Little Brother 

Get Back

From the beginning verse of Get Back, the third album from Durham, North Carolina's Little Brother and their first since being dropped from Atlantic Records and parting ways with longtime producer/third member 9th Wonder, it's clear the group has something to prove. Though rapper Big Pooh is generally written off as the lesser of Little Brother's two emcees, burdened here, he's mad as hell. He treats his verse and producer Illmind's sweaty, wah-wah bounce with a bullwhip: Most black folks live below the poverty line/And they wonder why the fuck we attracted to crime/Got niggas shootin' niggas at the drop of a dime/Babies in the street, dyin' before their time. Phonte matches him, explicating the story of their lost record deal in six concise lines, then launching a philippic against those who blame hip-hop for violence and ill will.

The best parts of Get Back sound a lot like this beginning — intense, impassioned, studied, and sort of irritated. On "That Ain't Love," Phonte and Pooh tell tales of the ungrateful and unfaithful with a gritty, betrayed menace. Along with Durham emcee Jozeemo, they end each verse with a mantra: I've been misconstrued, lied to and abused. They're like jazz soloists vamping from the same head. Little Brother is fighting self-doubt on every front — women, friends, making music, heritage. Essentially, as they recognize over the closing credits on the last track, they're glad to be able to say, We're still here.

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