05 December 2006
Little Brother – The Minstrel Show (Atlantic/WEA)
While I have a pretty big rap collection, the depth of my actual appreciation extends, sadly, to ‘I know what I likes on my stereo’. I suppose there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it does mean that I am ignorant of the various subgenres of the scene.
For example, I wouldn’t know whether or not this is an example of the much-ballyhooed Conscious Rap. Again, it matters little, as this album is a good one.
Aesthetically, the lush mix and tendency for R’n’B hooks remind me somewhat of Connected (2004), by Foreign Exchange, though the romance of that album is replaced in large part by a keen sense of satire. I suppose the title was a dead giveaway (‘it’s the biggest coloured show on Earth!’, as they are wont to proclaim).
Humour runs through the course of the album, ostensibly a variety show, hosted by UBN, or ‘the U Black Niggaz network’. With the one real joke to the record, though, the constant references to UBN get a tad old as the album progresses. It’s no big deal, and skits in which a dad is concerned that the Minstrel Show is a bad influence on his son are inoffensive enough.
That’s not to say Little Brother totally eschews the love song. ‘Slow it Down’ is a fine example but, given the humour running through the album’s concept like it was Blackpool rock, it is hard to assume such songs are devoid of a tongue dwelling constantly in their respective cheeks.
Musically, the listener is mostly treated to the soft-edged, soul ballad kind of sound, as exemplified on ‘Lovin’ It’ (it never gets too soft, though, what with lines about ‘waking up, holding my dick’, as Joe Scudda so poignantly puts it).
While the sound and beats are nothing new, they are carried off with flair. There are seventeen tracks, but the album is done and dusted in well under an hour, and does not outstay its welcome. I’m sure there is a Michael Richards joke to be made here, but I’m too much of a Seinfeld fan to do that.