In this month’s issue of The Source, cover boy Drake dished out his top five albums of all time. One “album” that made the list was Little Brother’s …And Justus For All mixtape. This marks yet another time that Drake has shouted out Little Brother and his love for the group. However, for some reason, all of the cosigning hasn’t led to a single collaboration since Drake’s gotten put on even though Phonte threw Drizzy a verse at the beginning of the Canadian’s career.
HHDX: At Kanye’s recent listening party he mentioned that a certain artist from Little Brother was basically the one that pushed him to be that dude. Now you two have worked together in the past but he failed to mention you by name. First – How does it feel to know that you are Kanye’s inspiration and second – Why do you think he didn’t mention your name??
Phonte: Well, I’ve known I was Kanye’s inspiration since back in 2003 when we did a few shows together. He told me that he read my verse from ‘The Yo-Yo’ in the Source and got scared that we were gonna beat him to the punch. …As for him not mentioning me by name, I thought it was kinda bitchmade because he personally knows who I am. If you’re gonna give me props, give me my props. Otherwise it just comes across as a backhanded compliment: ‘Yeah, I’m a big fan of what’s-that-guy’s-name…’ That’s some ho shit, in my opinion.
As for the props themselves, that’s cool and all…but if you’re really a fan and Little Brother’s music inspires you so much, why not reach out to us to make some more music together? Why would you not wanna make history with the younger cats in the game who helped to create a lane for you? But we all know the answer to that question…”
For years, Little Brother has influenced the state of Hip-Hop while never getting placement on a major album. Yesterday morning, I posed a question as to why this happens and FWMJ and ?uestlove chimed in. ?uest nailed the gist of it all with one tweet:
“I’ve discussed this very thing w/ a member of rap illuminati. (concerning riq never getting asked for cameos) they said ‘its an unfortunate position, but no rapper can afford to get upstaged by a ‘nobody’ riq/lb= nobodies in above radar world.”
The fact is, Phonte poses a threat to Drake in the same way that Little Brother posed a threat to Kanye back in 2003. LB had the everyman approach mastered before College Dropout. Listen to “Speed” from The Listening and try to say it doesn’t cover the same ground as “Spaceships.” Putting Phonte and Pooh on a major Kanye release would have taken some wind out of Yeezy’s sail while showing the world that there was a group out there doing some of the same stuff that West was getting so much recognition for pulling off.
For Drake, putting Phonte on a song runs the risk of showing the world that there’s already a rapping, singing everyman that’s able to articulate the depths of human emotion in a way Drake’s been trying to for years. But there’s an even greater risk: what if Phonte murders Drizzy on his own shit?
Like ?uest said, you can’t get out-rapped on a track by a nobody. Heaven forbid a rapper you respect gets a bigger fanbase thanks to your shining a spotlight on him. It’s a shame because “unknown” rappers shining on a 16 out of nowhere has launched some of the greatest careers of our time. Think Busta Rhymes on “Scenario” or Tupac on “Same Song.” These were all verses where relative unknowns wrecked shop, outshining their partners and garnering interest from new fans. Hip-Hop was built on giving the new guy a shot. So, what happened?
I spent most of the day wondering where that cosign died and it hit me. I think Nas – whose career was ironically started by a show-stealing verse on “Live At The Barbecue” – killed it. And he did it with just half a bar.
“Eminem murdered you on your own shit…”
“Ether” featured a barrage of insults about everything from Jay’s mustache to his relationship with Dame. But one biting line that stuck out was the assertion that Eminem out-rapped Jay on “Renegade.” With one line, Nas unintentionally struck fear in every rapper’s heart about getting outperformed on wax. Before “Ether,” people didn’t use the fact that a 16 stole the show against the host MC. People didn’t penalize Raekwon for Nas’ “Verbal Intercourse” verse or the aforementioned Tribe about Busta spewing flames like a dungeon dragon. But as soon as “murdered on your own shit” became a part of the Hip-Hop vernacular, it all ended.
Unbeknownst to Nasir, he set off a chain reaction that made rappers too afraid to be the butt of future disses by having a guest do what Em did to Jay. Hell, if Jay-Z knew that Em’s verse would have been used against him, he probably would have made him record a new verse on neutral ground i.e. a Kanye or Just Blaze beat where Jay stood a chance at competing. Since “Ether,” rappers haven’t dared to get embarrassed by relative unknowns. Why else do you think Lil Wayne dropped Cory Gunz’s verse from the original “A Milli”? It’s just not cool to give new guys shine like that.
Now, Drake – and Young Money in general – runs the risk of having a black eye on Take Care if Phonte steals a song. People won’t just be satisfied with them putting together a good song. The debate will then turn to who killed who – a risk that Drake can’t afford.
So while Phonte and Pooh may never get the collaborations and big endorsements they deserve, the quality of their work will be unwavering. While most of the country will be listening to Take Care this holiday season, just know Drake will probably be bumping Charity Starts At Home and taking notes.