The Minstrel Show

Artist: Little BrotherTitle: The Minstrel ShowRating: 5 StarsReviewed by: Martin A. Berrios

Up until recently, the sky blue Tarheel colors and Petey Pablo seemed to be the only reasons Hip-Hop checked for North Carolina. Three man outfit Little Brother changed that limited outlook with the release of their masterful debut The Listening. 9th Wonder’s simple but soulful production matched the quiet intensity of Rapper Big Pooh and Phonte’s no nonsense rhymes, making the album instant vintage. Suddenly, LB was the buzz worthy group on the tip of every A&R’s tongues. After heavy touring and various side projects, the North Cackalacka collective come back on their highly anticipated follow up The Minstrel Show (ABB/Atlantic).

Even though this effort is themed around making light of their peer’s sambo ways, they do not lose focus on their way to creating an exceptional follow up. On the opening “Beautiful Morning,” Pooh and Phonte shed some insight on their dedication to the microphone. 9th carefully uses a stuttering snare to give the violins a harder feel. “The Becoming” serves as a prelude. Both MC’s recount how all three members came together over funky electric guitar licks. Little Brother shines brightest on “Loving It” though. With help from Justus League affiliate Joe Scudda, the boys flow precisely over feel good natured production. Phonte steals the show with witty bars and a cocky swagger to match; “But ya’ll niggas is boring me, I’m never gon’ change up/please join a sorority, go step your game up/ya’ll boys ain’t ready for the damage, ya’ll need extra planning/you in the game, but you off-sides and you got an extra man in

The production is an additional highlight. 9th performs beat surgery as he seamlessly chops up soul samples without speeding them up to the infamous chipmunk status. On “Not Enough,” Wonder incorporates the same bass line from Common and Sadat X’s “1999.” The faint use gives the track its own identity. He also takes a note from A Tribe Called Quest with “Still Lives Through.” He echoes a vocal sample and interpolates Busta’s classic “Oh My God” sound byte to thicken up an already catchy hook.

The Minstrel Show is a musical masterpiece. Little Brother maintains such a consistent sound throughout, that even the skits will hold up against the test of time (Peep Phonte’s crooning alter ego Percy Miracles on the hilarious “Cheatin”). This is sure to be your favorite rapper’s favorite album.

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