It’s never easy standing up for anything. Just look at the debacle Talib Kweli has tangled himself in just for recording a song with Gucci Mane. It seems that rappers get labeled as “conscious” depending on what they are against more so than what they are for. In our conversation with Phonte of Little Brother we asked him to reminisce about one of his earlier verses from Little Brother’s “The Yo-Yo.” The verse from their debut The Listening earned him a Hip-Hop Quotable in The Source magazine and shed light on the hypocrisy of rappers who claim to be “positive” and “righteous” while “at the end of the night you still trying to f*ck like me…”
For that reason Te has resisted being labeled a “conscious” rapper despite having album titles like The Minstrel Show.
“Just because I don’t rap about guns or pimpin’ doesn’t necessarily make me a better choice for your children to listen to,” says Te who has some verses that would make Trina and Plies blush. “That’s why the whole conscious rap thing we just kind of wanted to keep ourselves out of it. It didn’t represent the full scope of who we were.”
It’s a subject I broached with dead prez some time ago. If you choose to speak out against one wrong in your music, like racism, does that mean you must walk the line and never do music about sex or drinking?
“Obviously people have more of an assumption and expectation from dead prez than from someone they don’t know,” M-1 told TheUrbandaily. “I’m sure it happens with other celebrities–not to say I’m a celebrity. But people do have a preconceived notion of where I should be and how I should act. I love breaking those stereotypes all the time.”
So Little Brother kept it “real” in the literal sense. Their rhymes centered on everyday life issues like relationships, broken homes and what to do after blowing your paycheck on a Friday night. However, with his group Little Brother deciding to disband Phonte had to admit that their blue-collar “everyman” ethos didn’t appeal to a generation that is popping bottles to “Maybach Music.” But why? Watch the clip for his explanation.
“We got the respect but we didn’t get the love…” – Phonte Coleman