Where’s the Soul…?

“I say open the door, let me in
Teach us all, preach ya sins
Turn the cheek, let it slide
Give me five on the black hand side

The black hand side, oh
Oh, oh the black hand side
The black hand side, oh…”

Now let the smooth and soulful melodies of producer Mike Leo’s violin sample ride out in the background while you bob your head listening to the strong and inspirational vocals of Foreign Exchange’s Phonte, former member of the sensational rap group Little Brother.

Now do me a favor and check out the video before you continue because I’m a need you to be with me on this…

Here, Black Hand side refers to the idea that black people can unite and begin to view their realities as positive or negative as shown in the video. 

But every different day a different black man dies
Shawty momma trippin’ off a crack, mad high
Now you’re watching TV, loving the bad guys

Piss-poor with the Welfare check, you know we’re African
Cause we ain’t get help here yet, no help

-Styles P

I bet not even ten seconds after reading that you could probably name at least three people that could relate to those lyrics.  This isn’t just some hot shit a rapper put together because it rhymed.  Clearly this man has or knows someone that has experienced the pain he’s talking about and guess what he’s expressing it through………………………..HIP HOP!!!

               I’m a fan of Nas but fuck what he was talking about.  Hip Hop isn’t dead!!!  It’s more than just a genre…it’s a lifestyle.  I know I’m probably beating a dead horse to many but out there somewhere there is a kid that has no idea what REAL music sounds like. 

               I’ve noticed now days that if you can’t snap, cat daddy, dougie, or do a line dance to a song it will get absolutely no love from the general public.  I’m not against “getting the party hype music” because I pump Young Jeezy, Rick Ross, and Kanye on the regular, but it’s starting to drown out the foundation and roots of how it all started.  Fortunately for me I know how to bring it back down by popping in some old Little Brother or a hungry Common Sense back when he was beefing with Ice Cube.

               I enjoy this new school music a lot.  Hell I Marvin Gaye and Chardonnay was on repeat all the way to work today.  My only issue with this new music is the message that’s being translated by the listeners.  What I want do is hold the artist accountable for what people take away from their music.  Their only job is to entertain us, make us feel good; make us dance, and make money while doing it.  People have to separate what’s entertainment and what’s inspirational and uplifting.  When I want to ride out and listen to some smooth tunes the first thing I search for is an old Little Brother album or mixtape.  When I’m getting crunk before a boxing match I got Trick Daddy – Book of Thugs on repeat.  Basically what I’m trying to say is you have to understand the purpose for each artist and their type of music to fully understand the significance of hip hop and their role in it.

               Ever heard an artist or group of artist that you could vividly imagine everything they where rapping about, their lyrical content wasn’t dumb down yet it wasn’t over your head either?  When was the last time you popped in an album and all you did was hit play?  Long time ago huh?  Ever heard of super producer 9th Wonder?  You know…the guy that produced Jay-Z’s – Dirt off your Shoulders, Drakes – Think Good Thoughts, and the whole David Banner Album – Death of a Pop Star.  Yea that guy.  You know where he first started?  Good ol North Carolina.  He along with two classmates, Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh started the rap group Little Brother

               I can give a rat’s ass about anybody else’s opinion, Little Brother is hands down one of the TOP three rap groups of all time with Outkast being number one.  Influenced by Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, Little Brother took hip-hop by storm with their brand of brainy hip-hop. When BET deemed their “Lovin’ It” video “too intelligent” for their audience, it further established Little Brother as underground darlings.  Unfortunately that’s the same reason they didn’t maintain mainstream hype as some of these lesser emcees.  Isn’t that some bullshit though?  The ONE black network for African Americans deemed an African American group “too intelligent” for their audience.  I don’t know about you but I was highly offended by that statement.  The fuck I look like, some dumb ass baboon that rock Jordan’s and think snap backs are the greatest things since fitted sheets?  Every since then I’ve been completely done with BET.  I won’t complain about them, I just won’t give them my ratings.  That’s another reason why I don’t watch The Game but that’s a whole different topic.

               The Minstrel Show has been regarded by many as the most underrated albums of the 21st century.  That’s a pretty strong statement and it should also tell you how instrumental and influential this album is.  Every track has a different message about everyday life situations that the average man such as my-self can relate to.  See this is the type of music I like.  Rap at me and not over or beneath me.  When I listen to a Little Brother song it feels like I’m in the car with them having a conversation about something we just went through a couple of days ago or just reminiscing.  That’s comforting music at its best.  That people is what we call Hip Hop.  Soulful tunes with recounting lyrics…man I love their music.

               The group eventually broke up after four albums and six mixtapes.  There were no conflicts or issues, they just grew apart.  Outside of Little Brother, Phonte began a collaboration with Netherlands-based producer Nicolay as the group, The Foreign Exchange, that ultimately resulted in the release of their debut album, Connected, in 2004. The Foreign Exchange released their follow-up album entitled Leave It All Behind, in October 2008.  In 2010 they released The Authenticity and followed up with Dear Friends in 2011.  Phonte became a Grammy Nominated artist and decided being a vocalist instead of an emcee was the route for him to take until he reconnected with 9th Wonder to start working on a new album.

               Ask Drake who his favorite rapper is and he’ll say without hesitation it’s Phonte from Little Brother.  Drake has rapped over numerous Little Brother tracks and featured Phonte on the majority of his tracks at the beginning of his career.  See, a lot of folks don’t like this new Drake but if you go back to the guy that everybody fell in love with a few years back and study the style of Phonte then you’ll see Phonte’s DNA all in Drakes music.  Drake is a fairly great rapper and is also a great vocalist.  Guess what….so is Phonte!  Hell Phonte was the first to do what Drake is doing now….singer/rapper.  The only difference is they came into the game with two different angles and at two different times.  Unfortunately for Phonte he wasn’t backed by his people as much as Drake is.  The roots people…the roots.  Know where your music is coming from.  Remember when Drake use to be the soulful and highly intelligent lyrical artist?  Listen to The Best of Phonte and tell me you don’t hear Drake!!!  Phonte is a pretty humble dude so he won’t take any credit for any of Drake’s success and I really respect him for that.  Drake acknowledges Phonte every time he gets a chance so I can’t be upset with that either.  I just want folks to understand where it all came from.  Rumor has it that the only reason Phonte hasn’t been on any of Drake’s latest stuff is because of a contract issue stating he can’t feature Phonte in any of his music because of the strong similarities.  Like I said, rumor has it…

Drake isn’t the only one though.  Phonte has been collaborated with a ton of mainstream artist such as Kanye West, Common, Talib Kweli, Playaz Circle, Anthony David, The Roots, Lil Wayne, Mac Miller, Pete Rock, Sean Price, and Royce Da 5’9” to name a few.

               Good music is still out there.  We just have to overlook the mainstream garbage that’s being shoved down our throats and listen for it.  The only issue I have is older artist are too busy screaming hip hop is dead instead of ignoring what they don’t like, uplifting artist they consider to be real lyricist and represents the type of music that’s inspirational and influential to the culture we call hip hop.  Don’t let the wrong music influence you.  Hell, don’t let music influence you at all.  Know the difference of what’s real and what’s entertainment.  There are plenty of good artist out there like Pharoahe Monch, Styles P, The Roots, Common, and Talib Kweli.  Listen to some old Little Brother, De La Soul, and a Tribe Called Quest.  I still zone out every time I hear Electric Relaxation *takes a second and mellow out to the tunes in my head*.  It’s out there folks; you just have to be open to it.

I’m a wrap this up but before I do I’m a leave y’all with a few of my favorite Phonte verses.

Sometimes I think I’m from another world (preach)
When I’m trynna tell a woman just exactly where I stand that (aight)
I want a girl, when I want a girl
And when I don’t want a girl, I want a girl who understands that
And that’s some hard shit to explain
To a woman that’s in love with you, it’s a pitiful thing
Until I had to figure
That I don’t wanna play around, but I don’t wanna settle down
And that’s a man’s dilemma, ’cause every man remembers
How his daddy and his uncles did it
‘Cause more than likely that’s the way they’re gonna do it
I know it sound fucked up and most wont admit it
But yo, I gotta face it ’cause I know I’m living through it
‘Cause when the party stops and niggaz get old
And the chain and the cars and the houses get sold, and that
Other side of the bed gets cold, you don’t wanna be alone
So girl I’m trynna hold you..
The Minstrel Show – Slow it Down

Black folks saying that I’m too intelligent
And white folks saying I’m a little too niggerish
It got me in a strange predicament

I wish black embarrassment TV was judged more wisely
But I don’t know what’s worse
The fact that they ain’t playing our shit, or that it don’t even surprise me

Because I shucking and cause I ain’t jiving
Some of these crackers won’t stand beside me

And cause I ain’t killing and don’t support pimping
Some of these niggas wanna call me a Cosby

Well, I’ll be that dude, I’ll scratch that itch
I’ll play that role, call me Heathcliff bitch

                                               Boondock Saints

We was high school sweethearts, talkin since we was teens
Every mornin, and every ev-ening
Ten years later, she eatin that Lean Cuisine
I’m on the field, straight brawn off that Creatine
In the NFL – which mean Not For Long
City to city, all the groupies they hop along
Word get back, the wifey she like, “Stop the song”
“I’m takin the kids to my momma’s, I’m out, I’m gone! ” – whoa!
Momma was like, “Baby now, I hate to see your tears
But I been with your daddy for bout 35 yearsAnd in my day, I had to
Turn a blind eye to cheatin
But I ain’t never had to wear no black eyes from beatings
As long as he doin right, by you and the kids
How you gon expect that man not to be who he is?
I ain’t sayin that it’s right, but we often pay the price
Cause a woman’s life is love, a man’s love is life
And he gon live it to the fullest,
And I ain’t tryna pull you down, or sound like a broken record
But you should know by now that ALL niggas is dogs
Better to have a rich Pit than a broke German Shepard, uh! ”

                                        Breaking My Heart




I want to dedicate and thank my brother Leon Webb for introducing me to the group Little Brother and inspiring me to listen to more HIP HOP.  Look for his book coming soon entitled A Guide To The Simple Life. 

And on that note I’m out.

Catch me on twitter acting a fool @jus_ryan3