Longtime hip-hop fans woke up to a pleasant surprise this morning, as veteran North Carolina indie rap group Little Brother triumphantly returned to the spotlight with a new project. They released their first new album in nine years, May The Lord Watch, at midnight, signaling the end of their extended hiatus from the rap game after dissolving the group in 2010 after the release of their album, Leftback.
— Phonte (@phontigallo) August 20, 2019
The group is considered one of the most influential hip-hop groups of all time. Formed in the early 2000s at North Carolina Central University when members Phonte, Big Pooh, and 9th Wonder met as students, the group started out as a homage to the member groups of the 1990s Native Tongues collective — A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul especially — and would go on to help launch the careers of hip-hop superstars like Kanye West and Drake while remaining relatively underground themselves. 9th Wonder left the group after their 2005 major-label effort, The Minstrel Show, fell short of expectations, while Phonte and Pooh carried on as a duo for another two albums, but eventually parted ways, as well.
Rap fans mourned the group, who eventually reconciled as friends but staunchly refrained from announcing any new group projects for the next several years. They reunited last year at the Art Of Cool Festival as a last-minute replacement for another act that dropped out, but still remained coy on the subject of a comeback project. Therefore, May The Lord Watch arrives as somewhat of a surprise, picking up where the group left off in 2005 with The Minstrel Show‘s framing device of a television network broadcast (“You are watching UBN”) and filling the project with the same colorful cast of comedic characters that popped up in skits throughout their first two projects (RIP, Percy Miracles).
The new album contains songs like “Life After Blackface” — referencing the cover of The Minstrel Show — and “Right On Time,” addressing the various changes they’ve gone through musically and personally as they enter their 40s and come to terms with their elder statesmen role in hip-hop. It’s been a long time, so they’ve got plenty to say, all over beats produced by longtime collaborator Khrysis.
May The Lord Watch is out now via Imagine Nation Music / For Members Only / EMPIRE. Get it here.