“How many hip-hop groups can survive 20 years? Even for those who survive, how many are alive and able to tell that tale?” That’s what Phonte told me in February.
May the Lord Watch: The Little Brother Story is a quality documentary because it doesn’t leave one stone unturned: the backstory of how Phonte, Big Pooh, and 9th Wonder met; the negative response to the group’s sophomore album, The Minstrel Show; being dropped from Atlantic Records; Big Pooh and Phonte’s disagreements on signing to a label; their fallout with 9th Wonder; the group breaking up and then getting back together without 9th Wonder; and much more. It’s all there.
To be honest, I’m normally weary of documentaries where the subject of the film is also directly involved with its creation. It often feels inorganic, inauthentic, and forced. But in the case of this doc, directed by Holland Randolph Gallagher, LB keeps things natural. It pleasantly feels like a Little Brother album in the best way possible with entertaining animations, hilarious cuts, and insightful backstories.
It’s what hip-hop fans have come to love about the group.
What I appreciate the most about the film is its central figures’ willingness to be open. Like when Big Pooh discussed his relationship with 9th Wonder and stated, “I don’t think 9th (Wonder) respected me as a peer. To hear certain things from me felt disrespectful to him.”
Similarly, when recalling a disagreement he had with Wonder, Phonte boldly stated the feelings he had at the time, saying, “That ain’t the high road, that’s the bitch road.”
I mean, those are harsh words for one of the most respected and impactful producers of the last 25 years, who did not share Phonte and Pooh’s enthusiasm for the documentary, as he turned down all opportunities to be a part of it. But don’t worry, Phonte and Big Pooh had harsh words for each other as well. They each speak about how their relationship deteriorated following the release of their fourth studio album, Leftback. Like did you know that Phonte did not even hit Big Pooh up after he had a near-death experience? That’s some messed up stuff.
It was also just as fascinating for them both to discuss how they had to re-educate themselves about each other after they reconnected. It’s another important reminder that the artists we revere and love are human beings who go through the same emotions and experiences we do, especially the members of Little Brother, who never tried to portray a caricature of what they thought a hip-hop artist was supposed to look or act like. Remember, these are the same guys who allegedly had their music banned from BET because it was deemed too “intelligent.” They don’t care how they are perceived by the mainstream hip-hop community.
This is what makes May the Lord Watch: The Little Brother Story such an enjoyable watch.
As a fan who tries to spread as much knowledge and insight about underground hip-hop, this is a good starting point for listeners who haven’t dipped their toes in backpack rap. Learn about the forefathers of underground hip-hop in the South and how they changed the game for the better.
The full documentary will be available on Friday, Nov. 24 at 8 p.m. on the group’s YouTube channel.