Recordings: Little Brother – The Minstrel Show

    Little Brother, the North Carolina collective consisting of MC’s Phonte, Big Pooh and producer 9th Wonder, has given Kanye West’s Late Registration a serious run for its money with The Minstrel Show. This sophomore effort easily avoids any sort of slump with a clever concept and perfect execution.

    The Minstrel Show takes the form of UBN, a fictional TV station, in order to satire hip-hop’s superficiality in the 21st century. Though skits are usually needless filler, here they are hilarious pokes at hip-hop fads and fashion trends. “Cheatin” is a laugh-out-loud parody of today’s R&B music, yet it is still better than any part of R. Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet.”

    It is not, however, all fun and games for Little Brother. Phonte and Big Pooh pen an ode to their fathers on “All For You,” and “Sincerely Yours” is Big Pooh’s response to those who call him “the weakest link” in the collective. The two address cynical critics unable to recognize a classic album when they see one on “Not Enough,” one of the stronger tracks on the disc.

    Lyrically, Big Pooh and especially Phonte are very impressive, but what really makes this album great is the consistently soulful production of 9th Wonder. The common thread of simple drum beats with well-chopped soul samples holds the project together. This is without a doubt the best hip-hop album of the year for a very simple reason, articulated by Phonte: “dope beats, dope rhymes, what more do y’all want?” Indeed.

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