Maturity and Hip-Hop go hand in hand like a hobo and an almond-shaped bar of Olay yet Phonte Coleman has made an earnest living from being that guy you revere as a professional artist–and turn around and get chummy with at your local pub. The past few years have been exciting for loyal disciples of the the former Little Brother’s congregation as he has walked the unbeaten path to musical lore with his rap and blues hybrid, the Grammy-nominated ensemble, The Foreign Exchange. Success breeds regularity but longtime fans will rejoice that their man is putting his mind where his mouth is to spit lessons by way of the rap sage with his meritorious first solo outing, Charity Starts at Home.
Phonte stays true to his distinguishable form, weighing in on practical topics such as striving to be a better role model (“Who Loves You More”) and keeping a spark in an otherwise good marriage (“Ball and Chain”). Copious platters of food for thought and duck soup aside, Charity Starts at Home is still an MC’s MC’s album, boosted by witty punchlines that don’t require an isolated pause and sturdy instrumentals with symphonic balance from prime players like Khrysis, Swiff D. and the official reunion with 9th Wonder.
Unsung blue-collar employees are awarded an anthem in “The Good Fight” with scribes like “$5 gas and poverty rates/are rising much higher than your hourly rate/so if you’re thinking about quitting, you should probably wait/Cuz everybody gotta do a fuckin’ job that they hate.” Over a synthesized melody that could double for the backdrop for a gondola ride, “Everything is Falling Down” features more battle-ready barbs: “Tay rock the spot like I’m half-leopard/then pray for your lames like I’m half-leper…Achoo at you niggas like I’m black pepper/with wine and some fava beans I’m half-Lecter/King…” The album’s jumpoff single, “Not Here Anymore,” merges the two rhyme angles with an enticing chorus, captivating beat from 9th Wonder and formidable guest spot from elZHi.
Using his acquired skills as an alternative artist to spice up the variance, a song like “Sendin’ My Love” makes for a welcome change, with its smooth orchestration and liquid harmony. Surprisingly it’s the more straightforward rap mergers that bring up the rear of the album. The laggard “The Life of Kings” featuring Evidence and Big K.R.I.T. and back-and-forth duet with Median, “Eternally,” come off as simple rhyme jousts and aren’t as ironed out as the tracks where Phonte is left to his own devices.
Phontigallo’s charitable proverbs won’t impeach the current crop of glitzy media magnets, but then again, that Maturity fellow was never meant to be the life of the party. With a project that’s complete as four walls and a double layered roof, Charity Starts at Home is worth its market value and then some.
Label: Foreign Exchange Music | Producers: Phonte, 9th Wonder, Khrysis, Swiff D, Fatin 10 Horton, Stro Elliott, S1, E. Jones, Zo!