Kanye West admires them; Lil Wanye respected them enough to work with them; and one writer quit because his magazine didn’t allow their album to receive a coveted 5 mic rating. But why don’t you see them on TV? BET said they were “too smart for our audience” and MTV put their single in rotation during late night hours. On top of that, their producer has left the group and they’ve been released from label that got a verbal assault from them for a good year.
Allow us to re-introduce Little Brother. 9th Wonder is gone, leaving Big Pooh and Phonte to keep the name alive. Ever since their critically acclaimed major label debut, The Minstrel Show, was released, things seemed to grow worse and worse. Major networks refused to show them love and sales were everything South of spectacular. In the most appealing way to take a loss, Little Brother released a Gangsta Grillz mixtape, courtesy of DJ Drama, serving as an “F you!” for critics and their label. They managed to get Atlantic to release them and now they’re seemingly done for. It appears perfect that their new album is called Get Back.
Ballerstatus.com phoned Big Pooh up and we spoke about everything concerning Little Brother. There was a surplus amount of topics to talk about. This is an open invitation for you to eavesdrop.
Ballerstatus.com: Now that 9th Wonder is no longer there to produce every track for the group, what’s going to change when it comes to production?
Big Pooh: We wanted to stretch the boundaries and experiment with live instruments. Lyrically, we just pushed to improve on what we do.
Ballerstatus.com: Everyone that has followed Little Brother has become familiar with 9th Wonder defining your sound. How did you manage to work without straying too far from your audience?
Big Pooh: 9th isn’t the canvas to the painting anymore; we automatically switch gears. At the same time, it’s still Little Brother no matter who did the beat.
Ballerstatus.com: With production being so important in music now, what type of people did you seek to give you beats?
Big Pooh: We kept it home team for the most part. We got Khrysis, 9th Wonder did a joint, G-Unit’s new producer, Hi-Tek, Nottz and some newcomers. I don’t want to say we were looking for a lighter side, but we wanted more dynamics in them. We did some loud records, quiet records, and more up-tempo songs as well. We just wanted to get more range out of the sound.
Ballerstatus.com: Conceptually, what direction did you go?
Big Pooh: With that, we never set out to make anything that sounds like a radio record. We’ll never do sh– like that. We joints on this record that can compete on radio just like The Minstrel Show had records that could make noise on radio. We tried to elevate the formula that we already had. I would never label my music as underground or commercial; I just make music.
Ballerstatus.com: There was an interview going around on the web with Little Brother commenting on Kanye West and how he admires the group. Can you explain where that came from?
Big Pooh: We met Kanye back in 2004 before College Dropout came out. He was down (South) for a music conference and that’s when we did the song with Consequence. It was just one of those things where we hung out while he was there. He pretty much said since we had the same style, he had to beat us to the punch [to be successful first].
Ballerstatus.com: You did a song with him in the past, but will you still think about working with Kanye again?
Big Pooh: Yeah, I would. We damn near in the same lane and I know the music would be good. Will we work with him? I don’t know, but I would if it came up.
Ballerstatus.com: I recall listening to the Gangsta Grillz mixtape Little Brother did. You had a lot of anger aimed at Atlantic Records. What’s the group’s current situation?
Big Pooh: We negotiated our release from Atlantic and we’re putting this record, Get Back, out with ABB Records. With Atlantic we’re free of our obligations and this is the last record with ABB that we have to do before we’re have a clean slate.
Ballerstatus.com: Let’s get back to 9th Wonder and his departure from the group. What caused that souring of the relationship?
Big Pooh: That was just creative differences between us. That didn’t have anything to do with either Atlantic or ABB Records leaning on us to do this or that. We dealt with it.
Ballerstatus.com: How is it that 9th Wonder isn’t a member of the group, but he produced a track on the album? Isn’t there usually bad blood with former group members?
Big Pooh: That actually got done before the split. 9th Wonder wasn’t always in the sessions with us anyway, when he was in the group. He would send the beat and we would take it from there. That process really started during The Minstrel Show.
As far as bad blood, we actually did a record for his new album after the break-up, so it’s a working relationship. We just had our creative differences.
Ballerstatus.com: Who’s featured on this album?
Big Pooh: We did a track with Lil Wanye, Hi-Tek, and some newcomers to Justice League. It’s basically just Phonte and me on this record though.
Ballerstatus.com: Where did the Wanye song generate?
Big Pooh: We met Wanye back in 2006. He was on the radio and he gave us a shout out, saying that he was a fan of ours. Me and Phonte was going through records and we listened to this one and I said, “I can hear Wanye on this.” Phonte agreed with me, so I reached out to him. We sent the beat to him and he sent his part back.
Ballerstatus.com: Speaking of Wanye, Phonte had an essay that got circulated on the Internet talking about Wanye and New Yorkers praised him differently than they would somebody from the East Coast. Was that start of the relationship?
Big Pooh: I can’t even remember. I talked to [Lil’ Wanye] about the record after I got his information from DJ Mick Boogie. I two-wayed him and he hit me right back. We talked about being on the record; he did the record and we haven’t spoken since. It’s just a respect amongst artists.
Ballerstatus.com: What type of statements or social commentary will people get from the Get Back?
Big Pooh: It’s not a lot of that there. We just sound like we’re having fun again. But we do touch on a few things here and there.
Ballerstatus.com: How frustrating was it to almost get 5 mics in The Source, rave reviews, and yet The Minstrel Show didn’t move a lot of units?
Big Pooh: It’s frustrating all the time, but it’s worse when your record isn’t accessible to everyone it should be. I believe that people should have had the chance to say if they liked the album or not; and I don’t feel like that happened. It wasn’t left up to the masses and that’s was wrong.
Ballerstatus.com: The first major LP that Little Brother does is called The Minstrel Show. Some people in the hip-hop community say it’s turned into that as well. Do you think you were black balled because of the satire within the album?
Big Pooh: I know the title turned a lot of people off. We felt, and still feel, that we were ahead of our time by at least six months. Nas came out with Hip Hop Is Dead and a lot of other artists came out and started speaking on the subject as well.