You can never tell what type of legacy a group is going to leave when they burst on to the scene. We can always speculate, but only time will be the true indicator. When Little Brother released their debut album The Listening 10 years ago today, it was clear upon first listen that they were filling a huge void in hip hop music, while at the same time creating a new lane for themselves in what would be the beginning of a fruitful tree that would bear many talents that we have the pleasure of listening to today. A landmark album that artists such as Drake and Kanye West have referenced as a formative piece of their own careers, today we revisit The Listening.
The Listening had a personal significance that I should mention. As a DJ in 2003, when spinning vinyl was still the primary method, one thing (out of many) that was a challenge for a DJ was selection. Not the selection of what song you were going to play next, but what pieces of vinyl you were going to take to the club. You couldn’t access your entire musical library like you can now, so you had to be extremely selective when picking out which records you were going to be in your crate (which you were going to have to carry) to your gig. Because I DJed at so many different places, they all required their own style and vibe, for example, one venue may want danceable music, another may want R&B and soul, another may be a restaurant where I’m playing background music, another may be an underground hip hop show. There was an extremely short list of records that I would take to every gig, because to have a record that would fit all of those occasions was extremely rare. The Listening was a blessing for me as a DJ, and for many years it was the hammer in my tool kit, an essential piece of my repertoire.
It arguable what is more difficult for an up and coming rapper; to rise amongst the many in a cesspool like New York or Los Angeles, or to come from a place that has very little hip hop representation on a mainstream market. From North Carolina, Little Brother made a name for themselves. In a timeline that produced four brilliant albums (not to mention various side songs and mix tapes), Little Brother’s contribution to their region, and even more so, the hip hop community, is immeasurable. Although the group disbanded, they continued to work separately, each developing their own personal sound and evolution, as well as birthing artists’ careers through collaborations and affiliations. As hip hop fans, we want to see our favorite groups work together forever in complete harmony, In Little Brother’s case, them working with others not only benefited themselves as persons, but it also spread the legacy that they have created to other well known projects like Nicolay, Foreign Exchange, Justice League, Jamla Records, just to name a few.
Today is a great day to recognize Phonte, Big Pooh, and 9th Wonder for their contributions to not only hip hop, but to my personal tonal development. On this post, I have attached my personal favorite tracks from The Listening. Thank you, gentlemen. You have served your people well.
10 years ago today, Little Brother released “The Listening” on ABB Records. changed my life forever.
— Rapper Pooh (@RapperBigPooh) February 25, 2013
Written by: @Haylow