The last time Little Brother dropped an album, a flurry of controversies ensued. The Source editor Joshua Ratcliffe resigned, after his 4.5-star rating for The Minstrel Show was downgraded to a 4 by Raymond Scott and Dave Mays. BET was inundated with angry petitions, following their program director's comment that LB's "Lovin' It" music video was "too intelligent" for their audience. Despite all the controversy and rave reviews, The Minstrel Show failed to impress on the charts. Earlier this year, the North Carolina crew decided to extricate themselves from the tentacles of Atlantic Records. The group also severed ties with longtime friend and producer 9th Wonder. So, what's next for Phonte and Big Pooh? Who will replace 9th Wonder as in-house boardsman? Phonte tells it like it is.
What's the concept behind The Getback (Little Brother's third album):It's not really a concept. To me, it's all about acceptance. The Listening was coming from a place of innocence. The Minstrel Show was coming from anger and being jaded. The Getback is coming from acceptance. It's like, 'Yeah, things are f**ked up, but, at the end of the day, you're just here to make good music.' The only thing you can control is your talent--the music that you make. We're going back to the reason we even started making music, and not worried about the critics and you know--
The label politics?Yeah, the politics and all that sh*t.
What label is the album going to be issued on?That's what we're trying to figure out. It's definitely not going to be on Atlantic. We're still trying to figure it out now as far as getting it together.
Do you have anything on the table at all? For instance, are you leaning towards independent labels or going back to a major?Well, me personally...I ain't going back to a major. [Laughs] We'll see how it plays out, you know.
I interviewed Dreddy Kruger awhile back and he said he thought it was a bad idea to go the major route. I'm sure you had some legit reasons for going that way, but from outside looking in it doesn't seem plausible. How do you explain it to people who don't know how the industry works?Well, the best way I can explain it is: you don't know until you know. To me, it's always better to make a decision and then realize that that wasn't the right decision than to never make a decision and always wonder 'what if.' You may sit back and say, 'Nah, I'm chillin. I'm gonna go indy (independent)." But a part of you would always wonder, "What if you would've taken the deal?" I see how a lot of people can't see that from outside looking in, and that's how I used to feel too. But once you have that opportunity, I just feel that, as an artist, you owe it to yourself to at least take it and see for yourself. At the end of the day, the knowledge that I've gained from the fallout with Atlantic is way more valuable to me than any kind of money I could've made. I don't regret it at all.
What really went down with the 9th Wonder situation?Things happen. People grow apart, you know. I think in our case, we grew apart personally and professionally. That kinda bled over into the music. And once the original chemistry that you had is no more, you don't need to keep going on. With us--me, Pooh, and 9th--it all kinda came full circle and it just ran its course.
You think it had something to do with his outside work?I don't think it had something to do with that. That may be what the word is. I've heard things from people that supposedly heard his side of the story or whatever. But that wasn't the case at all, man. Me and Pooh started Little Brother together, and we told him (9th Wonder), from just studying the game, that any producer that's worth their weight is gonna go on to do bigger and better things. You had Marley, Premo, RZA--most of your classic producers that had their start in a group all went on to do bigger things. When he got the Jay record, the Mary J. Blige record, we were cheering for him. We were like, "Wow! My man made it." I was just happy that my man lived out his dream. Along the way, I just think that 9th wanted to be a producer but he didn't necessarily know what it meant to be a band member or a member of a group. I think he took the role of being a band member because that was the easiest way of getting his production on.
A platform for him.Yeah, that was a platform. But I don't think he was ready for the touring, the press, and all the ground work that comes with being a group member. I don't think he was ready for that. I just don't think he had the guts to come out and tell me and Pooh.