Little Brother – The Minstrel Show

Little Brother - The Minstrel Show Artist: Little Brother
Album: The Minstrel Show
Label: Atlantic
Rating: 4.5/5

Dope beats, dope rhymes, what more do ya’ll want!?! Phonte is right. What more do people really want? A lot of critics out there hated on 9th Wonder’s drum patterns and Rapper Big Pooh’s lack of lyrical dexterity in the past. Well The Minstrel ShowThe Minstrel Show has put a muzzle on these hating poodles, and with this album the North Carolina trio is just letting the music speak for itself; well trying to.

The group figured that signing to Atlantic records was going to bring them proper promotion, radio spins, and video spots. Well, they got some of that, but for the most part what they got was controversy. BET was unwilling to play their video, labeling the group as “too smart” for their audience. The editor of The Source quit his job after arguing with Benzino over the album’s rating, and not to mention some of the controversy they brought upon themselves by naming the album after a very racially sensitive topic.

Ok so here comes the history lesson. Pop a Red Bull if you always fell asleep in class, because this history is not taught in those awkwardly sized books and is actually interesting.

Minstrel Show- A comic variety show presenting jokes, songs, dances, and skits, usually by white actors in blackface.

This was a very popular form of entertainment back in the day where blacks were parodied as incompetent buffoons who did nothing but sing, dance, and eat watermelon while ironically praising “massuh” in an absurdly exaggerated manner. This is just scratching the surface of minstrelsy, but the point is that these three brothas have touched on a sensitive subject in America and you either love them or hate them for it.

The Minstrel Show’s overall theme: Right now hip-hop is the modern day minstrel show and MC’s are selling their souls, sacrificing creative talents, and pimping out the whole of hip-hop culture to the masses.

But we wouldn’t even be talking about their album if the music wasn’t good. Right off the bat Little Brother picks up where they left off, replacing WJLR, Justus League Radio, with UBN, the U Black Ni**as Network. The first track “Beautiful Morning” creatively ends with Phonte cutting his verse short and restarting it on the upbeat 9th Wonder track “The Becoming” which really sets the album off right. He lets the listeners know that, I went from ni**as telling me I really shouldn’t rhyme to dropping a classic album muthafu*as couldn’t find. Luckily with their newfound major label Atlantic, this album should be much easier to find at any Best Buy or Virgin Megastore, and that’s a good thing because the rest of this album won’t disappoint you.

The standout track “Not Enough” features Darien Brockington on the smooth vocals and definitely provides the album with one of the best all around tracks. LB managed to squeeze every drama filled moment from the past couple years on to four minutes of solid hip-hop. It only gets better from here when lyrical super heavyweight Elzhi, of Slum Village, stops through to drop (insert lyrical clich?¬© here) on “Hiding Place”. 9th lays out a gritty yet soulful beat and all three MC’s come correct. Phonte trades verses with Elzhi in what may prove to be one of the best guest appearances of the year.

The lead single, “Lovin’ it”, is by far the most radio friendly song they have put together, yet it still manages to stay true to their sound and not sell out, as most groups inevitably do once signing to a major label. The song features fellow Justus League member Joe Scudda who holds his own alongside the charismatic Phonte and the much improved Big Pooh who silences his critics on “Sincerely Yours” and throughout the whole album. Chaundon, AKA Dunniford Duvall, drops a 16 on the last track of the album “We Got Now,” and displays some of the better lyricism to be offered from Big Dho’s Hall Of Justus Music Group. Production appearances include Khrysis who makes up one half of the Hall Of Justus group “The Away Team” and the international man of Instant Messaging, Nicolay, of Foreign Exchange fame.

Often times tasteless and just plain old stupid skits ruin what could otherwise be good hip-hop albums. But The Minstrel Show provides its audience with just enough humor and social commentary to keep their skits interesting, relevant, and outright hilarious. They don’t take away from the focus of the actual songs by randomly interjecting some overused drug story or some x-rated fiction. Instead, they actually tie the songs together a la Common’s One Day It Will All Make Sense, delivering what hip-hop is lacking today, a total package. The “Diary of a Mad Black Daddy” turns a comedy skit into a very touching phone call in “All for You.” This is by far the most mature song on the album. Darien Brockington returns to harmonize on the hook and both MC’s speak on their personal family struggles in ways which many other rappers shy away from in this macho industry. So the next time it’s late at night/ and I’m laid up with the woman I’mma make my wife/ talking ’bout how we gon’ make a life/ I’m thinking’ ’bout child support, alimony, visitation rights/ “Cause that’s the only outcome if you can’t make it right/ Pissed off with your children feeling the same pain/ So Pop how could I blame you ’cause you couldn’t maintain? I did the same thing.

Whether you are a Little Brother fan, a hip-hop enthusiast, or a lover of good music, The Minstrel ShowThe Minstrel Show is guaranteed to entertain you, make you question society, crack a smile, nod your head, and fulfill your CD player’s search for an album worthy of heavy rotation, all for the price of a Hennessey and Coke in South Beach.

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