Little Brother: Most Slept On

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orth Carolina’s agents are always on their grind to get quality Hip-Hop out to the masses. Little Brother’s sophomore album The Minstrel Show dropped this past September, and since then, the trio hasn’t stopped working. Most recently, they linked with DJ Drama for a “Gangsta Grillz” mixtape that connected the group to Mos Def and even Bun B.

AllHipHop.com builds with Rapper Big Pooh and Phonte as they’re getting on the bus, kicking off yet another tour. The duo discusses the aftermath of 2005 and The Minstrel Show, a completely different experience than The Listening in 2003. With 9th Wonder locked in the studio, the two MC’s give a candid reaction to the ups and downs, the critics and supporters, and even make some interesting talks of kings and courts.

AllHipHop.com: How has life been treating you since The Minstrel Show dropped?

Big Pooh: Pretty well. Since that time, we’ve pretty much just been working from the crib. We’ve been in chill-mode, but we’re back in action now.

AllHipHop.com: Since the album came out, I see you guys are getting a lot more exposure. I see you on TV, a couple more magazines. Do you feel like your notoriety is beginning to pick up?

Phonte: Not really. My life ain’t changed; I’m still the same dude.

Big Pooh: Yeah. Slowly, the wheels are turning. It’s been a slow grind, slow process. That’s how it is sometimes. I always heard that if it comes fast, then it won’t last long. So hopefully, this is a good sign for us.

AllHipHop.com: In one rhyme, you rapped, “Most of your albums are poorly promoted and all the magazines probably won’t even quote it.” The majority of the feedback on The Minstrel Show has been so positive; it looks as though anyone that seems to know what they’re talking about, loves it. How does it make you feel knowing that, but at the same time it’s not reflecting on the sales?

Big Pooh: You kinda feel confused about it. Like, a lot of people hear it, but then you go look at the numbers and it’s like, ‘Okay, so a lot of people don’t hear it.’ But I attribute that to the fact that today’s basic selling and marketing tools are television and commercial radio, and those are two things that Little Brother has never really appeared strongly in. So that can explain our lack of sales. If we were heavy on TV and radio, and we still had the same amount of sales, then the people spoke and it’s a problem with Little Brother. But because we’re not heavy in those two areas, you kinda have to attribute that to our sales. Basically, we have a lot of word of mouth, a lot of old fans turning people on to us, and we’re on the internet. That’s basically where all our marketing has been. Slow pickup on the video, slow pickup on the radio so hopefully, I pray that’ll show some change in numbers.

AllHipHop.com: I have seen the video on TV a couple of times, and it’s really nice to see you guys on TV. It just seems like it’s not on where everybody’s ears are…

Pooh: Yeah, that’s been the story of Little Brother thus far.

Phonte: It’s kind of to be expected. When we made this album, at least in my mind, it wasn’t a ‘Yo, we about to blow up’ album. It was just an album that either a lot of people were going to flock to because it was something different, or it was going to be a long f**king time to catch on. I think there was some problems with Atlantic in the beginning: I think they kind of over thought it. I think they looked at the title and the cover and were like ‘How are we gonna market this? How are we gonna promote this?’ I mean, it’s a f**kin’ rap album, how would you market or promote a rap album? Step 1, put up posters, and let people know there’s an album actually coming out in a store. Step 2, put a song on the radio to let people know that they make music and the people can actually hear it, you know what I mean? So I think in the beginning, they over thought things and they were trying to be too different. But things are starting to come together now. I wasn’t expecting this album to make me rich. I don’t expect any of my albums to make me rich, honestly. I just expect to be able to maintain and take care of my people. I’m not doing this to get rich; I’m just doing what I do.

AllHipHop.com: I know it’s not about the money and I understand that. But at the same time, we see so many less talented people getting rich making so much mediocre music…

Phonte: And that’s just the industry we’re in… the s**t ain’t about talent. I can’t really say if it ever was… probably ten, 15 years ago, you had to have a little something with you… more-so then you do now. But even looking at the people that we’re compared to the most; Tribe, De la Soul, even Geto Boys… they were never top of the chart phenomena. I don’t think Tribe ever had a Platinum record. I think Midnight Marauders may have hit platinum a couple of years ago, but groups like that generally don’t sell a lot of records, but they have careers. De la Soul: other than their first two albums, I don’t think any of their albums went Gold… but 15 years later, they’re still here.

AllHipHop.com: The Minstrel Show has Elzhi of Slum Village as the only out of house appearance on it… What made you guys decide on him?

Big Pooh: That was just somebody that we really wanted to work with. That wasn’t the only person scheduled to appear, but due to time constraints, we couldn’t get some of the other people we wanted. He was just a guy that when we told him about the track, he was in North Carolina two weeks later. All the people you see us working with are people that we admire musically; they’re people that we want to work with.

AllHipHop.com: The album is like quotes upon quotes. Are there any lines or any songs that you have heard people mention that particularly stand out or that have gotten a bigger reaction from people.

Big Pooh: When people come up, they mostly talk about certain songs on the record that touched them in a certain way. Like, “All For You,” where we talk about the fatherhood issue. I know for me, a lot of people talk about “Sincerely Yours.”

AllHipHop.com: You both have very strong solo albums—are you thinking about working on anything else like that?

Big Pooh: I know as far as I’m concerned, I started recording some stuff once we got off the last tour. I’ve been playing around with things, some ideas in the direction I wanted to go with my next album. I’ve been throwing around some titles, getting different producers to throw some tracks at me… just going through that process. I’m just taking that really slow because I have no idea how this Little Brother thing is gonna go in ‘06. I’ve got to find a balance between them… I have to make sure Little Brother’s taken care of first before I can go on and do my own thing.

AllHipHop.com: And Phonte…?

Phonte: Not really. Me and Darien Brockington will probably go into the studio and work on some more of his project. Right now, I really don’t feel the need for a solo album. Everything I wanna say I can say in Little Brother. Ain’t no need for me to make another album and say the same s**t. I’m just focused on Little Brother, and steadily working on building Little Brother up into a force to be reckoned with.

AllHipHop.com: Phonte, you’re pretty eloquent on your blog. I was reading one recently about Lil’ Wayne and Southern rap in general. I know a lot of people aren’t on MySpace, but I also know that you said some things that people might be interested in hearing… wanna talk about that a little bit?

Phonte: Yeah. It was just my thoughts about Lil’ Wayne’s renewed popularity. I made a post on MySpace called “Lil Wayne Speaks So Well.” It was basically a joke playing off the whole Chris Rock s**t… he would joke about how white people say s**t talking about, like Colin Powell, ‘Oh he speaks so well.’ White people say some dumb s**t like that, and not even realize they’re being racist by saying that, you know what I mean? Like, what the f**k do you mean, ‘he speaks so well’? He’s an educated man. N****s ain’t supposed to speak that way? So pretty much, that little essay I wrote, it was about how a lot of New York n****s and cats outside the South look at Lil’ Wayne like he’s a freak of nature. Like, ‘Wow, he’s from the South but he’s can really spit for a Southern n****a… oooh he speaks so well’… you know what I’m sayin’? It was just me getting at those cats. I support Lil’ Wayne and I think it’s kinda f**ked up that if he was from New York or whatever, cats’ll just look at him like “Eh, whatever,” but because he’s from the South, then all of a sudden Wayne is incredible. It’s like a reverse discrimination we get. I know a part of the reason that Little Brother has been so successful, and that’s a question mark after ‘successful,’ up until this point, is because we’re from North Carolina. If we were just some n****s from Brooklyn, it’d just be like ‘They aiight, they just doin’ some New York s**t. But the fact that we’re three country ass ‘bamas that we sound three Brooklyn n****s, they just… ‘Ooh, they speak so well!’ It’s the same s**t.

AllHipHop.com: I’ve read articles and things mentioning you guys and I remember one instance that they actually called you “New York Minded”… is that bothersome to you?

Phonte: It don’t really bother me. People call it “New York Minded” or whatever, because the way the South is viewed. If it’s not Jeezy, T.I., or six degrees from Lil’ Jon, then it’s not the South. What people think the South is versus what it really is… it’s two different things. You’ve got n****s in the South listening to Tribe and all that s**t, you’ve got Jazz musicians in the South, you have a whole range. We have all these Black colleges in the South, so it ain’t everybody in the South trappin’ and shootin’. You’ve got a lot of spectrums. I really want to let people know that we are Southern artists but there are more sides to the South then what you see on TV. When you see Little Brother doing the Gangsta Grillz mixtape or you see T.I. coming out to a show… it’s because real recognize real. I may not have ever sold an ounce of dope in my life, but I can listen to T.I.’s music and be like “Damn, he can spit,” and and he can do the same with our music. People said the same thing about Outkast when they came out with ATLiens.

AllHipHop.com: And finally… are you guys still the most slept on since codeine?

Big Pooh: Hell yeah… look at the numbers.

Phonte: Pretty much. That’s the thing about me though; I don’t mind that. I’m perfectly fine being the best kept secret. I have no problem with that because once you get to the top, there’s nowhere to go but down. As frustrating as it is and as f**ked up as it can be sometimes, I’d rather have a long slow grind to get to number two or three rather than overnight success. Once you on top, you got everybody gunnin’ for you. I don’t wanna be the king… motherf**kers try to assassinate the king. I’d rather be the n***a that’s best friends with the king and secretly controls the kingdom.

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