Little Brother performing (midnight, Brigantine Room) as part of BEats, Breaks and Culture with Adam Marshall , Fertile Ground , Buscemi , DJ Serious and Mono with Greg Gow, Caspian Rabone & arThur Oskan at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West), Saturday (July 10). Free. 416-973-4000.
And DJ 9th Wonder spinning as part of Expansions with Nick Holder , Dj Serious , p-plus and dee Jay nav at Roxy Blu (12 Brant), Friday (July 9). $10 advance, more at the door. 416-586-0380. email@example.com
Even before 9th Wonder became the hot "new producer" of the moment by hooking up Jay-Z with some bomb beats for the Black Album, he'd already changed the game with God's Stepson, a brilliant reconstructive salvaging of the worst Nas album, God's Son. So it's understandable why some people would assume that 9th Wonder - building on the old-school beat-chopping tradition of Pete Rock and DJ Premier - is the star of the Little Brother show. Even though 9th Wonder's jazzy grooves set the Native Tongues tone for Little Brother's impressive debut disc, The Listening (ABB), he's just one-third of the stacked North Carolina crew fronted by rhyme ripper Big Pooh and versatile MC Phonte Coleman.
Actually, judging by Coleman's stellar vocal contribution to an overlooked Busy Signals track, Autopilot - which former Babes in Toyland roadie Howard W. Hamilton III slapped together on an iBook for 2002's Pure Energy (Sugar Free) album - the MC could have an lucrative career as an R&B crooner.
"Oh my god, you heard that?" roars Coleman from his Durham home. "I just loved that lo-fi poppy stuff Howard was doing on his first album, so on a whim I e-mailed him, like, -Yo, Howard, I think your shit is dope. Let me know if you want to work with an MC.' He hit me back right away and we just started working from there.
"When Howard sent me the beat for Autopilot, I started with an idea for a parody of a boy-band joint like 'NSYNC might do and I just rapped on it. I had some fun doing that, but most people don't know about it."
The former English major at North Carolina Central University also came up with the hilarious deep South hiphop send-up Whoadies On Fire, on Phonte and Eccentric's The Story Of U.S. (RLR&T), which could easily pass for a mid-90s Cash Money joint.
"I do like some of the crunk stuff coming out and I understand that it has its place. I wasn't dissin' nobody, I was just having some fun. Cats take this stuff way too seriously. I'm just putting some fun back into hiphop."
Coleman strikes a more serious note with his next venture, The Foreign Exchange, involving Dutch deck-wrecker DJ Nicolay, who produced the Little Brother joint Light It Up for the b-side of their Whatever You Say (ABB) single, plus various rappers and vocalists connected with Little Brother's Justus League posse.
Evidently, a shared interest in hiphop was just the jumping-off point for the ambitious Connected album, due from BBE August 24.
"It really is a true collaboration. I wrote the songs and did some of the rapping and singing over Nicolay's production, which is just beautiful. It's still got that hiphop boom-bap, but there's a lot of atmosphere and other things going on beneath the surface. It's like the score to a movie I wish I'd written. Actually, we're already talking about having some tracks used in films."
As busy as Coleman's been, he still found the time to get with his Little Brother cohorts to finish 10 tracks for their forthcoming Atlantic debut, provocatively titled The Minstrel Show.
"The album is our commentary on the state of hiphop today. The thinking was that if it's about talking bullshit to our kids and pumping negative images, then let's go all out and make it a real minstrel show.
"We're making a statement that it's time to grow up and be men. This is a wake-up call. Let's cut out the bullshit and start making some real music. It's going to be an adult album."
The question is, what happens if Time-Warner decides that an indictment of the very profitable hiphop game called The Minstrel Show is a little too adult to release?
"No record label could ever shelve my shit," shouts Coleman defiantly. "And that goes for ABB, Atlantic or whoever. It might be on their shelf but it ain't gonna stay on mine. If I made it, that shit's coming out!"