Two people made me want to do what I do for a living now. Their names are John Gotty and Phonte.
I came back from Ghana a totally different person than I was before I left. Being there really refocused my energy into trying to speak my mind and have people hear what I have to say. I’d just never really known how to do it. Magazines and newspapers seemed too stuffy and I wasn’t good enough to write a book.
That’s right around the time I stumbled upon The Smoking Section and was blown away. The tone, poignancy and subject matter was everything I wanted to accomplish. And that’s also how I made my way to Phonte’s MySpace blog. It was and still stands as one of the most entertaining reads on the Internet. From his stories about porn to his defense of Michael Jackson, his commentary was perfect. If Phonte’s rap style birthed a generation of rappers who won’t give him credit he deserves, his writing gave birth to my writing style and I’m not scared to say it. If you read my early writing (you probably shouldn’t), you’ll see direct ways I tried to imitate his comedy and the way he got his points across.
This was all during the time that Phonte was really spreading his wings and becoming a renaissance man of the Internet. He was one of the first people to maximize the Internet with podcasts, blogs, music and YouTube videos. And really, I still aspire to run the net like Phonte did in 2007. He really set the blueprint for it.
I really think that if you look at the way rappers (and media personalities in general) are trying to maximize their name brands on the Internet, you could trace the line back to the way Phonte spread himself across the worldwide web.
2007 was also the year Little Brother dropped Getback, another album that came out at the perfect time for yours truly. The album played like a note telling me life’s party is over and it’s time to get serious…exactly what a senior in college needs to hear.
Just listen to “Life of the Party” and it’s metaphor of standing in the parking lot waiting for the next come up instead of getting back home to handle business. The album even helped me transition to grown-up dating. “These hoes ain’t impressed with Applebee’s no mo'” messed me up since that was me and my boo thang’s go-to dating spot for fine dining. #college
Getback remains one of the most entertaining albums ever largely due to Phonte’s charisma. His adlibs were hilarious and try not to lose it when he harmonizes “take yo coat off, n*ggaaass.” But the album’s gem comes with “Dreams.” The urgency of Phonte’s verse puts a battery in any would-be hustler’s back.
“So please, miss me with that conscious shit
I spent many a sleepless night because of it
Until I had to shake that shit off and reach the conclusion
That every now and then you gotta ask yourself
Do you really wanna win or just look good losin?
It’s no illusion, yes yes”
Getback, to me, is right behind The Minstrel Show. While GB is more consistent, I’m partial to TMS’ imperfections and the chances the group took. But really, Getback only had one flaw. And it left your boy blue like a Texas Ranger. But more importantly, Little Brother reached that perfect medium of being for the everyman while shedding anyone’s ability to call them pretentious.
I’m forever indebted to Phonte for what he did for the culture and my own career in 2007. But as my life entered its most tumultuous time in 2008 and 2009, my relationship with Phonte’s music would be as strained as ever.