Little Brother: The Listening (2003). They Called Next... (feat. Chris "Kinetik" Mitchell)

1h 2m | Feb 27, 2023

B. Cox is joined by Chris Mitchell (Kinetik) of the Breaking Atoms Podcast to review Little Brother's classic debut studio album The Listening as it turns 20. The group, which was formerly made up of the trio of emcees Phonte and Big Pooh and producer 9th Wonder, met as students on the campus of North Carolina Central University. They bonded over their shared love and passion of hip-hop and formed a collective with other North Carolina college students who were hip-hop artists and producers which would become known as the Justus League.

Pooling together their resources and creativity, the trio started recording their debut album. After working their local hip-hop scene and the college radio circle in their home state of North Carolina, the group signed its record deal with ABB Records and gained a sizable fanbase, following and a community online though forums such as their own Justus League The LAWN, OkayPlayer and other hip-hop sites. Boosting the groups popularity was the skills and creativity Phonte and Pooh and the soulful sample based production of 9th Wonder that drew comparisons in tenor and tone to predecessors such as groups from the collectives the Native Tongues and Soulquarians. Over 65 minutes and utilizing a concept used frequently in hip-hop, the album is presented through the lens of a radio station broadcast schedule, WJLR, presenting all of the tropes of terrestrial radio complete with skits and fictional disc jockeys which accompanied the album's tracks.

While the album had no major singles or sales numbers to report, its legend has been boosted by their niche, but loyal fanbase that has followed them since the beginning. The album has been deemed an underground and indie hip-hop classic and the launching pad of a group that has had a successful, yet complicated two decades in the industry.

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Show Notes

Passion Weiss: The Oral History of The Lawn (by Chris "Kinetik" Mitchell)

Albumism: Little Brother's Debut Album "The Listening" Turns 20 | Album Anniversary

Pitchfork: Little Brother "The Listening" Review

GQ: Little Brother Looks Back On 20 Years Of "The Listening"

HipHopDX: Little Brother on 'The Listening' at 20 & Marauding For Ears

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