From The Carolinas To The World: Rapsody & Little Brother Album Review
We often miss the opportunities to champion groundbreaking and historic moments within our own municipals because we are standing to close to treasure its prominence. It's like tourists coming to your city and finding the value in a venue, museum, or landmark that you drive by every day on your commute. We have an innate sensibility as a society to take things for granted, but in some rare occasions, historical moments are so long overdue that not acknowledging them isn't an option. This is now the case with Carolina Hip-Hop, thanks to the favorable timing in the release of Eve, by Rapsody, and May The Lord Watch, by Little Brother.
Alaetra Chisholm: As it currently stands, North Carolina is undoubtedly having its best year in music. From Da Baby's loud, star-studded success, to the third installment of Dreamville's Revenge of the Dreamers compilation album, and a Little Brother reunion at this year's Hopscotch Festival; the Carolina pot is bubbling and will soon overflow. In the wake of these successes, the release of Rapsody's album Eve, provided a unique layer to the identity of North Carolina hip-hop. Eve shines through a bevy of musical offerings by honoring the ultimate driving force of the music industry and literally all facets of human life; women.
From naming each track after a significant black women in history, and inviting features from respected emcees such as, Queen Latifah, J. Cole, Leikeli47, and GZA, the impact of this album to Rapsody' career is reflected in the intent behind her music and creative expression. Unreliant upon my bias as a Rapsody fan and most things North Carolina, I was truly impressed by the transparent growth in her skill, and not to mention, the well-orchestrated album rollout. The brilliance and prioritization of the creative direction, album production, and social media strategy on for Eve is evident, considering how North Carolina music is being defined.
Je'Ron Chester: Traditional hip-hop heads across the genre from boom bap, to back pack have occupied a weird space over the past decade with the emergence of "Trap Rap", and "Melodic Rap". As of late, it seems like rap has shifted back to the core principles of caring about the lyrical art form. We seldom here the cringeworthy stereotype that the south doesn't have lyrical content anymore. It's ironic that the newly found heartbeat of hip-hop lives in the south, or North Carolina to be exact. Rapsody, a native of Snow Hill, North Carolina, has set herself apart from competition with the her latest LP, Eve. Rapsody's evolution from her previous LP, Laila's Wisdom, has now propelled her into the best MC debate in hip-hop.
On her third studio-album, Rapsody is intentionally direct to the competition, as well as the trials and tribulations that shape the black woman; the Goddess. Her approach to this album embodies every seam in the fabric of who she see's herself cut from. Perfectly titled, Eve, in reference to the biblical Eve, mother of all life; Rapsody powerfully reminds us all who is in charge. The voice of the black woman is often echoed in the track titled, "Afeni". It is the last track on the LP and it perfectly sums up the collective sentiments of the Goddess Eve, the black woman.
Jon Olangi: For Rapsody, Eve was more than just exemplifying how she would handle the pressures of trying to follow up a Grammy Nominated, second studio album, Laila’s Wisdom. Similar to OutKast's significant leap from Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik (1994), to ATLiens (1996), Eve is Rapsody understanding her purpose as an artist, and no longer trying to prove to a bunch of men that she can rap better than them. The Snow Hill native chose to create a project that highlights the many qualities of the black woman. From intellect, beauty, attitude, wealth, and being unapologetic, Rapsody shows that a black woman is not to be described by just any one adjective. Through the music, Rapsody painted a piece that shows black women to be multi layered individuals, whose balance of passionate relentlessness and measured brilliance dictate most of what is good about this world.
Little Brother, May the Lord Watch
Alaetra Chisholm: As a Little Brother fan, I heavily marinated on their first two studio albums, The Listening and The Minstrel Show. The two critically acclaimed albums seemed to signify a high trajectory of Little Brother in hip-hop, but after Grammy Award Winning Producer and North Carolina native 9th Wonder departed from the group in 2007, Little Brother’s cult following had no clue if, or when we'd get our next fix. We had to wait almost a decade later for that next fix, but May The Lord Watch was well worth the wait.
Little Brother’s fifth studio album feels like a homecoming, reminding us of the reality adult rap we know and love from the duo. Their satirical interludes, coupled with soul samples and infectious flows, gives us a unique perspective on the current climates relative to black ownership, upward mobility and social media. May The Lord Watch also updates us on their lives as two separate emcees, making us eerily aware of each artist's individual career trajectory on track like "Right On Time", and reminding us of their lyrical prowess on "All In A Day". The resurgence of Little Brother comes at the right time for hip-hop. More significantly, the timing helps solidify the identity of North Carolina music at such a favorable moment in a landscape of constantly changing hip-hop trends and success.
Je’Ron Chester: Going through turmoil to build better bonds is what family does, but with the absence of Little Brother over the past decade, it was a breath of fresh air once their reunion was announced. Even with 9th wonder not included in the production for May the Lord Watch, that didn't stop Big Pooh and Phonte from picking up where they left off. The two are legends of underground hip hop, but Pooh and Phonte mean so much more to the Carolina region, thanks to their initial taste of the mainstream in 2006. May the Lord Watch gives you peak Phonte, and Pooh's transparency within his lyrics hit the soul just as it did years ago. Little Brother's reunion represents the struggles of the everyday black man figuring out their way in a world that purposely makes everything hard for us. It's uncommon in hip-hop for peace between two brothers to be celebrated. Thankfully, May The Lord Watch signifies love, growth and transparency within black men. Thank you Pooh & Phonte.
Jon Olangi:There was a collective uneasiness among Little Brother Fans when 9th Wonder called the Joe Budden Podcast and said he wouldn't be part of the long-awaited Little Brother reunion. In hindsight, 9th was trying to tell us that the new music was more about Big Rapper Pooh and Phonte recconecting and getting back to what made them one of the earlier acts out of North Carolina to be acknowledged on a main street purview. May the Lord Watch, is a visual representation of veterans in the game being hungrier than the younger artists. A hunger which stems from the rekindling of a brotherhood and friendship as Black Men. Sure, the album is infused with some of the best rapping we’ve ever heard from Big Rapper Pooh, and Phonte solidifying his pen among the elite in the game; but there is an underlying message that is pivotal to the Black man’s evolution. Once the ego is removed, and we can register our strength instead of being divided, we can always do the impossible, especially as the odds are already stacked up against us.