Rapper Big Pooh Talks His New Album, Little Brother’s Status & More
Last month, Rapper Big Pooh released one of the most spirited works of his extensive 20-year career. The North Carolina-based Virginia native MC delivered To Dream In Color. The 10-song album features some powerful commentary on the pursuit of dreams, the value of family support and the will to succeed. Blakk Soul, one of the artists Pooh works with on the management side, appears, as does BeMyFiasco and Jared Evan, among others.
In speaking with Ambrosia For Heads’ What’s The Headline podcast (embedded in video and audio below) for episode #91, Rapper Big Pooh discussed the album—which was sequence by his Little Brother band-mate Phonte. “The idea for the album was 2016; I actually started completely over,” he reveals at the 16:45 mark, confirming that those songs from six years ago remain in the vault. “I think starting over allowed me to approach the album in the proper way. Going back and listening to them songs, they’re good songs, but I think the time, the maturity, the distance allowed me a different perspective where I could actually see the lessons in them things I was goin’ through versus when it’s still fresh [and] you don’t understand the lesson to be learned from something.”
Pooh points to “LS400,” a pre-album single produced by D.R.U.G.S. Beats and The Mercenaries, that looks at dreams, materialism, and keeping appearances. “That was a song about confidence. When I made ‘1 Day In NY,’ that was a song about performance anxiety. So I started to understand more about what I was writing about versus just writing. I think that’s kind of what taking that time did for me. So I’m a better writer; I improve. From 2016 to 2021-2022, I’m a much better writer, so I was able to really write better songs because of that time that it took me from when I started the idea to when I actually decided to complete it.” Pooh credits life for making him a better songwriter. He also points to RPM, 2018 album with Aftermath Entertainment producer Focus… “Without that album, you don’t have the version of me that ended up on May The Lord Watch.” He refers to the 2019 Little Brother reunion with Phonte that AFH deemed among the best of that year. “I was in a rut. And what Focus… did to get me out of that rut—I don’t even know if he knew I was in a rut—but what he did to get me out of that rut was—he gave me different challenges on that album. What those challenges did was force me to approach songs differently than just sitting down, hearing the beat, and attacking it. Like, I had to think about the challenge.” Pooh illustrates that he wrote a song to a click-track instead of a beat. Pooh then credits late Roots manager Richard Nichols with some wisdom that was given to him through Phonte. “When Phonte was doing sessions with The Roots, Rich Nichols told him something about writing: ‘I like to see what an MC wrote because these are works of art; this is literature, and I like to read it. That lets me know if it’s really good or not, when I can read it.’ I really thought about that. That really resonated with me and hit home. That forced me to think about what I was doing as pieces of literature versus writing raps.”
Phonte and Pooh are preparing a documentary, which shares its name with the ’19 album, May The Lord Watch. A trailer (embedded at the end of this article) arrived less than six months ago, and the full-length is due in 2023. That teaser featured appearances from Pooh and Phonte, as well as footage from Drake, Doja Cat, Questlove, and others. Asked if estranged former member 9th Wonder will be appearing, Pooh says, “You’ll see,” with a chuckle. “I don’t want to give too much away. What I tell people—without saying too much—about the doc’ at this time: it’s gonna answer a lot of questions that people may have, but it’s not gonna get so deep in the weeds that somebody who’s just discovering Little Brother for the first time via the documentary would be lost.” The MC says the film will not be granular to songs. The arrival is expected to coincide with a 20th-anniversary for the group’s debut, The Listening. In the latest conversation, Pooh revisits how the passing of A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg reconnected him and his partner-in-rhyme.
The interview also examines Pooh’s courageous honesty in recent years, including revealing other jobs he’s worked while pursuing his Hip-Hop dreams. The artist discusses his hand in Lute’s career, as well as some deeper dives into the themes surrounding To Dream In Color.
The time codes for episode #91 of the What’s The Headline podcast (with hyperlinks to skip around):
1:00 Rapper Big Pooh joins the What’s The Headline podcast to discuss his album To Dream In Color
2:00 Rapper Big Pooh details the life lessons he learned from his grandmother
4:24 How becoming a rapper was by divine intervention for him
7:53 The origin story or Little Brother
9:25 Rapper Big Pooh’s advice to the next generation about how to survive in the music business
12:00 Why major record labels are all the same
15:00 On owning his own masters
16:45 Rapper Big Pooh discusses the making of To Dream In Color
18:30 How he became better at writing rhymes over the last six years
24:50 Rapper Big Pooh details how he and Phonte sequence albums
29:40 Which is more important between peace and prosperity
30:40 How the phrase “thoughts and prayers” has lost meaning
35:40 Rapper Big Pooh on working with Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar and Ab-Soul
40:43 What it means to man up and go for your dreams and to dream in color
42:00 How he manages Dreamville’s Lute and maintains his career at the same time
48:28 Rapper Big Pooh speaks about the movement Dreamville has built
50:55 A Little Brother documentary is coming in 2023 and it will answer questions
52:30 On whether the rift between Rapper Big Poor and Phonte with 9th Wonder can be repaired
53:45 How Rapper Big Pooh and Phonte resolved their differences
57:40 How Little Brother’s fate would have been different if they started now instead of in the ’00s
1:02:20 How his views have changed on material things
1:04:00 Rapper Big Pooh speaks about working other jobs to maintain his Rap career
1:13:00 The joys of the old school CD clubs like BMG and Columbia House
1:15:10 On the legacy of the Justus League
1:19:40 How pride and ego can tear you apart
1:21:40 Rapper Big Pooh gives words of advice to people thinking about quitting their dreams
AFH readers can catch regular discussions about the culture on our What’s The Headline. In addition to Big Pooh, the podcast also features interviews with Cormega, Meyhem Lauren & Daringer, Diamond D, Joell Ortiz, AZ, Blu & Mickey Factz, Kurupt, Evidence, Skyzoo, Pharoahe Monch, Prince Paul & Don Newkirk, Statik Selektah, Lyric Jones, The LOX, MC Eiht, Havoc, Duckwrth, photographer T. Eric Monroe, and Lord Finesse.
Press photos provided by The Elixir Media Group, LLC.
#BonusBeat: A trailer to Little Brother’s May The Lord Watch documentary: