Little Brother Has 1990s Roots. Revisit The First Phonte & 9th Wonder Recording (Audio)

Last month, Little Brother’s sophomore studio album, The Minstrel Show celebrated its 10th anniversary. While the game-changing Durham, North Carolina Hip-Hop trio is not currently touring or recording as a unit, Phonte, 9th Wonder, Rapper Big Pooh, and other former Justus League affiliates all reflected to Watch Loud on the benchmark Atlantic Records album, which many believe is L.B.’s best.

Together in solidarity, spirit, or in the studio, Little Brother’s impact upon Hip-Hop permeates the musical landscape in 2015. As all three members continue to make great, well-received music on a regular basis, it seems appropriate to revisit the humble beginnings of the group that formed in 1998 at North Carolina Central University.

As a group of Hip-Hop-obsessed-undergrads, Little Brother was still figuring itself out. In 1999, Phonte and 9th allegedly dabbled as a duo, reportedly known as “G.I.M.M.E.” The name and the personnel would not last (with Pooh’s involvement increasing), but the first song (confirmed by 9th Wonder), “Paper Lines” would make its way to the worldwide web over time.

With a Mobb Deep accapella verse serving as the thread of the chorus, this song about the state of Hip-Hop is something both 9th and ‘Tay can be proud of, many years later. With a clear influence by MCs like Common, Black Star, and Masta Ace, this song—16 years ago—observed “nowadays, it seems like we’ve got more rappers than fans.” Before MySpace, Twitter, and Soundcloud, the would-be Little Brother founders saw something profound in the space. They decried Britney Spears MC collaborators, copycat movements, and weak art. This commentary is piercing, honest, but does not take itself overly seriously—a quality that would stay with Little Brother and these artists to come.

This low-profile moment could have fit nicely on any Soundbombing compilation, but would help galvanize the group who would eventually ink with Rawkus rival ABB Records, where they’d kick things off on an amazing note, The Listening.

Would you purchase an album of pre-Listening recordings by Phonte, 9th Wonder, and Rapper Big Pooh?

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Related: 9th Wonder discusses reuniting with Phonte (2012 Video)