I got married in June 2011. Phonte’s Charity Starts At Home came out in September 2011. That should be all you need to know about part five of My Life According To Phonte.
But I’ll elaborate.
Thanks to the events that transpired in Part 4, I wasn’t too excited about Phonte’s solo album. Also, as a Little Brother fan, I just wasn’t prepared to listen to a project without Tay and Pooh working together. But I eventually couldn’t resist and listened to CSAH as soon as I could.
It only took a couple of listens before it became one of the most important albums of my life. As you saw in past installments, Phonte always had a long-distance big brother advice-giving role in my life, even though he, for the most part, didn’t know who the hell I was. CSAH was no different. Listening to the album was like calling up someone who’d been married and getting all the advice I could get.
Though I’d gone through counseling and we’d done all the pre-marriage stuff, deciding to live your whole life with someone is a mother*cker. And, maybe I’m peculiar in this sense, but it’s hard to ask for marriage advice, especially early in the game. Maybe it’s personal pride that kept me from telling people how much of an adjustment marriage (and being a step-father) was early on, but I kept to myself and tried to figure it all out on my own during what is probably the most difficult time in a matrimony.
Thank God Phonte was there. I’d go to the gym every day (this was before Bibz was born, obviously) and listen to Phonte drop gems. The best part about the album was that I was able to hear some of the peaks and valleys and bad decisions that end or sustain marriages before I hit those points. For instance, every single time I take one of those “I need a drink” nights by myself, I think about “Sending My Love” and how those angry outings can lead to danger. How the penchant to say “f*ck it” can lead someone to justify–then fight–the urges caused by a shot of hurt with an alcoholic chaser. Then there’s “Ball and Chain,” which I keep in mind when trying to maintain independence and hold on to the “crown.”
I don’t know if CSAH connected with all of Phonte’s fan base because I was too in my own mind when it dropped to care. But the album is probably one of the definitive “grown man” albums to date. While people like Jay Z and his peers are trying to redefine themselves in a genre built on young men, Phonte made a rap album for grown-ups. He made an album for married men with bills and kids. And even though at times Phonte seemed to really enjoy his freedom from marriage, there’s always an underlying fondness for the act of matrimony that peeks out almost in spite of itself.
I guess you know the reason why I put you in this song
Because you are my melody, I mean my inner song
A sunray of light that let’s me know the winter’s gone
Ain’t no anger when I’m tangled in your hair girl
Skip the bojangling, just be my Lena Home
It’s so good to have you back where you belong
Right here, in my arms
You know what I’m sayin’
For a newly married man, CSAH was a guide to married life that didn’t pull any punches. It reminded me that the honeymoon period would end and the real sh*t would start pouring in. The album also had an inner positivity to it that reminded me that on the other side of every challenge would be the partnership I signed up for in the beginning, no matter how many ebbs and flows we endure.
One of these days, a rapper will top the charts with an album about marriage and adulthood. He’ll get credited with ushering a grown man era in Hip-Hop. That honor will be misguided. Phonte took the genre to new frontiers by setting the blueprint for what Adult Contemporary Rap can and should be. The next wave for Hip-Hop as we get older will start at the most obvious place: home.