Little Brother is a rap group from North Carolina, and they’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of their debut album: The Listening.
It’s a tremendous album. And it definitely changed the lives of the group’s three original members—Phonte, Big Pooh and 9th Wonder.
They were living in the dorms at North Carolina Central University when they decided to start making music together. 9th Wonder was making beats on his computer. While Phonte and Big Pooh were laying down verses on an old church microphone.
At the start of their career as Little Brother, they were hitting open mics and playing local shows. They never imagined a rags-to-riches story.
But in 2001, they uploaded songs to a hip-hop message board called Okayplayer. The goal was to get some feedback on a couple of songs. Instead, they ended up with a career.
A couple of DJs got their hands on the MP3s, including the DJ who owned the entire website: Questlove of The Roots. Shortly after, Little Brother released their first LP, The Listening.
The album was unique. It wasn’t from a regional scene. It didn’t stick to a particular aesthetic. The appeal came from the fact that these guys were great rappers with a producer that could make some incredible snare sounds.
By indie-label standards, the record was a hit. Critics loved it. And Little Brother got a major label deal, but their second record didn’t sell enough. The group was dropped from the label and 9th Wonder left the group. Phonte and Big Pooh decided to continue making music but stopped soon after.
Recently, Phonte and Big Pooh reunited and released their reunion album May the Lord Watch in 2019. They’re also releasing a documentary about their career this year.
In the meantime, they’re on tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut album.
This week on Bullseye, Phonte and Big Pooh join us to reflect on their long and eventful career as Little Brother.
You can find a list of Little Brother’s tour dates here.
About the show
Bullseye is a celebration of the best of arts and culture in public radio form. Host Jesse Thorn sifts the wheat from the chaff to bring you in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary minds in our culture.
Bullseye has been featured in Time, The New York Times, GQ and McSweeney’s, which called it “the kind of show people listen to in a more perfect world.” Since April 2013, the show has been distributed by NPR.
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