Critics Praise Little Brother's 'Minstrel Show'

While many critics and fans alike are hailing Common’s Be and Game’s The Documentary as albums of the year, a fresh contender is set to enter the consumer market.

Tuesday night, at Baseline Studios in Manhattan, rappers Phonte and Big Pooh (producer 9th Wonder was absent) debuted The Minstrel Show, their highly anticipated sophomore effort, for various members of the press. As the album concluded, feedback came in all forms of positive fashion, including unanimous applause and declarations of “incredible.”

Somewhat of a concept album, Phonte compared The Minstrel Show’s set-up to a “Saturday Night Live sketch.” Fans of LB’s underground classic debut, The Listening, will recall how that record played through like a radio broadcast. On The Minstrel Show, that particular station is bought out by UBN (U Black N***as). Hosted by actor Chris Hardwick (of MTV’s Singled Out fame), the album is a satire on rap’s current climate of style and flash over substance and meaning. “Ignorant doesn’t have to be the new ‘Black,’” Phonte explained, adding, “and that’s what this album is about. Bringing rap back to where it should be.”

The 17-track disc (13 songs, 4 skits) features a limited amount of cameos, including Justus League rappers Joe Scudda (“Loving It”) and Chaundon (“We Got Now”), as well as JL singers YaZarah, Darien Brockington, and the rather interesting Percy Miracles (who gets individual shine on the humorous infidelity ode “Cheatin’”). Outside of the North Carolina-based JL camp, Slum Village’s Ehlzi guests on “Hiding Place,” while DJ Jazzy Jeff offers scratches on “Watch Me.” Producing the lion’s share of the album, 9th Wonder falls back on the aforementioned “Watch Me,” with The Away Team’s Khrysis supplying the string-heavy instrumental.

The Minstrel Show is scheduled to drop on September 13. The album’s first single and video will most likely be “Loving It,” featuring Joe Scudda. The group’s mixtape album “Chittlin Circuit 1.5” drops June 21 as an appetizer for their sophomore album.