change of Sam Cooke proportions loomed on the horizon. So at the top of 2007, LB split not only from Atlantic Records but from their most celebrated member and sole producer, 9th Wonder, as well. Now, with the winds of change at their backs, MCs Phonte and Big Pooh return to their independent roots with Getback.

The disc’s triumphant opener, “Sirens,” gives off a preemptive sense of victory, as Phonte and Pooh attack the Illmind-produced track with a renewed vigor. The duo continue to celebrate their independence on “Can’t Win for Losing,” as Pooh swipes at his former label with, “Everybody changed overnight/When them numbers came back light.” Still, on the horn-filled “Good Clothes,” Phonte proves that, even without a major or a dedicated producer, LB remain fresh to death.

Despite the loss of their sonic force, the group manages to secure top-notch beats from notables like Hi-Tek (“Step It Up”) and Denaun Porter (“ExtraHard”). 9th doesn’t do a complete disappearing act, as he contributed his familiar production touch to the Lil Wayne–assisted “Breakin’ My Heart.” It’s the supersoulful “When Everything Is New,” though, that allows LB to pop their collars, as Pooh passionately proclaims, “This here’s the next chapter in my life/You decide if you like, God bless, goodnight.”

While the disc offers no glaring miscues, the obscene amount of dramatized skits at times breaks up the flow of an otherwise focused project. Putting to rest any doubts of their musical worth, Phonte and Pooh keep the LB name in good standing and prove that sometimes change is good. —ROB MARKMAN