“May The Lord Watch” has Little Brother sounding like they never left

The North Carolina duo of Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh waste no time in jumping back into what they do best

By Daniel Paiz

It’s amazing how an unexpected concert last September at the Art of Cool festival in Durham, North Carolina was the single domino that has us listening to a new LB album. In some ways, every Little Brother fan can thank Royce Da 5’9 and whatever airline that messed up his flight situation. Otherwise, we never would’ve had what led to the release of “May The Lord Watch” on August 20th, 2019.

Why this album is so impressive

The equation of Phonte plus Rapper Big Pooh minus 9th Wonder understandably resulted in some LB fans proclaiming this album is not a Little Brother album. I can understand where they’re coming from. 9th had a huge impact with helping mold that classic Little Brother sound. However, when 9th is asked to work on this new album because the other members want him back but he declines due to prior commitments, that seems like the end of the comeback.

Luckily for all of us, it wasn’t. That’s what makes this project so impactful. Khrysis, Nottz, Black Milk, Focus, and Devin Morrison all produced beats that set-up Pooh and Phonte’s back and forth verses. No 9th might take away from the original essence, but these producers stepped in nicely. Also, the lyrics are quite possibly some of the best of the summer.

little-brother-2019-cr-Jati-Lindsay-billboard-1548
PC: Jati Lindsay/Billboard

These bars made you think

If you haven’t listened to Phonte or Rapper Big Pooh before you’re in for a treat. Both rappers are clever yet playful in different ways. For example, let’s look at what Phonte is doing in track 14, “All in a Day“:

Yo, I won’t stop rockin’ ’til I retire
On a Saturday like the mighty riders (Yeah)
Adidas with some flip-flops, my attire
Streamed your lil’ album, shit was inconsistent, meh, Spotifyer
Y’all niggas mighty quiet, might be tonsillitis
Took a low flow cold like you got a virus
And you to me is Gilligan to a Somali Pirate

None of the words chosen above by Phonte should really require one to look up the meaning of the word itself. The only thing I had to look up due to being born in the 90s is what a Mighty Rider is, and it appears to be a Japanese action figure. Everything else is still very accessible, clever, and reflective of pop culture from today (Spotifyer), and connecting pop culture years ago with more recent news (Gilligan, Somali Pirate).

The Spotifyer line really gets me, as it’s one of those double entendre I’ve always had a weak spot for (having two or more meanings at the same time). Spotty fire can mean there are a few hot songs surrounded by underwhelming filler tracks; Spotify can also be utilized as both a pop culture reference and a slight jab at how underwhelming Spotify pays artists when streaming their work.  Let’s also look how Rapper Big Pooh delivers clever wordplay in the same song, albeit differently:

It’s like I trained with Mike Tyson out in Catskills
Big Dho was my Cus D’Amato
Now we watch these new niggas act real for bravo
When the truth a big pill to swallow
Used to write to show niggas I was better than you, you, you
Any comparison, it’s whatever man
Y’all can Cirque De Soleil all day
Word to Yahweh, I’m good on whatever y’all say

cus d'amato

Pooh delivers clever lines sprinkled with pop culture references from now (Cirque De Soleil) and a few decades back (Cus D’Amato, Mike Tyson). I had to look up Cus D’Amato mainly because I didn’t know he trained Mike Tyson. If you already knew that bit of boxing history, then you get the parallels of braggadocio and simile Pooh uses. The first four lines cleverly compare boxing to writing rhymes. It’s all but a standard now to compare rapping and boxing in terms of the reps and effort needed to do both.

Another important thing to note is that these are just eight lines from each rapper on one song. Counting the hilarious skits appearing throughout (spoiler alert: UBN Network from “The Minstrel Show” is back) there are 15 tracks on this long-awaited project. There’s one more piece of evidence I’ll briefly dig into that epitomizes that Little Brother sound we’ve all missed.

When that music hits, you feel no pain

LISTEN to the track “Sittin Alone” posted above this sentence. LISTEN. Phonte and Nottz produced this beat, and it feels like Little Brother. It has that soulful sample, that playful chorus, and that reflection of where in life Phonte and Pooh currently are.

Little Brother - The Chitlin Circuit 1.5 - 2005

This is the epitome of a subgenre sometimes called ‘Grown-Up Rap”. That’s what Little Brother has always been about: reflective and authentic storytelling. Whether that’s what was happening during “The Minstrel Show” or “The Chittlin Circuit 1.5” or during this album. That’s why so many people are excited about Little Brother being back. There’s no reason to front as being anyone other than who you are; Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh embody that to the fullest.

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