As I'm sure most of you already know, Rapper Big Pooh comprises half of the duo of Little Brother. However, he rarely gets his due as, for some reason, most people seem to prefer the duo's other half, Phonte. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that Phonte is much more vocal and gets his face out there much more than Pooh, but if you're going to tell me it's because 'Te is simply superior on the mic, I will spit in your face (okay; not really, but I will argue with you to the death about it).
Unlike Phonte, though, Big Pooh is the only Little Brother member to put out solo albums. 'Te did form a group called "The Foreign Exchange" with producer Nicolay and has put out three albums with him, but two of the projects are R&B records. Not that there's anything wrong with R&B, but, as good of a voice as 'Te has, I know him as a rapper; not a singer.
Anyway, going back to the original point, Pooh's debut album, appropriately named Sleepers for reasons mentioned above, is an absolute classic. Yes; I said classic. I have always considered him to be the stronger of the two Little Brother members, and he displays that on this project, which I will be reviewing now.
1. I Don't Care
Actually, I didn't care too much for the album's opener, which I think is certainly the worst track on Sleepers. The reason being is that Khrysis' production is pretty blah (but believe me; he makes up for this one throughout the remainder of the project). Pooh does drop some solid lines, though: "Right now what we have is a world premier, new and exclusive shit, so sincere, be prepared, I'm nice wit this mic device, other niggas do joints and it don't suffice."
2. The Strongest Man
9th Wonder produces a sick, feel-good cut here which became the album's first single. Pooh flows marvelously over this, spitting: "When your boy Rapper's here, ain't no need to fret, don't worry 'bout givin' cause I'm takin' respect."
3. Heart Of The City
The second 9th beat on Sleepers is another winner, as the Grammy award-winning producer lays down a great soulful beat for Big Pooh, who phenomenally paints a picture about the struggles of inner-city life. This is one of those cuts that you really have to listen to to fully appreciate. One of the best records on the album; no doubt.
4. Every Block
This time, 9th Wonder doesn't really drop some heat. The beat here, although sort of a head-nodder, is pretty ordinary and doesn't really move me. Pooh's buddy Phonte drops by to put down a guest verse, but it's Big Pooh who comes up with the better rhymes of the two: "Still stepping with a passionate cause, but the block reveals all of your flaws hoping you give in, shifting, more swift than the panic, older brain with the pen feeling so diplomatic."
5. Just Friends
Khrysis is back here, and he kills this, laying down a sick bassline (the kicks are ill) over a booming sample. On the cut, Big Pooh talks about being friends with benefits, rapping: "I just wanna be your friend with privileges, not talkin' on' the phone all night about, where I was or who unless we went out, don't fuss and pout, 'cause you know how I do, always chill with the crew but make time for you." Really like this song.
6. Live Life
Oh man. Khrysis does it again, producing the most soulful beat imaginable. O-Dash and Spectac drop guest verses here, and they both, along with Rapper Big Pooh, rip this. O-Dash and Spectac rap about the ins and outs of life while Pooh talks about his damaged relationship with his brother, sort of like he did on "Away From Me" off of The Listening. One of the best cuts on Sleepers.
7. My Mind
I'm not too in love with this Khrysis beat, as it simply pales in comparison to most of the rest of his work on this project. That said, the lyrical content here by Pooh definitely hits you. At first, it appears that he is talking about a girl whom he let "get away," as he raps: "Some nights I can't stand to sleep, 'cause I'm thinkin' 'bout them times that I played you cheap, like you gon' be here tomorrow, I don't need to speak, peep on, it be aight, I'll check 'em out next week." Then, at the end of his verse, it seems like he was really talking about a family member (his brother? his father?), as he spits: "When I did get the call I found it hard to cry, kept on bout my daily routine, contemplatin' on 'Should I go? Should I stay? What would it mean?' That we weren't as close as it appear to be, even though he carry the same name as me, wishin' I could go back and change history, but I can't so I'll dream on, for a better us." Deep record no matter what.
This is probably my favorite track off of Sleepers, although the album is so sick that it's hard to truly decide. Anyway, the beat here by 9th is just ill, and Big Pooh, just as he always does, kills it: "You better think twice when you fight 'cause you playing with a life, and some niggas get trife when you playing with their life, and they go for their knife or they bust at you twice, or they take it to your crib and put a couple in your wife, or your kids or whomever, whenever they can get it." Pooh's fellow Justus Leaguers Median and Joe Scudda stop by to lay down verses, and they both do their thing, as well.
9. Between The Lines
Nicely done again, 9th. "Between The Lines" may very well be my second favorite track on the album, but, once again, it's like Sophie's Choice. I love the sample 9th uses (Baby Doll by The Fatback Band), and Pooh's lyrics are both funny and ill at the same time: "Pooh the teddy bear type, chicks like to grab it, but I got to be safe, talking prophylactics, naw, you know I'm speaking on this mind game, asking questions, steadily picking at your brain, know your tendencies and why at times your mood change, you sing a little but you sweating me you got range." I effing dig it.
10. The Jungle
"The Jungle" is the only beat on the album that wasn't laid out by Khrysis or 9th Wonder. This one was done by Big Dho, and, consequently, is probably my least favorite beat on Sleepers. Some people say this is the best track off the album, but I'm just not feeling it.
Another great and soulful beat by 9th Wonder as Murs makes a guest appearance and kills it, rapping about how getting into the hip-hop game is not a cakewalk: "Not as simple as it looks, 16 and a hook, there's a lot more to the rap game nigga, look, that's exactly how you up and comin' artists get shook and took, for all your green, broke for self-esteem, your hopes and your dreams, it's not as easy as it seems, to get your CD on this scene, keep rappin' for fun, freestylin' to yourself." I did find this part of Murs' verse interesting, though: "We intercontinental over Khrysis' instrumentals." Um, did someone not give Murs the memo that 9th Wonder produced this cut? And I would think Murs of all people could identify a 9th beat. Jeez.
12. The Fever
Sleepers ends with another banging beat by Khrysis, and Big Pooh obliges with some sick rhymes: "They say the kid, yo it doesn't exist, I've been known to be prescripted, hand to hand to handle the fix, a contraband landed me on the list, want an issue, phlegm ripped tissue, I popped the cassette, diagnosed the disease that's been given to vets, I'm a hero outta town and come home to threats." Damn.
I can legitimately say that Sleepers is one of the best hip-hop albums of the 2000s. The production on this project is absolutely unbelievable, and Rapper Big Pooh's outstanding flow and sick lyrics never cease over the course of the 12 tracks.
I am a huge Little Brother fan, having heard each and every one of their albums and mixtapes, but despite the fact that The Listening, The Minstrel Show, The Chittlin Circuit 1.5, etc. are all classic material, Sleepers is superior to all of them. That's how good I think this album is. On another note, Phonte's projects with The Foreign Exchange cannot even stand on the shelf next to this record.
Sleepers is one of those albums you can play all the way through under any circumstances. It's a great album to cruise to, chill to, nod your head to, anything. When you have an extraordinary amount of trouble picking out your favorite song from an album, that's how you know for sure that it must have been a phenomenal record. That is my case with Sleepers.
If you don't have this, you need to go and get it now.
TOP FIVE TRACKS
2. Between The Lines
3. Live Life
4. Heart Of The City
Hell outta here.