Today I was perplexed by a series of tweets that producer and Jamla label executive 9th Wonder sent out. Clearly exasperated, he felt the need to reiterate that Phonte, Rapper Big Pooh and himself would not be getting back together as a group. They each have individual music careers that they are focused on and there will not be another Little Brother group album.
I say that I was perplexed because I figured this was really old news and that anyone who has followed their careers—on or off twitter—knows that another Little Brother album is not coming. But evidently some of you are still blowing up their respective Twitter handles, possibly still circulating old tweets from Questlove about a reunion and ignoring the collective rebuttal.
Let me say this, no one out there would love to see those three gentleman get back together more than I would. I first heard The Listening on a CDR when I was an Associate Music Editor at The Source and everything from the dark but hopeful chords of “Morning” to the later removed “Atari 2600” skit told me that these guys were special. So much so that I lobbied like Remy Danton in “House of Cards” to get the coveted Hip-Hop Quotable for Phonte’s verse on “The Yo Yo,” and must have had several virtual knife fights in the halls on Park Avenue South to get that other 1/2 mic for a debut album on an indie rap label.
They came through our offices the next time they were in NYC and met the Mind Squad, took some flicks and even signed some posters. The next few times they visited the Big Apple we broke bread on several occasions. Phonte was going through his vegetarian phase and I introduced him to “Soul chicken” from a vegan spot called Red Bamboo. 9th came by and played us the same beat CD he played for Jay Z and told us if we could name the samples we could keep it. We came up short but shit, it was fun trying. I was in college when Biggie, Pac, Tribe and the like were at their peak but Little Brother belonged to us.
Two years later when the group made the leap to a major label and released their sophomore album The Minstrel Show, I was Editor-In-Chief of Scratch magazine and we gave it the classic 10/10 designation it deserved, even when some people called us nuts. We had no idea it would be the last time we’d hear all three of them together but again, we knew we were hearing something special.
So when 9th initially parted ways with Te and Pooh, I was not happy—at all. I remember hitting several mutual friends on Instant messenger (remember that?) like what the fuck? Crews breaking up was nothing new, but this was the first group I actually knew to get severed. The hardest thing was NOT talking about it, out of respect for all of them. Professionally and personally we all still spoke, but the elephant in the room was always present. I didn’t know the specifics of the break up and to this day still don’t, because it really didn’t matter. It was between them. Then when 9th and Te publicly announced their reconciliation in 2011 I was pleased, for sure. But it didn’t move the earth to me because I’d been in touch with them both throughout, on and off the record. It had no bearing on my respect for them professionally and as men.
As a ’70s baby I’ve watched a lot of unions dissolve and it’s never easy. You watch people get married or go into business with each other—sometimes both—and due to circumstances beyond their control they just can’t be together anymore. The transitions are tough, deciding who gets what hangout spot in the literal or figurative divorce. But as a friend all you can do is be there for them and support their separate lives. You don’t call them up on their anniversary and ask them if they’ve reconciled, because who wants to be reminded constantly of the shit that didn’t work?
So if you are really a fan of Little Brother, go out and support Phonte on tour with The Foreign Exchange, cop Big Pooh’s new album with Apollo Brown, Words Paint Pictures, and go to the newly redesigned Jamla Records website and buy some music. Because while you’re living in the past, you’re missing out on all the presents these brothers are still bringing to the game.