Little Brother not tagging along with Southern hip-hop

Does hip-hop duo Little Brother have what it takes to bring the Dirty South back to its roots?

Megan Kadrmas

The fruits of southern hip-hop sounds spoiled long ago, when crunk first hit the radio waves and slowly rotted into the generic, sure-hit version of hip-hop duplicated over and over again today. Little Brother, made up of North Carolina rappers Big Pooh and Phonte, may just be the reminder the Dirty South needs that real hip-hop still lives below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Little Brother’s third album, “Get Back,” is a departure from their older projects but still manages to bring a breath of fresh air to southern hip-hop music.

Best of all, “Get Back” has no hint of the watered-down version of crunk overplayed on the radio these days.

The lyrics are deeper and more meaningful than quips about crime, money and hos. Musically, there is nothing that will gain mainstream attention. Based on the current state of commercially-successful hip-hop, that’s a compliment.

The album’s first single, “Good Clothes,” is a light-hearted track about, well, dressing nice. But instead of talking about how much this chain cost or how these shoes were only worn once, Little Brother keeps it really real.

“At the time I was bigger than the rest of my peers/ As we got on the floor it was embarrassing, trust me/ The saleswoman walked me straight over to ‘husky.’ ” Big Pooh spits.

The honest, un-flashy approach Little Brother takes on this track and the rest of “Get Back” is one of the main reasons they simply cannot be lumped in with the rest of the southern hip-hop genre.

“Get Back” is the follow-up to LB’s disappointing major-label debut, “The Minstrel Show,” which dropped without much notice in 2005. After that disappointment, Big Pooh and Phonte decided it was time to clean house.

First, they dropped their neglectful major label, Atlantic, in favor of a smaller, more hands-on one.

Second, and arguably more controversially, the group announced that their most prominent member, producer 9th Wonder, would not be a central player on “Get Back.” Wonder has worked with artists like Jay Z, De La Soul and Mary J. Blige.

Both sides of the split say it was amicable, and 9th Wonder even produces “Breakin My Heart” on the album. The song, featuring Lil’ Wayne, showcases some of his trademark sounds, like an introductory skit to the track, which opens “Breakin My Heart.” Then, the beat kicks in, it’s shuffling boom-clap-clap, bass laden beat taking center stage.

“Get Back,” all things considered, is like a musical journey back to the group’s roots. They dropped their major label and changed their line-up, but still maintained their unique sound.

Little Brother gives those outside of the underground southern hip-hop scene a taste of what really is going on down thurrr. A refreshing, hopeful taste that maybe, with the help of groups like LB, the dirty South can get back to its musical roots and revive its utterly played-out commercial sound.