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Little Brother: The Minstrel Show

Little Brother: The Minstrel Show

Label:ABB/Atlantic
Format:Album
Media:CD
Release Date:2005
Genre:Hip Hop/Rap

By Makkada B. Selah | Posted 10/5/2005

“We hope we made you laugh or chuckle or grin,” winks the jingle to Little Brother’s zany TV show-themed album The Minstrel Show. Well, Dave Chappelle couldn’t have done a better job with “Cheatin’,” a spoof of the Ron Isley-starring infidelity dramas on every R. Kelly CD. Rarely do we get to commend MCs’ acting chops, but Phonte and Big Pooh deserve an Emmy for this one. Executive producers Lois and Carmen Denominator of the album’s UBN (U Black Niggers ) network would be pleased.

The liner notes suggest The Minstrel Show quite admirably intends to take down thugging, drug dealing, pimping, and materialism in hip-hop. Very real problems, but few of the tracks address them head-on (though the sidesplitting “5th and Fashion” satirizes materialism). Phonte and Big Pooh are battle rappers with a penchant for humor and discussing relationships—witty and reflective, yes, but hardly polemicists. (Which, on the upside, at least keeps preachiness in check.)

It’s too bad ’70s R&B loop-dependent hip-hop isn’t one of the things being parodied. What would producer Ninth Wonder do if he couldn’t revamp ’70s soul? The standout track, the Arthur Verocai-sampling “We Got Now,” is buried at the end of the disc. And after two Stylistics and two Floaters interpolations—plus David Ruffin, Jerry Butler, Teddy Pendergrass, and Bobby Womack—you’re all souled out. Like a Robert Townsend movie, the production feels formulaic and overwhelmingly conventional on purpose. If it’s all part of the gag, they got us.

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