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Friday January 28th

Little Brother: One more last time

Durham hip-hop duo Little Brother give their best “not giving a damn” for a press shot. Courtesy of Little Brother
Buy Photos Durham hip-hop duo Little Brother give their best “not giving a damn” for a press shot. Courtesy of Little Brother

Little Brother is done. After eight years at the fore of N.C. hip-hop, the Durham duo, Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh, has decided that its new album Leftback will be its last. Before Tuesday’s release, the two talked with Diversions Staff Writer Benn Wineka, weighing in on goodbyes and the state of N.C. hip-hop.

Diversions: Why did you decide that this was going to be Little Brother’s last album?

Rapper Big Pooh: We just thought that it was time. As far as Little Brother goes, we said all we’ve had to say. We took it as far as we thought that we could take it creatively. So, instead of continuing on and forcing something and doing something we didn’t really want to do, we decided to call it an end.

You went through several versions of Leftback. What was the process like knowing it was going to be the last record?

We treated it just like it was any other record. It’s not like we ever sat down and had a big thing about this being our last album. It was just like, “We gotta make this record.” There wasn’t a whole lot of ceremony behind it. We just knew what we had to do.

Dive: How aware of the media are you?

P: I think that most artists in this era have to be fairly media savvy and know how to navigate all of that stuff. Me personally, I’ve seen what the media has to say but I’m more concerned with what the fans are saying — what their concert experience was like, what songs they like, what songs they don’t like. That’s the kind of feedback I’m most interested in.

Dive: Do you think social networking has bridged the gap between producers and listeners?

RBP: It’s sort of like a gift and a curse. But not being untouchable to them makes them feel like they can reach out. We definitely take time to talk to people. But the curse side is some people think that because you’re accessible that they can talk reckless or say whatever. But it just comes with the territory.

Dive: How about the comment sections of blogs — do you ever read what people say under your posts?

P: I’m going to go ahead and say I do sometimes. Again, I just want to see what the fans are saying and get their feedback.

Dive: I read a comment under a post about Leftback’s tracklist that said, “Pooh and Phonte should have gone harder with this being their last album.” What do you think when you read something like that?

You laugh at things like that. That’s comedy. I was reading some comments when Dr. Dre said he was putting out a single in two weeks, and people were trying to rate the album. How are you going to rate an album you never heard? You heard the Dr. Pepper beat. That’s funny. You take those things with a grain of salt and can’t do anything but laugh at them.

Dive: Why include two remixes on a final album?

P: Originally the album was supposed to be an EP. It was supposed to be something with a few new songs, a few remixes, kind of like what we did with Chittlin’ Circuit 1.5.

RBP: People are in an uproar because we put them inside the album, not as bonus tracks. I mean, there’s still 11 new tracks.

Dive: Some beef went down between former member 9th Wonder and Little Brother regarding an old song. Have things been resolved?

P: Um, nah. I mean it’s all good. I hadn’t heard anything and I don’t expect too. I left it at my part.

Dive: With no relationship with 9th, do you still check what’s coming out of his camp?

RBP: I mean, I do, seeing what’s N.C.’s doing. Some of the stuff I hear is cool, some of it is just whatever. But if I hear something I think is dope, I let it be known. I think what my man Big Remo is doing is dope. I like the stuff they are doing together. Even though me and him are not friends, if I hear something that’s dope I let it be known.

Dive: Little Brother has always been considered by many as the preeminent example of N.C. hip-hop. With the group stepping out of the way, where does the state go from here?

RBP: I don’t know about anybody stepping up, but there’s definitely a lot of talent in North Carolina. North Carolina is just one of those places where the scene has almost dissolved, and it don’t support its own. Like I said, there’s a lot of talent, but I don’t know if anybody is going to take the flag.            Dive: J. Cole was supposed to headline a show at Cat’s Cradle recently but cancelled to go on a college tour. Don’t you think that puts a bad taste in the home state’s support’s mouth?

P: Hey, everybody got a mortgage.

RBP: Thing is, what some people don’t understand about touring is that you can have something set up in advance. Like, I got something for a show in August. If something crazy comes up between now and then that hadn’t presented itself when I booked the August show way back, then I’m kind of at a crossroad. You can always reschedule a one-off, but if an opportunity presents itself that you can’t get back you have to take it. I can get back another show at the Cradle but I can’t get back a whole tour.

Dive: What’s the immediate future for you guys?

I got a collaboration record with my man Rock C out of California; my solo record; building my sport venture brand, Pooh on Sports, taking it as far as I can.

P: I’ll just be continuing to work with Nicolay and building the Foreign Exchange Music brand. We got Yahzarah’s and Zo!’s  albums coming out soon and the new Foreign Exchange record in October. I’ll do a solo record sometime, but developing the FE brand is the goal right now.

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