Iconic North Carolina rap duo Little Brother returned last month with their first new work in four years in the form of “Wish Me Well/Glory Glory.” The duo of Phonte and Big Pooh cue up sterling soul beats from Deonis Cook and Conductor Williams, offering up stellar rhymes built around philosophical inquiries and dazzling one liners in equal measure.
Rapping is generally a young person’s game, but Phonte and Pooh are sharper than ever on the mini-EP, which is part of the reason why Little Brother came out of semi-hiatus in the first place. In a statement, Phonte explained, “We wanted to bless our fans with new music to show them we’re not leaning on nostalgia. After 20 years in the game, we’re still hungry and actively working to improve our craft.” While the duo lean into the signature beats and heady lyrics that have made them one of rap’s most celebrated groups for two decades, the search for growth and improvement remains paramount. Added Big Pooh, “We hear and see the requests for new music. We felt it was time. Time to show our minds are still sharp and we’re only getting sharper.”
While the double a-side of “Wish Me Well” and “Glory Glory” may not reach the peaks they hit when the group was a trio alongside producer 9th Wonder, the two beats Little Brother selected from Cook and Conductor do more than a serviceable job. “Wish Me Well” kicks off with a warped vocal chop and a funk-inspired bassline that highlight the drum’s splashing cymbals and snapping snare hits.
Phonte kicks things off, immediately littering the track with a number of clever references, asides, and cultural nods. He spits, “Wish me well or call me Ishmael/ Croquettes and grits, n***a, this is that fish scale/ This is that dispelled rumor that we not active/ My man said, ‘Te, come and get your plaque.” Ten seconds in and we already have allusions to Moby Dick, Ghostface Killah, and the lore of Little Brother. Pooh takes things a step further, interesting the duo into Christian theology, rapping “Two sets of footprints laid out at the beach.” When I get to heaven let’s pray I’m blessed with bars from Phonte and Pooh.
“Glory Glory” is equally worthy of study, with the duo once again choosing to spit over a wickedly blunted soul beat conjured up by the Griselda affiliate. Pooh gets things going on track two, spitting, “Glory glory, standing on the shoulders of giants/ Robert Horry, a bit of history/ Bitter n****s bore me, all praises due/ I was rocking to Kane, my brother rocked ’caine too.” It’s been awhile since we’ve heard a Big Shot Bob reference, but leave it to Little Brother to keep early 2000s NBA role players in the cultural zeitgeist.
Everything Little Brother touches stays fresh, and here’s hoping these two new joints are only an appetizer and not dessert.