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The Minstrel Show

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Album Review

Few groups earn a major-label contract based on their producer's merits, but when Little Brother jumped to Atlantic for their second full album, The Minstrel Show, any cynic looking for a good reason would point to the increased profile of trackmaster 9th Wonder (Jay-Z, Destiny's Child). But it wasn't just 9th Wonder that made Little Brother's first album one of the best underground rap debuts of the new millennium; rappers Phonte and Big Pooh matched a smooth Southern drawl with up-North smarts. Like their influences in the Native Tongues family, the trio cast a clever eye over music and culture, sniffing out hypocrisy and greed, then dismissing them with sparkling satires. The Minstrel Show presents more of the same, expanding the palette to a host of hot topics: R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet" series, which gets skewered by the spot-on "Cheatin"; exploitative urban TV stations (the album's main concept); and even the need for brand-name clothes ("5th and Fashion"). And any fans who feared that 9th Wonder's success would lead to a diluted or overly polished record have nothing to worry about; awash in '70s soul and mellow, slapping beats, his productions make the message tracks carry just as well as the humorous material.

Biography

Formed: 2001 in Durham, NC

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Part of the new millennium resurgence of alternative rap, Little Brother drew from atypical inspirations for Southern hip-hop: classic Native Tongues outfits like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, as well as more recent torch-bearers like the Roots and Black Star. MCs Phonte (born Phonte Coleman) and Big Pooh (born Thomas Jones) swapped rhymes with an easy chemistry, but the group's real focal point was DJ/producer 9th Wonder (born Pat Douthit), an old-school sampling technician who quickly established...
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The Minstrel Show, Little Brother
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