It’s become quite apparent that even in 2011, some years after the Carolina based group Little Brother called it quits, their spirit still remains ever present. Not just because the die-hard fans continue to bump The Listening, The Minstrel Show and the rest of their cult classics but because two thirds of the former trio have released solo albums. 9th Wonder took listeners through a glorious musical journey on The Wonder Years whilst Phonte’s working man’s album Charity Starts At Home arguably stands as one of the best releases of 2011. So all that remains now is for the heavy hitting Rapper Big Pooh to round off an impressive year for the heralded acts with his awaited release Dirty Pretty Things. Minus Phonte and Wonder, the Virginia born spitter has offered solid mixtapes aplenty, but can his second full length LP push him out of the LB shadow and into a lane of his own?
Releasing his first solo album since the split, Pooh inevitably offers diary-like verses to keep listeners on tenterhooks. ‘Interdependent’ provides an ambient opening, speaking frankly on a future which may have seen him depart from the music game. Evidently Hip Hop remains the rapper’s 9-to-5 and he expresses his ‘love’ to it on ‘Right With You,’ featuring producer/vocalist Focus. Another ‘love’ of his is also addressed – the love for his former rap collective Little Brother. Touching briefly on it on ‘They Say’ featuring Choklate, its intimidating beats and bass adds to the unprotected punches from Pooh, which the LB jabs border between dissension and a mutual respect.
Rapper Big Pooh’s enthusiastic, somewhat high pitched tones add to the emotive bars he utters. Bringing to light the interfering ‘friends’ in a relationship on ‘5.3.11’, DJ Khalil‘s rich production is the unhappy home for Pooh to narrate the breaking down of a partnership due to this. The former LB rhymer may lack the polished delivery and prose of Phonte but more than makes up for it with passionate performances – varying from get up and grind music (‘Money Getter’) to toasting the better times (‘Soul Music’ featuring Darien Brockington).
Although he finds himself often being cornered into the feel-good, conscious side of rap, Big Pooh can produce the heavier stuff which the ‘streets’ can appreciate. ‘Make It Thru’ which features Joe Scudda and Kobe (who made an appearance on Eminem’s Recovery album) stomps through darker settings, with each protagonist recalling growing up on the rougher parts of inner city USA.
Dirty Pretty Things gets personal when Big Pooh chronicles the relationship between him and his older brother on ‘Real Love’. Going from younger sibling looking up, to the brother now being a dependent, Pooh’s intricate tale bares equally enough angst and warmth within it and stands up as one of the rapper’s more accomplished songs.
Rapper Big Pooh’s first official solo outing is a testament to the hard work which the emcee has had to put in to retain the respect given to him as part of the magnificent trio Little Brother. An artist constantly self-examining (even as part of the group), Big Pooh channels an underdog-come-good spirit on Dirty Pretty Things, daring to express full feelings as well as being grateful for the life he’s been blessed with. Although he somewhat clings to the formula which the group found success with (crisp, soul sampled beats, reflective verses), this highlights his own strengths. Big Pooh may not have fully shed himself of the tag of ‘former LB member’ but instead has reminded the masses of the unreserved, unpolished quality which he brought that made the group the people’s favourites.