While some rappers throw hissy fits when they fail to fill massive arenas, Big Pooh and Phonte, who, along with producer 9th Wonder, make up the North Carolina-based act Little Brother, seemed genuinely surprised that they were able to pack the Black Cat on Sunday night. "I saw the line around the block -- I didn't think it was our show!" Phonte exclaimed at one point.
But whether its own members recognize it or not, Little Brother draws a crowd because it has one of the most entertaining, energetic live shows in hip-hop right now.
The group -- which performed along with Kev Brown and artists from its own Justus League camp -- dances, jumps and occasionally sings, all while altering its album material to keep it fresh. "The Way You Do It," from 2003's "The Listening," for example, got a lift from a splicing with A Tribe Called Quest's "Electric Relaxation."
But it's Little Brother's willingness to forgo tough hip-hop posturing and get silly that sets it apart from its peers.
During "Slow It Down," a lovey-dovey track from Little Brother's latest CD, "The Minstrel Show," Phonte, singer Darien Brockington and rapper Joe Scudda performed Temptations-inspired synchronized dance steps as Pooh rhymed. Later on, Phonte morphed into his alter ego, '70s soul singer Percy Miracles, by donning a cornrow wig, dark glasses and shiny suit.
Phonte-as-Miracles clowned his way through the R&B parody "Cheatin' " and the boisterous "Make It Hot," and even though his wig fell off during the bit, he may be the only rapper ever to rock a room full of hip-hop heads while wearing a knockoff Rick James costume.
-- Sarah Godfrey