Make no mistake about it: there would be no Drake, Kendrick Lamar, or J. Cole without Little Brother. The criminally under-appreciated North Carolina rap group released a trove of albums in the early aughts (including 2003’s The Listening and 2005’s The Minstrel Show) that — between Phonte and Big Pooh’s deft, witty lyricism and 9th Wonder’s soulful, mesmerizing beats — provided a welcome deviation from the booty-and-bling sounds dominating mainstream hip hop at the time. While the group never quite became a commercial force, they were fiercely beloved on indie-rap forums and college campuses, having an indelible impact on aspiring rappers — Drake and Cole’s earliest recordings basically sound like Little Brother cover albums. Like all good things, though, the group came to an end, announcing their breakup in 2010.
But now, seemingly out of nowhere, North Cackalacky’s finest MCs are back. Their new album May the Lord Watch — their first effort in nine years — dropped at midnight. On first listen, it’s most definitely a Little Brother album, albeit one for grown-ass men. Phonte and Pooh sound synergistically in their bag, trading intelligent, back-and-forth rhymes like they never split in the first place, but there’s a more introspective, sophisticated sheen to it all. While O.G. producer 9th Wonder didn’t partake, the beats still have that same warm, glistening, bouncy thump, courtesy of Khrysis, Nottz, Black Milk, Focus, and King Michael Coy. “Sitting Alone” is an instant anthem for anyone over 35 who hates every minute of going out and would very much rather be chilling at home in sweats. God bless these guys.
Stream the new album below.