Phonte – Charity Starts At Home | Album Review

Even though much time has passed since the split of revered trio Little Brother, one of Hip Hop’s most cherished groups, deep rooted amongst many fans has been an impatient craving for something new from either 9th Wonder, Rapper Big Pooh or the artist in question today; Phonte. Whilst Wonder has given us his Wonder Years and the Foreign Exchange (Phonte’s most recent project) provided some warm, glorious memories of his musical past, the urge for something closer to home was desired by many. So for the Greensboro, North Carolina born lyricist “home” is where he returned; back to the circle of dope beats and dope rhymes for his first solo album. Having spent numerous years sharing the plaudits with his two brothers in rhyme, how would one of Hip Hop’s most revered poets handle an entire project in which it would only be him and his thoughts occupying the recording booth?

A rapper who opts not to spit about flossing, drug-induced relationships or jail, Phonte’s raps are often an interesting experience as they often touch upon issues closer to home. Opening track “Dance In The Reign” takes a confessional tone as ‘te’s admissions that being number one in Hip Hop isn’t a priority are just one of the many refreshing anecdotes he recites on the ominous tones on hand. If the opener was a reflection of the emcee’s personal life, the following 9th Wonder produced “The Good Fight” speaks to every man as the Carolina rhymer steps into the shoes of the working man and the married father, brilliantly constructing tales of the frustrations and struggles each face, not to mention the blessings each scenario brings. Although taking a serious tone, its opener borrows from comedian Chris Rock’s Bring The Pain sketch on relationships, which does well to lighten the mood.

Phonte – “The Good Fight”:

It’s somewhat astonishing to think that the first two tracks alone relate more to the common person than a whole album devised by some of the ‘leaders’ of rap’s current flock – and Phonte continues with the realness. “Everything Is Falling Down” transcribes the overcoming of various musical and financial related stresses, citing the break up of his former group being a burden lifted off his shoulders. Charity Starts At Home feels very much like the debut it is as areas of Phonte’s life are explored even more so than during his tenure with Little Brother.

One question which always loiters after the splitting of a group is which member would one want to hear preferentially and Phonte makes a bold case for it to be him. The rapper eloquently delivers all of his verses displaying much maturity in his lines, which aren’t made up merely of punchlines. He shares the joys of finding love throughout the album; a welcome alternative to the excessive boasts of sleeping with models, hoes and more found on others’ works.

Even when sharing the difficulties relationships hit on “Sendin’ My Love” Tigallo utters such roadblocks with a wry smile and somewhat gushes at times over his relationship status. Dedicating a number of songs to love, even singing alongside long time collaborator Carlitta Durand on “Gonna Be A Beautiful Night,” the clutch of heart-tugging material doesn’t water down Phonte’s debut but rather gives us a closer look into the protagonist’s being.

Phonte ft. Carlitta Durand – “Gonna Be A Beautiful Night”:

Being a resident to the underground, ‘te still throws something down for the lovers of the commercial free Hip Hop. “The Life of Kings” rolls out the carpet for Dilated Peoples vet Evidence and the South’s future star Big K.R.I.T. to add some finesse to 9th Wonder’s delicate slice of soul. Phonte also shares the spotlight with the lyrically immense Pharoahe Monch on “We Go Off” – aiming for the skies with soaring verses which go way above the average rappers 16s.

Phonte ft. Pharoahe Monch – “We Go Off”:

Charity Starts At Home is easily the definition of ‘grown folk rap.’ Phonte’s selfless, insightful and inspiring words do more than just reflect on his being, but also speak directly to the listener. Exploring the psyches of love and happiness as well as the struggles which many are facing in the current Obama run America, the ten years plus rhymer puts his knowledge and experience to great use; providing a voice for the many disillusioned men and women today just looking for a break.

With production on “Ball and Chain” not keeping up to the exceptional standards of Wonder, S1 and others’ musical credits, this arguably remains one of the very few flaws on Charity… – but overall songs remain coherent and the Foreign Exchange member sounds sharp. Ultimately this may stand as Phonte’s classic album which will be sought after much like his previous works with Little Brother. Charity Starts At Home shows up the fickle material which has been plaguing Hip Hop for some time and will long be championed as an album made for the people, by one of the people.

Phonte – Charity Starts At Home
Released: September 27, 2011
Label: The Foreign Exchange Music
Buy: iTunes US / Amazon UK / Amazon US

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