Features Phonte of Little Brother: Is Little Brother Breaking Up? November 20th, 2006 | Author: Andres Tardio1
If you know Phonte, you know he speaks his mind. Whether riding solo or with a crew, he’s never minced his words. Knowing this, we set up shop to discuss new projects, including recent releases and future projects, including the new LB LP. As promised, he didn’t bite his tongue as we hit topics ranging from getting no love at Summer Jam to the Stop Snitchin’ Movement. Needless to say, there’s a lot more in between. Keeping it as real as can be, he kicked knowledge, dropped exclusive information and got some things off his chest. Read on. You might learn something. HipHopDX: We’ll start it off by discussing the new projects that just came out. What can fans expect?
Phonte: They can just expect the tradition of dope music. The HOJ compilation is a compilation of our extended family, artists we’ve been working with closely over the years. That album and the Darien Brockington album is just an extension of us as a team and another brick in our foundation of dope records. HipHopDX: Let’s talk about the BET situation, where people were saying BET claimed Little Brother was too intelligent to be played on the network.
Phonte: We really honestly don’t know where it came from. We don’t know if it came from BET or whatever there. But anyway, the word got around that supposedly BET said our shit was too intelligent for them to play. We took it as a slap in the face. But I would be more if I was a viewer of BET like ‘Damn, what are y’all sayin’ about me?’ You feel me? But you just gotta realize what the game has become. It’s constantly being peddled to the lowest common denominator. You just keep dropping lower and lower and that’s what you get. That’s why we’re in the state we’re in now. HipHopDX: There was recently a Summer Jam performance that you and other people wrote about, where the audience just stood still…What did you take away from that?
Phonte: What I took away from it was that basically, people who religiously listen to the radio don’t want much out of music. It’s not to say that their taste in music is necessarily better than mine or whatever. I just think they don’t want much. The people like us, the music nerds, the people who are into music, we’re the cats that are looking online for new shit and spending money on crazy records and shit because we’re just into music. Music is the love of our life so we’re constantly looking for new shit and searching deeper for it. To the average person, they don’t care. Music for them is just a means of entertainment or a means of partying, dancing or whatever. Whenever you’re a group like Little Brother or Rhymefest or…hell, anybody that tries to use music as more than just a form of just dancing and tries to use it as a means of provocation or stimulation of thought of any kind, then it’s always going to be an uphill battle in today’s market. So, I just looked at it for what it is and I know next time. I know what I’m up against. HipHopDX: I have talked to a lot of artists that share those sentiments. What do you think is going to take to change all of that?
Phonte: I honestly don’t think it’s going to change. I think we’re at a point in the music business now where it can go one of two ways. I think A) It’s going to take some kind of market to be built for the 25-35 year olds because a lot of the cats from that era are gone or are finding out they don’t have a place. Or it’s going to take the record industry straight crashing and burning and rebuilding itself into something new. Which I don’t think is far off at all because record sales are continuously going down and it’s at a steady decline. I think it’s going to take the music industry to crash, burn and just bomb the fuck out. Then it will eventually rebuild itself to a brand new business model that will work out for everybody. HipHopDX: What’s the current label situation looking like for you guys?
Phonte: Well, we’re still with Atlantic. The new record is scheduled to drop in Spring and the new album is called Getback. We’re working on it now. The shit is coming along dope, man. I actually feel less pressure working on it than I did with The Minstrel Show. HipHopDX: I can’t let you get away with it, because like a million other people, I read your blog where you said you feel like a step child with Atlantic. What made you feel that way? Do you see that changing?
Phonte: We had a meeting a couple of weeks ago and I told them straight up, we’ve been treated like step children the whole time we’ve been here. I told them ‘A lot of the reasons The Minstrel Show didn’t do as well as we expected it to, as much as we hate to admit it, y’all didn’t treat it like a priority. Y’all didn’t treat it like a big deal. And in the eyes of most people, just being real, if they don’t see the label treating it like a big deal, they think ‘Well, maybe it ain’t a big deal’ or ‘Maybe it’s not that good.’So, we came to y’all, we got signed and it was like ‘Whatever.’ It was like ‘Yeah, we signed them and here comes the album.’ So, now the current situation…We had a meeting with them and we looked back and examined the mistakes that we made from both ends on Minstrel Show, both from our end and the label’s end. And we kind of reassessed it and it’s looking like we’re going into it with a clear head and with a clear goal. Right now, it’s looking like people are on board. I’m still preparing for the shit storm regardless. I got my umbrella out this time. So, if it does start raining turds, I’ll be prepared for it. So far it’s looking good, but it’s the music business-it can change tomorrow. That’s all I can say. HipHopDX: You say you made mistakes like they made mistakes. What mistakes do you think you made that you’re going to change?
Phonte: I think with Minstrel Show, I think we could have…I don’t know, man. We should have done more to get ourselves out visually. I mean, the music’s the music. The music’s going to stand the test and it’s going to be what it’s going to be. But if people don’t see you, then they can’t relate. But with the video not being played like that, maybe we should have taken some money and pressed up a DVD just to get ourselves out there visually. That’s 1 of the things we could have done. HipHopDX: I know you guys want to keep the guest stars a secret, but you gotta give us something. Who can we expect to see on Get Back?
Phonte: Well, of course we got 9th doing tracks (as of today there is only one 9th beat). But this will be the album where we’re going to reach out to more producers than usual because we’re going for expanding the palate. You know what I’m saying. This time we reached out to Just Blaze so probably going to do something with him. Primo surprisingly reached out to us. That was crazy! Um…Right now we’re looking at Denaun Porter from D12 doing some shit. Um…Nottz from Virginia. Still keeping it Hip-Hop and still doing us. You ain’t gonna hear us rapping over Snap Music or whatever…(Laughs) We’re still doing us but just expanding and adding a little more color to the palate this time around. HipHopDX: Now, you know when OutKast dropped Idlewild, everybody was talking about their supposed break up. So, now that you mention 9th will take a back seat to let other producers rock on LB’s albums, you know the media’s going to go nuts with Little Brother break up rumors. We’ll let you dispel those rumors before they even start…
Phonte: Yeah, yeah…Little Brother’s still a group. It’s still us, but it’s just for this record-we wanted to branch out and try out some new stuff. 9th understands that and he’s going to bring in something new to the table with his production, hopefully. Everybody grows and expands but it’s still a unit. But I know the internet’s going to be running wild with ‘Them n-ggas breakin’ up. 9th don’t tour with them.’ Cats going to be sayin’ whatever they wanna say. That’s cool with me. Just keep tuning the fuck in..(Laughs) I think Getback is gonna be the litmus test for who our true supporters are. This record is gonna separate those who truly love Little Brother's music from those who are in love with the IDEA of what they think Little Brother is and judging from the little I've been reading on various message boards and chat rooms, there's already some people ready to write us off without hearing one note of the new music. So much for a 'devoted fanbase,' eh? To dispel the rumors, no, Little Brother is not breaking up. When one member leaves a duo, that's called a breakup. When one member leaves a trio, that's called an evolution. But no one has officially left the group. We're still here, and we're still moving forward. HipHopDX: Foreign Exchange did pretty well. When can we expect the next installment?
Phonte: Me and Nic are gonna start the Foreign Exchange when I finish the Little Brother record up. We kind of did some preplanning for it and we mapped out the guests that we want. We already have a few tracks set aside and I got song ideas in my head and choruses and verses for it. But we haven’t started recording yet. I’m just focusing full time on the new Little Brother record. I would say, look for Foreign Exchange possibly Summer ’07. I could be totally off base but summer or fall in ’07 but definitely sometime in ’07. HipHopDX: We know you’re very opinionated, poignant and open. I wanted to allow you to sound off on various topics. So, I’ll shoot out some topics and you can give me your take on it.
Phonte: That’s cool. HipHopDX: You may have already answered this but…Radio!
Phonte: Hm…“Radio…Suckers never play me.” (Laughs…) Naw… HipHopDX: Man, when I was writing that, I knew you were going to say that!
Phonte: (Laughs) Yeah, man…“Suckers never play me…” Naw, radio, man? I don’t listen to it. It has no place in my life. I just don’t listen to it. I stay as far away from it as I possibly can. HipHopDX: Fair enough. Next Topic: The stop snitching movement.
Phonte: That shit is ignorant. I think people really got a misunderstanding of what that really means. Back in the day, in the 60’s and 70’s and Civil Rights or whatever, Stop Snitchin’ kind of referred to cats running to the police and snitching on what we was doing with the Black Panthers. You didn’t want a snitch in your crew telling the feds what we were doing. It was kind of like a thing of empowerment. We were trying to pull ourselves up. But now, it’s kind of taken on a different meaning. That shit is kind of stupid. I look at it, as bottom line-Don’t fuck with mine and I won’t fuck with yours. If I live in the hood or whatever, and I see a dude selling crack…as fucked up as it sounds, ain’t shit I could do about that. You selling to your loyal customers. Them n-ggas is gonna buy from you anyway. It hurts but it’s like ‘Fuck it. What can I do?’ Now, the minute you come to my little boy like ‘Hey, little man, you want to run this across the street for me?’ Oh, fuck that! Then naw, I’m tellin’. “Yeah, n-gga. It was that n-gga right there. I saw him. He had on a red shirt. He had on some white A1’s.’ Fuck that! You know what I’m sayin’? You have the right to do your dirt, but it stops with my family. So, as far as the Stop Snitching movement…On the whole it’s some ignorant shit. But I think that has a lot to do with cats misconstruing the meaning. Like if Me and you rob a bank and we have the mentality before we rob the bank like ‘Yeah, me and you about to do this. If anyone of us gets caught: shut the fuck up. Do your time and your money will be waiting for you when you get out.’ But if we rob the bank and I get pinched and I’m like ‘Yeah, dog it was his idea. It was him. He was the mastermind behind the whole shit.’ That’s snitching! You know what I’m saying? If you knew you was doing the dirt, so if you get caught…Yo, you gotta handle that. Don’t be no snitch. Don’t rat your man out. That’s snitching! But for it to mean, now, to turn a blind eye and let ignorant stuff go by…I think that’s kind of foul. HipHopDX: The term “Backpack…”
Phonte: Once again…Another term that’s gone through several changes over the years. Pretty much, nowadays backpack is used to refer to anybody that ain’t…If you ain’t pimpin’ or you ain’t selling crack or on some dopeboy shit or whatever…Then mother fuckers will automatically call you backpack. And that’s just a lot of ignorance on the part of the listening audience and the media just wanting to put that label on you. People always feel the need to put a label on you to make themselves feel comfortable. So, that’s all it is… HipHopDX: J Dilla…
Phonte: J Dilla is unquestionably one of the greatest producers and arguably the greatest producer to ever do it. Just his range and his influence in such a short period of time brought in a whole movement and really ignited a new way of thinking as far as Hip-Hop production. I can honestly say if it wasn’t for J Dilla, if it wasn’t for Slum Village, there would be no Little Brother. If it wasn’t for him redefining a genre, I’d probably still be rapping but I probably wouldn’t be doing it the way I do it now. His production really gave voice to a lot of people. HipHopDX: The current hate for Southern mainstream acts.
Phonte: Mmm… Me and Rhymefest talk about this a lot. Well, I feel where cats are coming from because they kind of feel like it’s some inmates running the asylum type shit. Like ‘Man, them n-ggas can’t even rap like that man. Them n-ggas is wack. They doin’ that snap bullshit!” I feel where it’s coming from but the thing they got to understand is this: The reason why the South is winning and will continue to win, for awhile, I think, is because the South is a family oriented place. The South is big on family, just on a cultural level. An unspoken rule in the South is ‘Don’t go against your family. Don’t dis your family. Stick by your family. Whether they’re right, wrong or indifferent, stick by your family. I know Cousin Leroy is about to go to jail for the 5th time, but that’s family. Stick by your cousin. So, in music, it’s the same shit. So, when D4L, Dem Franchise Boys and cats like that come out, the South stands up for them. They feel like ‘Yo, we’re supporting one of our own.’ Like plenty of cats were beefing in Houston, but they realized like ‘Yo, if we stick together, we can make a whole lot more money pumpin’ each other up than we can by beefing.’ And that’s something New York still ain’t realized yet. And that’s why the South is winning. So instead of cats focusing on the South and saying ‘They’re messing up music…’ I think it’s more important to understand why they’re winning and then adapt that to your own situation. Now, the big thing with New York is ‘The Bring New York Back Movement.’ That’s cool but the problem is everybody wants to be the one n-gga to bring New York back. If all the New York cats got together on one track…If you could get 50, Nas, Fat Joe, Jay, Cam, a Dipset n-gga…if you could all them n-ggas on one track and for them to bond together like ‘Yo, we doin’ this. It’s the birthplace of Hip-Hop and no disrespect to the South but we’re trying to bring some music like y’all fellas in the South is doing.’ If them n-ggas can do that, man…You have no idea what that would set off. But, everybody wants to be the King of New York! And because everybody wants to be King, all them n-ggas is lookin’ like pawns right now. HipHopDX: Your Hip-Hop Pet Peeve…
Phonte: Um…Shit…Aw, man! Shit, man. Where do I start? I guess my Hip-Hop pet peeve is nowadays, it being focused too much on the youth. It’s always been youth driven. Back in the day, when Kool Herc and Bambaataa did it, it was a youth driven culture. Youth being like 18-25. Like Herc and them, when they started, they weren’t young dudes. They were young but they weren’t 16. They were in their 20’s. So, it always seemed to be a voice for the youth. But now, as we move deeper it seems to be more and more a voice for kids. So now, you have kids dictating what adults are doing. You have cats making singles trying to get the 106 crowd and TRL crowd and you got grown ass men in their 30’s trying to write some shit that’s going to appeal to a 13 year old. That’s ass backwards to me. That’s why so many people were pissed off at the "Chicken Noodle Soup" shit. Everybody else was mad, but I thought it was poetic justice. Once I found out the girl was 13 who did the song, I was like “Word up. That’s fucking great.” After all this time, all these n-ggas 35 years old, damn near 40 been making songs for 13 year olds, I feel it’s only right a 13 year old makes a track and makes money too. Shit, all these n-ggas making songs for kids anyway. Why not let kids make a song? Everybody else is f*cking raping her, trying to get all they can out of her generation anyway. Let her get some. I guess that’s my biggest problem. It’s too focused on catering and pandering to the taste of the youth just because they’re the generation with the most disposable income. I understand it on another sense but when that happens, you gotta look at the turnover. You were 13 once, I’m sure your taste, just like mine, changed every other week. So, there’s no longevity trying to market to that crowd. HipHopDX: Family…
Phonte: Family is very important. Family is one of the few things that I would die for…or kill for. HipHopDX: Favorite Book.
Phonte: Ah, man. I would say The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. The issues of race and self hatred within the black community…It just touches on a lot of things. When I read it as a teenager, I didn’t fully understand. But now, as a man, you look back like Damn! That’s still one of my favorite books. HipHopDX: Alright…When it’s all said and done, what does Phonte want to be remembered as?
Phonte: I just want to be remembered as a cat that made some dope music and inspired people to do something positive. That’s my main shit. I don’t really see myself to be a teacher of sorts, or a dictator standing in front of people like “Okay, this is the way to go.” I don’t really look at myself in that light. I just see myself as an everyday person who has his faults and has problems just like everybody else. But hopefully people can see me working through my shit on record and making good records, trying to be the best person I can be. Hopefully it will inspire other people to do the same.
"Shorty said I look like Swizz Beats but like minus the ice"
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