Phonte, 1/3 of the NC group Little Brother and the frontman singer/producer of the Grammy nominate group The Foreign Exchange will be releasing his first solo project in stores tomorrow. I actually pre-ordered the album about 2 weeks ago and got an early copy last week along with a signed copy of the physical album as well. So I got the chance to get a full week to listen to the album and put together a short but sweet review for it. Enjoy.
When you are held as one of the best underground writers in the south, you know that you have high expectations on your head. Which is exactly what I expected from Phonte’s Charity Starts At Home The album opens with the fired up “Dance In the Reign” that proves to listeners Phonte can still do his thing amongst his peer by boasting that he can still cook on the mike. “I don’t need a Kingdom, I just want a home. You can have a seat, or you can have The Throne” has Te saying he doesnt need to have Jay x Ye “Throne” and proclaiming himself as an Underground King already. Friend Median and others also shine on this album but they surely do not steal the spotlight from Te.
The first leak from the album was the 9th produced record “Not Here Anymore” which features the LB affiliate and former Slum Village member Elzhi. Phonte sings front and background vocals on the record which happens a couple times on this LP and he does it very well. “Why rage against the machine when you could just unplug it?”, Te raps as he goes in over the drums in “Everything Is Falling Down” telling people that he took a new route rather than the occasional way of going about handling things in life.
I was really impressed by the “Boom-Bap” sound that him, Pooh and 9th are infamously known for, but this album isn’t just that, strings, chords and synths are also sprinkled throughout making it very colorful. With production from the Justice Leagues own Krysis, Swiff D, S1 and the producer I loved seeing on here, 9th Wonder it was no surprise what Te was aiming for. Coincidentally, 9th and Phonte’s respective projects both drop in stores the same day despite their previous problems with each other, this is really good for Hip-Hop.
Standout records like “Sending My Love” will having people thinking about how faithful people are in relationships with their significant other, leaving Tigallo to repeat to himself “Be Strong, Be REAL Strong Tigallo“. “Ball & Chain” is quite an unorthodox record, the bass-heavy record leads Te into a half singing, half rapping tune. As he sings about his lady he claims that she holds him down so much that he almost feels like a prisoner while with her. Te took on a feat with this album by mixing rap into R&B as which is showcased on the soulful ballad/interlude “To Be Yours” and then smoothly in the longtime LB collaborator Carlitta Durrand assisted “Gonna Be A Beautiful Night“. By now its more than obvious that the album is splint into two parts, the rapping Te and the love-song making Te. Not mad at either one.
“The Life Of Kings” is another standout cut produced by 9th. This is one of those records that HAD to make the final cut because of it’s features. Dilated Peoples member Evidence and the new King himself, Big K.R.I.T. shows off his lyricism as usual. I have to say my favorite record off of this project is the album closer “Who Loves You More” in which Te tells stories of cheating, being incarcerated and Life in general. The perfect way to end the album in my eyes, insightful and refreshing.
Listening back through the album it’s a very grown up Hip-Hop project. Phonte is a grown as man and it shows. If youre looking for raps about hoes, money and vactions in the Hamptons then this album is not for you. I’m blown away from start to finish, my only concern that it was a little bit too short. I enjoyed it nonetheless. Any fan of Little Brother wouldn’t agree or approve of their disbandment but their solo efforts are something to be proud of. Make sure you make it out to get all the releases tomorrow (J. Cole, Evidence, 9th Wonder) as well as this one.
“Always take care of Home, cause Home is where Charity Starts”