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Little Brother is still a very big deal 20 years later

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On a chilly Saturday night in downtown Durham, a time was had when Little Brother celebrated the 20th year anniversary of their debut album The Listening.

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The Black Wall Street Times was present (and early) at “MADE IN DURHAM: 
A Little Brother Block Party” to capture the historic moment Phonte Gallo and Big Pooh hit the stage.

Photo Courtesy: Ezekiel Walker. The Black Wall Street Times.

At a time when rap sales have declined over 40%, according to Juicy J, many of today’s emerging hip hop artists are often dismissed as a mumble-rapping trends as opposed to lyrical artists invested in their craft.

Far from followers, Little Brother has long been different from their contemporaries from past to present.

Little Brother

Featuring some of the best no-skips head-bopping feel-good tunes, their collection has a message to make you move.

Though loved by Durham most, Little Brother has been given their flowers from everyday fans and mega-artists alike.

Kendrick Lamar and Drake have both paid homage to Little Brother

According to Rolling Stone, when Drake stepped onstage to give his acceptance speech for the BMI Songwriter of the Year Award in 2011, one of the names he shouted out — along with his mom, Kanye West, and Andre 3000 — belonged to Phonte.

Kendrick Lamar, whose 2013 cut “Thanksgiving” featured Big Pooh, and years later, he’s still finding new ways of exploring that style on songs like “Father Time” and “Purple Hearts” from his recently released Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers. 

Little Brother
Little Brother’s Phonte, 9th Wonder, and Big Pooh in 2005 RAY TAMARRA/GETTY IMAGES.

An origin story forever linked to Black Jedi and acclaimed producer 9th Wonder, Big Pooh and Phonte have long shined among the brightest stars like c3po and r2d2.

As undergrads at Durham’s North Carolina Central University, all three were committed to make music that stood out. In the process, they’ve also stood the test of time.

Little Brother
Photo Courtesy: Ezekiel Walker. The Black Wall Street Times.

In front of a city that can smell the bull a mile away, both HBCU grads have always remained rooted in their real experiences and those of folks like them.

Little Brother
Photo Courtesy: Ezekiel Walker. The Black Wall Street Times.

I’m still standing right here

Never one to chase success at the cost of their art, Little Brother stands a testament of a tried and true formula rooted in relatability.

Never taking themselves too seriously, Pooh and Phonte have captured audiences and listeners with not only lyrical dominion but an impeccable sense of comedic timing.

Little Brother has a foundation of brotherhood, beats, and bars

While most rappers write, record, and perform individually, this Bull City tag-team has outlasted countless solo acts and groups who have come and gone without the homegrown and sustained appreciation of the 919’s finest.

Photo Courtesy: Ezekiel Walker. The Black Wall Street Times.

Though enjoyed by everyone around the world, Little Brother is a North Carolina original much like Pepsi.

Showing no signs of fizzing out anytime soon, the two kept the Saturday crowd bubbling with every new hit and in awe of their most nostalgic bangers.

Cicely Mitchell. Photo by Angelica Edwards. 

“I affectionately told both Pooh and Phonte, ‘I’m just the doula to deliver this baby.’”

As co-founder of the Original Art of Cool, Dr. Cicely Mitchell was instrumental in manifesting their vision.

“I feel like music is a really good way to get people together and break down barriers, for that moment in time, everybody’s making memories and having a good time,” Mitchell stated.

Photo Courtesy: Ezekiel Walker. The Black Wall Street Times.

She continued, “I’m honored to produce Made in Durham. Its Little Brother and their vision for how they wanted to celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Listening album.”

Asked what she attributes to the sustained legacy of Little Brother, Mitchell responded, “I feel like there’s an authenticity to them.”

Photo Courtesy: Ezekiel Walker. The Black Wall Street Times.

She continued, “Either could be your neighbor, cousin, or somebody you went to school with back in the day.”

Back like they never left, on Saturday night both Phonte and Pooh exhibited the witty personality and charmed perspective fans have come to expect from Little Brother.

From “Say It Again” to “Wish Me Well”, they have defied the odds, ignored the trends, and remained themselves in a constantly evolving entertainment industry.

Their most recent album, May The Lord Watch, was released in 2019. It can be streamed via Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music.

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