The hip-hop group Little Brother has had to make a lot of noise to prove themselves with their ever growing catalog of quality music. Their debut, The Listening, was a certified classic that sadly, still hasn’t reached the audience it deserved.
Of those who were listening were the good folks at Atlantic Records, who offered the group a contract. The first fruit of this deal came in the form of The Minstrel Show, which was critically acclaimed but hasn’t received a great deal of commercial success.
The group, which consists of Rapper Big Pooh, Phonte’, and producer 9 th Wonder, has faced a flood of criticism from other Southern rappers who feel LB has insulted the South with the theme of the album.
So what is a Southern rap group to do? Extend an olive branch to the king of Down South, DJ Drama.
The Separate but Equal mixtape is an extension of Drama’s popular Gangsta Grillz series that has featured such artists as T.I. and Lil Wayne, among others. The flow of this collection is the perfect olive branch to Southern hip-hop heads who felt ostracized by the theme of The Minstrel Show. The CD starts with LB member Phonte’, who declares that the South isn’t all about the club or being crunk. The South does contain some of the most thoughtful, innovative cats in hip-hop.
The next track begins and it becomes clear that the entire disc is dedicated to silence those who proclaim that Southern rap has dumbed down the genre. Some notable guest spots include Mos Def and Bun B.
Mos reminds fans who have missed his musical efforts that he is one of the most versatile lyricists from any coast, and Bun B makes sure the world knows that he has carried the South past party music since the mid-90s.
The album also features quality production from 9 th Wonder, Khrysis, Illmind, Young Cee and DR. The thing is, with all the quality production, most fans can’t tell the difference between one producer and another. That can easily be overlooked as the beauty in the beats far outshines the gripes of naysayers.
There really is no definitive high point in this CD. It all blends together well. One low point could be "Candy." The entire song seems a little forced, and none of the rappers seemed to be on the same page.
The shock of the album comes from a cat calling himself Big Treal. Treal’s verse on "Cross That Line" is quite odd, as his accent and wordplay seemingly don’t go together. This verse is telling of the theme of the CD, which screams at the top of its lungs to not judge a book by its cover.
The fact that a group with the following of Little Brother even linked up with DJ Drama will show the down Southern hip-hop community that Phonte’, Rapper Big Pooh and 9 th Wonder are as much a part of Southern hip hop as Lil Wayne or T.I.