"LeftBack" by Little Brother

Little Brother
LeftBack

Hall of Justus
2010

Review

It's tough to recover when you lose a super-producer. And I know that Little Brother have been without 9th Wonder for some time now, but it's hard for me to talk about LB without mentioning 9th. So it should be no surprise that the moments on this album that were most reminiscent of 9th's work with the group were the ones that I dug the most. That said, Pooh and Phonte are still beasts on the microphone.

It's the same old tigga that slowed your whole movement
Cause y'all dudes just all show and no provin
And honestly I like what the young boys is doing
But my people like they close but no cubans
Like I was the chosen one for flowin
But I'm done the rap game's no country for old men
I always spit whenever the spirit hits me
But fuck if I'ma be doing this shit when I'm 60
And that's no disrespect to KRS
I'm just try to make my art and do what's smart
I'm sayin
Rapping 'tay four and half mic honoree or
Singing tay first time grammy nominee
- Phonte on "Tigallo For Dolo"

Phonte is a hard working man. He shows up on R&B albums, on instrumental albums, I mean, he says it himself. And yet through it all, the man is consistent. And what of his partner in LB, Big Pooh? Man, Pooh is under-appreciated. I won't say he's underrated - I think he gets his due nowadays - it's just that people forget of what a great MC he is when they aren't listening to the man. Understandable given that his partner has so much personality to go around. But as a group, I think that people underestimate the duo. I mean, it's a hard thing to lose a superstar producer. For the majority of the tracks here, you have Khrysis on the boards and he accounts himself well for the most part. Personally the closer the tracks got to that 9th Wonder sound the more I appreciated them. Thankfully, there are a more than a few of those moments to be found here.

Specifically, I'm referring to the previously quoted "Tiagallo For Dolo" which is essentially a Phonte solo-joint where he talks about how he reps all his crews even when he's by himself. "Second Chances" is probably one of the best produced tracks on the album with Bilal adding just the right touches on the hook and Pooh reminding you that he's a really good rapper:

All of my friends keep telling me
I need to pack it up stay moving
I need to weigh the good and the bad
And if the bad prevails then I need to stop losin
I keep choosin this pain
Sayin to myself it's only time before it all starts to change
I ain't tryin to hear it so my mind rearrange
All of your opinions don't constitute change
Eventhough we bring the worst out eachother
She counter back we the best under covers
But under covers can't save us from fussin and fightin arguing for days

This part of the album is the strongest, as it is followed up by "Go Off Go On" (With an incredible beat - for reals! Straight up ill. If ever there needed to be a remix where nothing changes except you add a more commercial MC to it, it would be this one. This track was made for Snoop Dogg, and the "Chuuuch" proclamation from Pooh is evidence), and then "What We Are" (with another nice beat and a theme that updates that "You got what I need" feeling but, in reverse).

I feel that the anchor here is really Phonte's personality and trademark humor - After the Party" in particular where Phonte proclaims:

This is the last call, for the jump off express. All potential passengers please leave your pride and dignity at the parking lot...One deluxe pass on the jump off express gets you one meal at the 24-hour restaurant of your choice followed by 15 minutes of passion on my mama's futon. Those with self-esteem need not apply.

Overall, this is a solid showing from Little Brother and I hope that this isn't their final curtain call as suggested by the album opener. Phonte and Pooh are amazing rappers and really what makes the album lag in a few places is the production. I feel like they were really meant to rhyme over 9th-like beats (which is why Phonte does so well on Nicolay tracks - let's be honest, it's that SOUL thing that provides the best canvas for the man to paint on). They clearly are aware of this as well and don't really try to push the limits of their sound all that much. A few of the guest spots don't work as well as others but that's just nitpicking. Here's the skinny, these two MC's are likable as all-heck. They have a sound that they are comfortable in, and try to emulate it as much as possible without the original catalyst mostly to great effect. So if you are a fan of the LB sound, know that it's pretty close to their absolute best without exactly reaching nor exceeding it.

...you will enjoy it none the less.

4.154 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. Curtain Call (03:12) 4
2. Table for Two (feat. Jozeemo & Yahzarah) (04:38) 3
3. Tigallo for Dolo (02:54) 5
4. Revenge (feat. Truck North & Median) (04:35) 3
5. So Cold (feat. Chaundon) (04:15) 4
6. Second Chances (feat. Bilal & Darien Brockington) (04:05) 5
7. Go Off Go On (02:54) 5
8. What We Are (feat. Quiana) (03:50) 5
9. After the Party (feat. Carlitta Durand) (S1 and Caleb's Who Shot JR Ewing remix) (04:20) 4
10. Two Step Blues (feat. Darien Brockington) (Zo's Purple Suit With the Matching Gators remix) (04:27) 4
11. Get Enough, Part 2 (feat. Khrysis) (04:18) 3
12. Before the Night Is Over (04:24) 5
13. 24 (feat. Torae) (03:57) 4