5 questions with Big Pooh of the hip-hop duo Little Brother
Little Brother, otherwise known as the backpacky, North Carolina hip-hop duo Big Pooh and Phonte, has learned a lot since putting out a critically acclaimed debut, "The Listening," in 2002. There's been plenty of opportunity for education, with the two rappers releasing Little Brother albums, mix tapes, solo projects and collaborations. (Phonte released "Zo! & Tigallo Love the 80's" with Detroit native Lorenzo Ferguson in July. Big Pooh is currently working with Detroit producer Young RJ on his next solo record).
The biggest lesson? Give the people what they want if you want them to give you what you want -- whether that be more radio spins, more album purchases or more sellout shows.
"Everybody makes music. Now you've gotta do something besides make good music. You've gotta have something else to go with it," says Big Pooh, who is putting out four different versions of his upcoming solo mix tape, "Delightful Bars."
"Hopefully this entices people to go out and purchase more than one version not just because I want you to, but because it's different music on the other versions so you won't be disappointed."
Little Brother is currently the cherry on top of a tour that features David Banner and Talib Kweli, but the duo will be flying solo for a Saturday night show at St. Andrew's Hall. It may take some getting used to after living large with a sponsored tour with a full live band, but Big Pooh says Little Brother is up to the task.
QUESTION: What's the stage setup like on the Kweli/Banner tour?
ANSWER: It's just us two up there and the 10-piece band backing us. A couple people in the band do a little bit of singing, so they help us out with hooks and things. And we just go for it. We went out with a seven-piece band for the Scion tour (in 2007). This tour is sponsored by Flow TV and Dodge. They just like doing the live music and bringing that aspect to hip-hop acts. Not really a lot of hip-hop acts use a live band, so they just like trying that out -- and they did a tour last year with Ghostface Killah, Rakim and Brother Ali. This year, it turned into Talib Kweli, David Banner and Little Brother. They actually play their own set first, and then they play everyone else's set.
Q: Was it difficult arranging the songs for a live music situation?
A: Not really. We just sent them the tracks like a month ahead of time, and they just went through them. We had one day of rehearsals before the first show and they pretty much had everything nailed as best they could. Just a few minor changes here and there. They arranged it how they could arrange it for a band to be playing it pretty good.
Q: You rereleased your "And Justus For All" mix tape in June. Why?
A: Basically, just a lot of people aren't really big on the mix tape culture. They just want songs, flat-out songs, and they don't appreciate the DJ aspect of it, you know what I'm saying? So what we did was we took the mix tape and took out the DJ drops and all the bring-it-backs and scratches and all and just put the songs up. And what we did since we were putting it back out, a lot of people had the songs so we added some new material to it to sweeten it up a little bit.
Q: Has the music industry changed from when you started or from what you thought it would be before you started putting out records?
A: Oh, most definitely. It's much different from what we knew it was when we first started. It changes dramatically every year. You never know what's going to be the new trend, what's going to be the new way of marketing something. You just have to stay ahead of the curve and just try to figure it out. And that's what we've been trying to do. You basically have to make people a fan of you and not just your music. Because music essentially is free. You can get music for free if you really want to. So you have to provide them with something else to please them aesthetically, whether it's coming to a live show, some type of merchandise you may have that's exclusive, or whatever. You just have to give them something other than music. The days of just having dope music and that's that -- those days are long gone.
Q: Does that depress you at all -- that it's not just about the music?
A: Not at all. I find it exciting to come up with different ways to try to present myself to people. It's a challenge. And the Internet allowed an equal playing field for a while for artists that weren't getting the exposure that a lot of mainstream artists were getting. It didn't equal it out, but it allowed other artists to gain and catch up in a lot of aspects. So it's not disappointing to me at all. I just find a challenge in trying to find new and exciting ways to present myself and my music to the people.