Big Pooh, of hip-hop duo Little Brother, spoke over the phone with hip-hop authority and Williamstown media darling Ethan Timmins-Schiffman ’10 in anticipation of Little Brother’s upcoming show in Paresky’s Baxter Hall. Phonte, the other half of Little Brother, was absent from the interview in voice, but there in spirit. Big Pooh put in his two cents on the state of hip-hop today, the ever-changing music industry and the origin of his group’s name.
A lot of people aren’t up on hip-hop like I think they should be, and don’t know much about Little Brother. For those people, could you explain the name of your group?
It was the name we chose because if you just look at it on a piece of paper or on a billboard it resonates, or sparks curiosity. It follows our ideology that groups such as EPMD, Geto Boys and NWA . . . are the big brothers [to us].
I typed “Little Brother” in Google and saw a quote from Questlove of The Roots, in which he praises “Get Back.” What’s it like having people like Questlove, your proverbial big brothers, praise your music?
It’s cool, it’s flattering. It’s the ultimate compliment.
What do you know about Williams College?
I know nothing about Williams College! I’m gonna Google it before the show. I get my Google on, too.
How has being from Durham, N.C., affected your music?
I think it just influences it; it’s part of our everyday life . . . Maybe it’s in the way we carry ourselves, maybe the slang we use, some of the topics, views and angles we touch upon â€“ all of that comes from the culture of living in Durham.
A lot of people these days are mad disillusioned with hip-hop. Why do you feel that is?
People are just tired of hearing a lot of bulls–t in the music. There was a time when there was a nice balance, you were getting told many different sides of urban life. It’s just that now you are getting hit over the head with people in the club, balling, being a drug kingpin. You get tired of that. It’s like getting fed M&M’s everyday: if all you eat is M&M’s, you’re gonna get tired of eating f—ing M&M’s! They’re not getting that variety.
Lil’ Wayne, who is featured on your recent album, is definitely considered a mainstream rapper, while people often describe Little Brother as underground or being in the “backpacking rap genre.” What do you think about that distinction?
I just believe in good music. It don’t matter if an artist did a commercial, or an artist is underground or doing b-boy rap. That don’t mean s–t to me at the end of the day. If I respect you as an artist, I’ll work with you. That’s where a lot of people get it f—ed up; they put us in a box, but that’s a box we didn’t put ourselves in. Some people say [wondering about the collaboration with Lil’ Wayne], “How could ya’ll do that?” Because I respect his music, I respect him as an artist.
So what rapper or group currently on the come-up should hip-hop fans look out for?
Vandalism out of St. Louis, he’s a real talented guy . . . Jozee Mo, from Durham, N.C.
What do you think about artists letting people download their music for free?
The record is an outdated business model. CDs are extinct. The thing artists should be concerned with now is not necessarily cashing in, but getting your music out because people can get your music for free if they want it. It’s about getting a fan to support you by coming to a show, buying a t-shirt . . . it’s an ad for artists in action.
Radiohead put their record out, let the fans decide how much to pay, and they still made almost 2 million dollars in the first week . . . there were fans who appreciated the music and still paid 10 bucks for it because they appreciate the music and respect the hustle. They still had a good showing â€“ it just speaks to the power of the music.
You and Phonte met in college, right? How did that go down â€“ did you guys just click right away?
We met though a mutual friend, we just hit it off right away. You meet some of your friends for life in school, it just so happened that I went to school and met some people that are like brothers to me.
What do you most appreciate about the fame that your music has brought you?
Just hearing people’s stories about how my music may have touched someone, how they’re going through what I described in one of my songs . . . It’s times like that, [which] make me proud to do the type of music I do.