On Little Brother’s final LP Leftback, Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh sound defeated, beaten — content with being Interweb royalty at the sacrifice of fame.
Stretching what was conceptualized as an EP into a 13 track adieu, the Durham natives lack the gritty, take-on-the-world mentality that won them both acclaim. The shift that began on the group’s third album, its first without former member and producer 9th Wonder, has now been fully realized.
Earnest tracks that chronicled the trying rise of the group have been replaced by white flags under the guise of songs, such as album opener “Curtain Call.” While the Khrysis-produced cut is, on the surface, one of the group’s better selections on Leftback, the lyrics may as well be replaced with, “Well, we tried.”
Music ReviewLittle Brother
Dive verdict: 3.5 of 5 stars
This isn’t the same group that emerged eight years ago to usher new life into a stagnant, if prolific, N.C. hip-hop scene. The once unmistakably soul-sampled flavor characteristic of Little Brother has, for the most part, been replaced by carbon copies of lesser brilliance.
But there are still moments of redemption. The posse cut “Renegades,” featuring Truck North and Median shows neither Phonte nor Pooh have lost their lyrical dexterity.
The sharp tongues of the duo have not waned, and their sound may have become more urban Muzak at times. The core of what makes Little Brother one of the greatest hip-hop groups of all-time is still evident.
Leftback is a fitting and well-executed swan song. But is it too much to ask for one last taste of what first made us fall in love?
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