"If you were an alien that lived on another planet and you came here and watched BET, you would think that all black people got gold in their mouth," MC Phonte, one-third of the hip-hop trio Little Brother, quips via cell phone. "I ain't laughing. If all you knew about black people is what you see on network TV, then we up shit's creek, for real."
Little Brother's tour bus cruises through Washington state toward Seattle, where Phonte and Big Pooh will perform later that evening at the annual Bumbershoot festival. Their concept LP, The Minstrel Show a 17-track treatise featuring 9th Wonder's signature old-school R&B-laced production and Big Pooh and Phonte's good-natured lyrical escapades showcases four side-splitting satirical skits targeting the music industry's cast of caricatures.
"We basically compare the minstrel shows in the early 1900s to hip-hop acts today," MC Big Pooh explains. "The industry tells us that in order to be successful we have to talk about pimping, drug dealing and thugging. These personas have become the modern-day blackface."
The Minstrel Show tackles R&B too. "Cheatin'," a "heavy breathing/to the window/to the wall/skeet-skeetin" spoof on R. Kelly/Ron Isley infidelity dramas like "Contagious" and "Locked in the Closet," induces rolling-on-the-floor laughter. And "5th and Fashion," an equally hilarious '80s-pop jam, pokes fun at blacks' supposed obsession for designer duds. Affordable as T.J. Maxx, "5th and Fashion" is the place you should go when your boy "gets a stain on his left A-1" or your girl "drops down to get her eagle on and breaks a Manolo heel."
Phonte isn't completely condemning, however, when it comes to Nelly's controversial "Tip Drill" video (a skinfest a la 2 Live Crew's "Me So Horny"), which spawned much protest at Atlanta's Spelman College. "As a man, do I enjoy the 'Tip Drill' video? Fuck yeah," he laughs. "But I can see how a woman could get offended when you have a nigga swiping an ATM card between some ass cheeks. So I like to see young women of our generation who grew up on hip-hop speaking out against it. I really commend them for doing that, because we have to correct ourselves if we want any kind of change or balance in hip-hop. The change damn sure ain't gonna come from the folks running this industry. They don't give a damn about us."